Editor’s note: WND Managing Editor David Kupelian, author of the best-selling book, “The Marketing of Evil,” was widely quoted in the news media for his criticism of the film “Brokeback Mountain.” Here, Kupelian explains how and why the controversial movie is one of the most powerful homosexual propaganda films of our time.
“Brokeback Mountain,” the controversial “gay cowboy” film that has garnered seven Golden Globe nominations and breathless media reviews – and has now emerged as a front-runner for the Oscars – is a brilliant propaganda film, reportedly causing viewers to change the way they feel about homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage.
And how do the movie-makers pull off such a dazzling feat? Simple. They do it by raping the “Marlboro Man,” that revered American symbol of rugged individualism and masculinity.
We all know the Marlboro Man. In “The Marketing of Evil,” I show how the Philip Morris Company made marketing history by taking one of the most positive American images of all time – the cowboy – and attaching it to a negative, death-oriented product – cigarettes.
Hit the pause button for a moment so this idea can completely sink in: Cigarette marketers cleverly attached, in the public’s mind, two utterly unrelated things: 1) the American cowboy, with all of the powerful feelings that image evokes in us, of independence, self-confidence, wide-open spaces and authentic Americanism, and 2) cigarettes, a stinky, health-destroying waste of money. This legendary advertising campaign targeting men succeeded in transforming market underdog Marlboro (up until then, sold as a women’s cigarette with the slogan “Mild as May”) into the world’s best-selling cigarette.
It was all part of the modern marketing revolution, which meant that, instead of touting a product’s actual benefits, marketers instead would psychologically manipulate the public by associating their product with the fulfillment of people’s deepest, unconscious needs and desires. (Want to sell liquor? Put a seductive woman in the ad.) Obviously, the marketers could never actually deliver on that promise – but emotional manipulation sure is an effective way to sell a lot of products.
The “Marlboro Man” campaign launched 50 years ago. Today, the powerful cowboy image is being used to sell us on another self-destructive product: homosexual sex and “gay” marriage.
‘People’s minds have been changed’
In “Brokeback Mountain,” a film adaptation of the 1997 New Yorker short story by Annie Proulx, two 19-year-old ranchers named Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) have been hired to guard sheep on a rugged mountain in 1963 Wyoming. One night, the bitter cold drives Ennis into Jack’s tent so they can keep each other warm. As they lie there, suddenly and almost without warning, these two young men – both of whom later insist they’re not “queer” – jump out of the sack and awkwardly and violently engage in anal sex.
Too embarrassed the next morning even to talk about it, Ennis and Jack dismiss their sexual encounter as a “one-shot deal” and part company at the end of the sheepherding job. Ennis marries his fiancée Alma (Michelle Williams, Ledger’s real-life girlfriend) while Jack marries female rodeo rider and prom queen Lureen (Anne Hathaway). Each family has children.
Four years later, Jack sends Ennis a postcard saying he’s coming to town for a visit. When the moment finally arrives, Ennis, barely able to contain his anticipation, rushes outside to meet Jack and the two men passionately embrace and kiss. Ennis’s wife sadly witnesses everything through the screen door. (Since this is one of the film’s sadder moments, I wasn’t quite sure why the audience in the Portland, Oregon, theater burst out in laughter at Alma’s heartbreaking realization.)
From that point on, over the next two decades Ennis and Jack take off together on periodic “fishing trips” at Brokeback Mountain, where no fishing actually takes place. During these adulterous homosexual affairs, Jack suggests they buy a ranch where the two can live happily ever after, presumably abandoning their wives and children. Ennis, however, is afraid, haunted by a traumatic childhood memory: It seems his father had tried to inoculate him against homosexuality by taking him to see the brutalized, castrated, dead body of a rancher who had lived together with another man – until murderous, bigoted neighbors committed the gruesome hate crime.
Eventually, life with Ennis becomes intolerable and Alma divorces him, while Lureen, absorbed with the family business, only suspects Jack’s secret as they drift further and further apart. When, toward the end of the story, Jack dies in a freak accident (his wife tells Ennis a tire blew up while Jack was changing it, propelling the hubcap into his face and killing him), Ennis wonders whether Jack actually met the same brutal fate as the castrated “gay” cowboy of his youth.
Ultimately, Ennis ends up alone, with nothing, living in a small, secluded trailer, having lost both his family and his homosexual partner. He’s comforted only by his most precious possession – Jack’s shirt – which he pitifully embraces, almost in a slow dance, his aching loneliness masterfully projected into the audience via the film’s artistry.
