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And what about our struggles?

From: Veronica Gonzalez, Miami, FL

As a member of the gay community, your recent article upset me greatly. Many of us who felt strongly about "Brokeback Mountain," I will admit, began to see it as more than just a film. We began to see it as the face of a social movement we care dearly about. We began to see it as our lives depicted, with real sincerity and truth, on the silver screen. And soon, of course, we began to congregate to discuss a film that meant so much to us and our quest for civil rights.

As a frequent poster on several message boards dedicated to the film, I can tell you that what we as a community, the gay and straight lovers of "Brokeback Mountain," have found has been both encouraging and extremely disheartening. We were of course aware of the multitude of positive reviews. And on the other hand, we have been sadly aware of the negative reviews -- the sort of reviews that films like "Crash" and its fans were simply spared from.

Michael Medved, famously declared, with all the maturity of a 12-year-old, "eww," with regard to the film. He wasn't alone, and while we as a community have grown sadly accustomed to slights like these, we know one thing for sure: NONE of this would have been written or said about the race relations in "Crash." Medved would have been ostracized instead of being invited to share his thoughts on “Larry King Live.”

In addition, we soon began to field a series of insults from ordinary people -- insults that we have sadly grown accustomed to as well. I could fill several pages with the bigoted, angry, vitriolic comments we received insulting both us and the film itself, but here are just a couple of examples of the most recent entries that have graced our message board:

1) "America has spoken and we will not accept this filth! Shut-up and deal with it you freaks!"

2) "Hi gay people; why do you all have AIDS?"

You are, I'm sorry to say, clueless if you think a) there hasn't been a tremendous amount of “Brokeback”-backlash and b) that “Crash” "fans" have been gracious to "Brokeback Mountain" fans. What you are, sadly, is out of touch with the real battles that are currently being fought in America as this article demonstrates. Someone who understands how personal this film was for many would not have written this. Despite what you may think about the impact of "Crash," it simply did not spark the social debate that “Brokeback Mountain” did.

The President wasn't asked what he thought about “Crash.” George Clooney wasn't asked whether or not he would ever play a racist cop. Bernie Mac wasn't asked if his show helped pave the way for "Crash." "Crash" wasn't subjected to a litany of late-night jokes and parodies, painfully solidifying it's position as a cultural icon. And while you're busy listing the films that “Brokeback Mountain” fans ignored, you fail to realize that the opposite is true.

“Crash” fans haven't been rubbing it in to “Munich” fans or “Syriana” fans, they've been rubbing it in to “Brokeback Mountain” fans, and they've been doing it for one reason and one reason alone: They understand how much "Brokeback" and its fans stood to lose.

In the years since the African-American Civil Rights Movement, it has thankfully become easier to talk openly about race relations. It's hard for a political candidate to run on a racist platform, and yet having an openly anti-gay rights agenda seems to be more of an asset than a detriment. We are still struggling to be able to speak openly about homosexuality, and “Brokeback Mountain” is one of the few films with enough status and recognition to foster that dialogue. “Brokeback Mountain” was a milestone for the movement, and simply put, we had more at stake than an Oscar for Best Picture. The gloating bigots that have hopped on the “Crash” bandwagon (that is not to say you, but the people I have had personal contact with, who love “Crash simply because it beat “Brokeback Mountain”) haven't exactly been slow to realize that and rub it in.

I once dated a guy who loved to quote the following cliché, "Hindsight is 20/20." One day, I have hope that we'll be able to look back on this at a time when homosexuals are embraced by society and understand that the personal insults and hate speech that we've had to dodge while defending this movie were a necessary part of the process. But what will also be understood is the grievous mistake that Oscar made.

We understand that all of the films nominated, including “Crash,” were great movies. And I can only chalk comments like "one of the worst films of the year" to the pain associated with “Brokeback Mountain” losing. But I also know that on a night that featured George Clooney declaring his pride at being considered "out of touch," Oscar missed a great opportunity for civil rights in general -- a great chance to show the world that overt bigotry and discrimination will no be longer tolerated.

Yes, Hoffman was awarded for his portrayal of a gay character. However, not only, did Capote not win best picture, but his homosexuality isn't even at the film's forefront. Only “Brokeback Mountain” truly presented a homosexual relationship and love story as its main theme. Like I said, years from now people will look back on this and clearly see one thing and one thing alone: the irony, given “Crash”'s theme, that “Brokeback Mountain” would lose because of hidden fears and prejudices many were unable to let go of. But for now, how dare you scold us for the very backlash we have personally weathered over the course of several trying months in our support of this film.

It’s one thing to merely disagree with us on the artistic merits of both films, but how dare you scold our "backlash" and say nothing on the very backlash we've had to weather (and often from fans of “Crash” that seem to have entirely missed its message)?

Understand that this battle isn't being fought in the papers. It's being fought face to face. It's being fought every time someone is disowned for being gay. It's being fought every time someone calls another a faggot and gets away with it. It's being fought every time someone says they liked “Brokeback Mountain” and gets that weird look (not too different from the one Sandra Bullock gives Ludricris in "Crash") that we are sadly all too accustomed to receiving. How dare you?

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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