Masculinity in Visual Arts and Film Studies



Masculinity Through the mise-en-scene. 1

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Masculinity through Sound. 2

Masculinity through Cinematography. 3

Freudian Principles. 3

Castration. 4

Conclusion. 6



This is a raw romantic film of two men, in the summer of 1963 sheepherding in the harsh, high grasslands of contemporary Wyoming, and form an orthodox life bond that is full of ecstasy, bitterness, and conflicts. Ennis and Jack were hired by Randy to shepherd his flock of sheep. One night after so much drinking, Jack made a sexual pass at Ennis,  who initially was apprehensive but later succumbed to his advances. They soon develop a sexual and emotional relationship that lasted in a short bloodied fight.

They parted ways, to live their separate lives with their own marriages, jobs, and children. For the next twenty years, they would reunite briefly on camping trips

Masculinity Through the mise-en-scene

The film concentrates on masculinity development as well as the mise-en-scene. Mise- en scene which literally means visual theme or story telling is an expression used to define the design nature of film or theatre. This would refer to everything that appears before the camera that includes composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting. It could also be related to the emotional tone of the play, or the style of conveying the message of a scene through a single shot.

Masculinity produced by two boys engaging in a homosexual relationship, and they similar to Marlboro men who are not queers, in boots and jeans, wearing cowboy hats and puffing cigarettes. These are characteristics of masculinity, yet they fall in love. Throughout the film, Ennis and Jack find companionship with each other. When they are relaxing, they look like they do not have a manly way about them. They physically fight frequently and maintain a manly stance. Their encounter with the two bikers, Ennis stood up and showed his manliness when he began to get physical with them, plus their use of derogatory language towards women. Their relationship is filled with heteronormative patriarchal of competition and violence. This film is a narrative that shows masculinity as a closet that is the place where Jack and Ennis express their sexuality. It is evident that Ennis’s masculinity is a closet that oppresses his desires. His pride cannot let him admit that he wants to be with Jack, thus becomes oppressed that he vents his anger in violence. He is high tempered and lashes out on those who cross his path.

Masculinity through Sound

The film depicts how women are affected and suffers by the relationship, in the scene that Alma confronted her husband on his fishing trips, and the suffering caused by the relationship. According to Proulx, her inspiration for the characters came from an incident in which she noticed a middle aged man in a bar, who appeared to be watching only the men playing pool. This led her to consider the life of a typical western ranch hand that might be gay. The narrative sequence is identical in the story and film (Boyle, 2007).

The decor is visibly an overvaluation of masculine cultural reproduction. Brokeback Mountain depicts liminality and abjection, which are inevitably centred on sexuality of two males. The cinematographic aesthetics especially the lush panoramic vistas, the mountain functions as a metaphor for the relationship between the two men or protagonists. The representation of the association between the landscape and sexuality is of primal nature. The mountain creates psychoanalytical interpretations to sexuality; and focuses on the visceral aspects of the body (Arellano, 2007).


Masculinity through Cinematography

The cinematography relates many settings of sexual identity, and proposes a relationship between desire, space, and abjection. The sadomasochistic pleasures are complicated with pain, anal sex between men; pain is recognised as humiliation, especially the one being penetrated. Sex between men is portrayed as heterosexual rape evident in the nineteenth century American way of life. The pleasurable anal sex between two men conducting an illicit affair for a span of twenty years connotes deep cultural significance. This is like a primal scene of first witnessing of sex initially as an experience of pain by a child and later as a pleasure (Alley, 2007).

Boyle, (2007), states that this subdued, understated, realistic, and tasteful melodrama is concerned with primal fantasies of seduction, castration, and the primal scene of sex. These are views of homosexuals viewed by other characters through glass. The intimacies of physical relationships were not to produce off springs, but a form of liberty protected by due process. This illustrates that adults are free to choose the relations that they enter in the confines of their homes, and still maintain their dignities as free people. The liberty protected by the constitution which allows homosexual people to make their own choices. Brokeback Mountain tends to recognise and accept homosexuality and gay pornography on the scene. The triumph of ideology is that two consenting adults in their privacy can have their sexual pleasures, which is nobody’s business, and continued to give wide publicity to the liberal consensus about privacy in scaling down sodomy law in revealing the sex acts between Ennis and Jack (Arellano, 2007).

Freudian Principles

In Freudian principles, the fantasy of parental copulation is a form of proto-queer. This is like the dream of the wolves that later introduces the fear of castration. The pregenital male child seeing the image of the mother and father engaged in coitus a tergo, does not understand the sexual difference taking place between sexually undifferentiated actors at the anus. This position is favourable for the child to observe the facial expression of the mother and the penetration of the anus.  The pleasure could be both from doing the act of penetration and the experience of being penetrated. Later in the dreams of the wolves, the child understands the sexual difference and then threat of castration. In the Brokeback Mountain, this primal fantasy simulated as a public spectacle of sodomy. Showing two adult protagonists seduced into the pleasures of male to male anal sex despite fears of being castrated and emasculated.  Jack and Ennis are engaged in a primal fantasy of seduction that explains the origins of mysterious, and unwanted homosexual desires.