Yes, the talents of Hollywood’s finest are brought together in a successful attempt at making us experience Ennis’s suffering, supposedly inflicted by a homophobic society. Heath Ledger’s performance is brilliant and devastating. We do indeed leave the theater feeling Ennis’s pain. Mission accomplished.
Lost in all of this, however, are towering, life-and-death realities concerning sex and morality and the sanctity of marriage and the preciousness of children and the direction of our civilization itself. So please, you moviemakers, how about easing off that tight camera shot of Ennis’s suffering and doing a slow pan over the massive wreckage all around him? What about the years of silent anguish and loneliness Alma stoically endures for the sake of keeping her family together, or the terrible betrayal, suffering and tears of the children, bereft of a father? None of this merits more than a brief acknowledgment in “Brokeback Mountain.”
What is important to the moviemakers, rather, is that the viewer be made to feel, and feel, and feel again as deeply as possible the exquisitely painful loneliness and heartache of the homosexual cowboys – denied their truest happiness because of an ignorant and homophobic society.
Thus are the Judeo-Christian moral values that formed the very foundation and substance of Western culture for the past three millennia all swept away on a delicious tide of manufactured emotion. And believe me, skilled directors and actors can manufacture emotion by the truckload. It’s what they do for a living.
Co-star Jake Gyllenhaal realized the movie’s power to transform audiences in Toronto, where, according to Entertainment magazine, “he was approached by festival-goers proclaiming that their preconceptions had been shattered by the film’s insistence on humanizing gay love.”
“Brokeback Mountain,” said Gyllenhaal, “is that pure place you take someone that’s free of judgment. These guys were scared. What they feared was not each other but what was outside of each other. What was so sad was that it didn’t have to happen like that.” But then, said the article, Gyllenhaal jumped to his feel and exclaimed triumphantly: “I mean, people’s minds have been changed. That’s amazing.”
Changed indeed. And that’s the goal. Film is, by its very nature, highly propagandistic. That is, when you read a book, if you detect you’re being lied to or manipulated, you can always stop reading, close the book momentarily and say, “Wait just a minute, there’s something wrong here!” You can’t do that in a film: You’re bombarded with sound and images, all expertly crafted to give you selected information and to stimulate certain feelings, and you can’t stop the barrage, not in a theater anyway. The visuals and sound and music – and along with them, the underlying agenda of the filmmakers – pursue you relentlessly, overwhelming your emotions and senses.
And when you leave the theater, unless you’re really objective to what you’ve experienced, you’ve been changed – even if just a little bit.
Want to know how easily your feelings can be manipulated? Let’s take the smallest, most seemingly insignificant example and see. Sit down at a piano and play a song, any song – even “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – as long as it’s in a major key. Then, play the same song, but change from a major to a minor key; just lower the third step of the scale by a half-step so the melody and harmony become minor. If you watch carefully, you’ll note this one tiny change makes the minor-key version sound a bit melancholy and sad, while the normal, major-key version sounds bright and happy. (As the expression goes, “Major glad, minor sad.”)
Now take this principle and apply it to a feature film by expanding it a million-fold. A movie’s musical score has one overriding function – to make the viewer feel a certain way at strategic points during the story. And music is just one of dozens of factors and techniques used to influence audiences in the deepest way possible. Everything from the script to the directing to the camera work to the acting, which in “Brokeback Mountain” is brilliant, serve the purpose of making the movie-makers’ vision seem like reality – even if it’s twisted and perverse.
Do we understand that Hollywood could easily produce a similar movie to “Brokeback Mountain,” only this time glorifying an incest relationship, or even an adult-child sexual relationship? Like “Brokeback,” it too would serve to desensitize us to the immoral and destructive reality of what we’re seeing, while fervently coaxing us into embracing that which we once rightly shunned.
All the filmmakers would need to do is skillfully make viewers experience the actors’ powerful emotions of loneliness and emptiness – juxtaposed with feelings of joy and fulfillment when the two “lovers” are together – to bring us to a new level of “understanding” for any forbidden “love.” Alongside this, of course, they would necessarily portray those opposed to this unorthodox “love” as Nazis or thugs. Thus, many of us would let go of our “old-fashioned” biblical ideas of morality in light of what seems like the more imminent and undeniable reality of human love in all its diverse forms.
A “Brokeback”-type movie could easily be made, for instance, to portray a female school teacher’s affair with a 14-year-old student as “a magnificent love story.” And I’m not talking about the 2000 made-for-TV potboiler, “All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story,” about the Seattle school teacher who seduced a sixth-grade student, went to prison for statutory rape, and later married the boy having had two children by him. I’m talking about a big-budget, big-name Hollywood masterpiece aimed at transforming America through film, just as Hitler relied on master filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to make propaganda films to manipulate the emotions of an entire nation.
