Essay about Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain

Essay about Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain

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Michael Warner states in his book The Trouble with Normal that "the [American] culture has thousands of ways for people to govern the sex of others," that a certain regulation of sexuality and desire can be designed "directly, through prohibition and regulation, and indirectly, by embracing one identity or one set of tastes as though they were universally shared, or should be" (Warner 1). According to Warner, the logical process that follows such a regulation ensures a certain shame attaches to any "taste" that is not "universally shared." That this one "taste" "should be" shared implies that it is not universal. The “taste” that must be converted in order to achieve a “universal” desire is, then, naturally marked with a stigmatized type, one that can only serve to strengthen the shame that that stigmatic mark embodies.

Warner thus outlines a process of "the destructive power of sexual stigma" (Warner 17), in which sexual deviants who do not share the universal taste are marked as something other than that universality. To mark, in this sense, is to instill a blemish on an otherwise consistent and clean agent. What’s more, to stigmatize is to make shameful those acts or "tastes" which are not universal. To stigmatize is to, as Warner asserts, "govern the sex of others."

And Warner’s question is not “how do we get rid of sexual shame [and stigma]…but rather what do we do with the shame” (Warner 4). An uneasy question, sure, but one could say that Annie Proulx has found an answer in her short fiction work "Brokeback Mountain,” and, much like Warner’s suggestion, that answer involves an empowering view of both the shamed and stigmatized “tastes.” After all, to embrace an all-encompassing shame and stigma within every concep...


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...everything [may] [seem] mixed" (Proulx 262) with Proulx’s usage of stigma in imagery as well as with Ennis’s perspective of the events on Brokeback Mountain that teenage summer, but ultimately Proulx embodies and conveys many of the solutions Warner details in The Trouble with Normal. Proulx manages to display the negative voice of stigma, when that stigma is placed within a hierarchical progression of shame and governance. More than that, however, Proulx displays a notion of injustice in that shame and governance, while simultaneously showing that a stigmatized sexuality can be both natural and desirable, in even the most unexpected contexts.




Work Cited

Proulx, Annie. “Brokeback Mountain.” Close Range: Wyoming Stories. New York: Scribner, 1999. 251-82. Print.

Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. Print.

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