Proulx’s depiction of seduction is clear when Ennis ran full throttle on all roads, either fence mending or money spending, and he wanted none of it when Jack seized his left hand and brought it to his erect cock. What Ennis seemed to want none of is not anal sex but to be in a more passive female position; the position of the anally penetrated mother in the primal scene of the wolf man. Still Ennis preferred heterosexual sex with his wife. This film protracts seduction as Ennis warms to Jack and slowly overcoming resistance. These lovers may face familial or ethnic impediments to their union, but they do not despise themselves as copulates. This is evident in the flashback that shows Ennis’ father marching his two sons in slow motion to view the mutilated remains of an old, queer cowboy. Who had been dragged by his dick until it fell off. This shows a man tormented by being his own body. For Ennis to be himself, is to own up to the queer desire into which he has been seduced.


The disaster of the castration is not a fantasmatic paternal threat, but a literal punishment specifically meted out to men, who other men fear might lead them down the same path of seduction. Men who vehemently insist on repudiating the pleasures of the anus will punish men like Ennis for being too much like castrated women. Therefore, for a cowboy who seasonally castrates cows’ makes familiar fact for life. After the first night sexual encounter, Ennis finds a dead sheep that eviscerated. His succumbing to the seduction makes him clear of the risks of such a venture, as the emasculation death that he saw as a child being enacted on a gay cowboy. When Ennis recalled how Jack was punished by his father for missing the toilet while peeing, the father whipped him, pissed on him, and made him wash everything up.

Alley, (2007), argues that Jack noted some of the things that he missed while the father was hosing him down. Ennis remembered the scene just after he had met this hard, grudge bearing father. Jack was dick clipped while the old man was not. His bothered Jack who had discovered the anatomical nonconformity during a hard scene. Both Jack and Ennis endured the threat of castration from aloof and unloving fathers. Ennis is paranoid of losing what the father threatened to take from him. On the other hand, Arellano, (2007) states that, Jack lives comfortably, dangerously, and accepted the fact of his loss. Castration is a fantasy that explains sexual difference in a queer context, and the queer difference. Jack does not miss what the father has, and the father’s possession is not a measure of his comfortableness, but his ability to differentiate himself from a father he does not emulate. Jack’s relation to the paternal phallus in reclaiming the knife that curves the thanksgiving turkey from his bullying father in law, and ultimately take over from him as the head of the household.

The epistemology in Brokeback Mountain of the closet cannot be proud of proclaiming gay love. Looking at what hangs in the closet of each man; it is not about shattering the confinement of the closet, but glimpsing inside and discovering reasons for there being a closet. The depiction is the representation of the closet and the poster art that advertises it; it does not aim to depict a bold image of illicit desire. Rather it shows the tension between the desire and the fear that inhibits and erotizes it. Brokeback Mountain makes two men refrain from touch but tempted to come closer (Alley, 2007).


Gender theory is a portrayal of masculinity in films just like the cowboys in Brokeback Mountain, justification of violence, and the naturalness of compulsory heterosexuality. The shots of men in cowboy hats are an icon of American manhood. This serves as a mask that suggest the wearers are hiding behind the hats even if their heads raised. It paints women as nags or harpies. Alma in particular, shows a strong deal of poignancy, and does not avoid showing the pain that Ennis’s betrayal causes her as well as the children. Brokeback Mountain is an indictment of heterosexism and masculinity, and also of human nature as male and female. It portrays maleness in crisis extending to the sexual identities of Jack and Ennis. The validity of the manhood exemplified by every other male character in the film



Alley, H., (2007). “Arcadia and the Passionate Shepherds of Brokeback Mountain.” Reading

            Brokeback Mountain: Essays on the Story and the Film. Ed. Jim Stacy. Jefferson,

N.C. and London: McFarland & Co. 5-18.

Arellano, L. (2007). “The ‘Gay Film’ That Wasn’t: The Heterosexual Supplement in

            Brokeback Mountain.” Reading Brokeback Mountain: Essays on the Story and the

            Film. Ed. Jim Stacy. Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland & Co., 59-70.

Boyle, J. (2007). “’When This Thing Grabs Hold of Us..’: Spatial Myth, Rhetoric, and

Conceptual Blending in Brokeback Mountain.” Reading Brokeback Mountain: Essays

            on the Story and the Film. Ed. Jim Stacy. Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland &

Co., 88-105.







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