In place of “Brokeback Mountain’s” scene with the castrated homosexual, the “adult-child love story” could have a similar scene in which, as a young girl, the future teacher’s mother took her to see the body of a woman who had fallen in consensual “love” with a 14-year-old boy, only to be brutalized, her breasts cut off, and bludgeoned to death – all by Nazi-like bigoted neighbors. (So that’s why she couldn’t be honest and open about her later relationship with her student.)
Inevitably, such a film would make us doubt our former condemnation of adult-child sex, or at least reduce our outrage as we gained more “understanding” and sympathy for the participants. It would cause us to ask the same question one reviewer asked after seeing “Brokeback Mountain”: “In an age when the fight over gay marriage still rages, ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ the tale of two men who are scarcely even allowed to imagine being together, asks, through the very purity with which it touches us: When it comes to love, what sort of world do we really want?”
OK, I’ll bite. Let’s talk about love. The critics call “Brokeback Mountain” a “pure” and “magnificent” love story. Do we really want to call such an obsession – especially one that destroys marriages and is based on constant lies, deceit and neglect of one’s children – “love”?
What if I were a heroin addict and told you I loved my drug dealer? What if I told you he always makes me feel good, and that I have a hard time living without him, and that I think about him all the time with warm feelings of anticipation and inner completion? And that whenever we get together, it’s the only time I feel truly happy and at peace with myself?
Oh, you don’t approve of my “love”? You dare to criticize it, telling me my relationship with my drug dealer is not real love, but just an unhealthy addiction? What if I respond to you by saying, “Oh shut up, you hater. How dare you impose your sick, narrow-minded, oppressive values on me? Who are you, you pinch-faced, moralistic hypocrite, to define for me what real love is?”
Don’t laugh. I guarantee Hollywood could make a movie about a man and his drug dealer, or an adult-child sexual relationship, that would pull on our emotions and create some level of sympathy for the characters. Furthermore, in at least some cases, it would make us doubt our conscience – a gift directly from God, the perception of right and wrong that he puts in each one of us – our inner knowing that this was a totally unhealthy and self-destructive relationship.
Ultimately, propaganda works because it washes over us, overwhelming our senses, confusing us, upsetting or emotionalizing us, and thereby making us doubt what we once knew. Listen to what actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Jack, told the reporter for Entertainment magazine about doing the “love” scenes with Heath Ledger:
“I was super uncomfortable … [but] what made me most courageous was that I realized I had to try to let go of that stereotype I had in my mind, that bit of homophobia, and try for a second to be vulnerable and sensitive. It was f—in’ hard, man. I succeeded only for milliseconds.”
Gyllenhaal thinks he was “super uncomfortable” while being filmed having simulated homosexual sex because of his own “homophobia.” Could it be, rather, that his conflict resulted from putting himself in a position, having agreed to do the film, where he was required to violate his own conscience? As so often happens, he was tricked into pushing past invisible internal barriers – crossing a line he wasn’t meant to cross. It’s called seduction.
This is how the “marketers of evil” work on all of us. They transform our attitudes by making us feel as though our “super uncomfortable” feelings toward embracing unnatural or corrupt behavior of whatever sort – a discomfort literally put into us by a loving God, for our protection – somehow represent ignorance or bigotry or weakness.
I wrote “The Marketing of Evil” to expose these people, and especially to reveal the hidden techniques they’ve been using for decades to confuse us, to manipulate our feelings and get us to doubt and turn our backs on the truth we once knew and loved. Indeed, whether they’re outright lying to us, or ridiculing us for our traditional beliefs, or trying to make us feel guilty over some supposed bigotry on our part, the “marketers of evil” can prevail simply by intimidating or emotionally stirring us up in one way or another. Once that happens, we can easily become confused and lose the inborn understanding God gave us. We all need that inner understanding or common sense, because it’s our primary protection from all the evil influences in this world.
As I said at the outset, Hollywood has now raped the Marlboro Man. It has taken a revered symbol of America – the cowboy – with all the powerful emotions and associations that are rooted deep down in the pioneering American soul, and grafted onto it a self-destructive lifestyle it wants to force down Americans’ throats. The result is a brazen propaganda vehicle designed to replace the reservations most Americans still have toward homosexuality with powerful feelings of sympathy, guilt over past “homophobia” – and ultimately the complete and utter acceptance of homosexuality as equivalent in every way to heterosexuality.
If and when that day comes, America will have totally abandoned its core biblical principles – as well as the Author of those principles. The radical secularists will have gotten their wish, and this nation – like the traditional cowboy characters corrupted in “Brokeback Mountain” – will have stumbled down a sad, self-destructive and ultimately disastrous road.
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