chapter  4
Outside Space and Time: Screening Queerness in Brokeback Mountain and Boys Don’t Cry
Pages 37

Movie critics, audience members, and academics have hailed Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee 2005) and Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Pierce 1999) as “breakthrough” films regarding their representation of LGBTQ issues. Continuing the narrative of the so-called explosion of gay visibility that began in the early 1990s, both films are deemed another step forward for including a greater degree of queer visibility in Hollywood cinema. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that both Brokeback Mountain and Boys Don’t Cry rely on the same screening processes that accompany other “breakthrough” media texts of the 1990s and early 2000s, namely, the reliance on whiteness for projecting queerness. In addition, both films screen out the significance of race and queer sexualities that defy easy categorization. Specifically, genre and mise-en-scène in Brokeback Mountain and Boys Don’t Cry produce screening processes that encapsulate and contain the films’ diegeses in distant places and times. Instead of bringing queerness closer to the spectator, these screening processes render the representations of queer desires and identities non-threatening to the norms of Hollywood cinema and American society. In these films, the closet-as-screen makes queer lives visible by simultaneously containing them in rural spaces and decades gone by. In addition, the films represent rural America as a space that is inhospitable to queer existence; the tragic endings of both films are thus constructed as almost inevitable outcomes. Through this mode of representation, the films repeat the “common sense” notion that fulfilling queer lives can only happen in urban areas-a notion that repeats itself throughout American LGBTQ history.