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The Issue of Discrimination in 'Brokeback Mountain' Film

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The issue of discrimination has developed over the last century and can be seen depicted in a range of multimodal texts. Ang Lee’s 2000s romantic Western film Brokeback Mountain depicts rodeo cowboys, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, who are hired as sheepherders in Wyoming during the 1960s. One night on Brokeback Mountain, the place where they were hired, Jack expresses his sexual and emotional feelings towards Ennis that are eventually reciprocated. Over the course of 20 years, the two men proceed with their secret affair while they pretend to live “normal” lives by having heterosexual relationships and families of their own. The film mainly focuses on the evolution of the characters and their complex relationship that they keep concealed from a society with traditional values which displays how homosexuals were treated during the 1960s. The advert “Elevator” is published by the Australian Human Rights Commission, a national human rights institution, and it is part of “Racism. It stops with me” campaign. Both visual texts rely on multiple modes to mirror the society’s views and portray the issue of discrimination relevant to American society in the 1960s and the Australian society in 2017,

Brokeback Mountain represents the issue of discrimination where in this case it is towards homosexuals through the use of setting and dialogue. The film reflects aspects of the historical context, such as the “Lavender Scare” that sought to persecute people accused of being homosexuals from working in government, schools, the military, and many other occupations during the 1950s. The main setting of the film is the iconic Brokeback Mountain which illustrates the pure freedom of romantic and sexual expression. This is shown through the use of long shots displaying the expansive mountain range and lush greenery that shows the mountain as being Jack and Ennis’ place where they can freely express themselves and it is removed from the conservative views of society. During a conversation between the men, Ennis says, “If we’re around each other and this thing grabs hold of us at the wrong time, in the wrong place, we’re dead.” The dialogue reflects the homophobic attitudes at the time that where if people were to be sexually involved with somebody of the same sex, there was a chance they could be killed, dismissed from their jobs, and ostracised by society.

The advert “Elevator” also represents the issue of discrimination, but instead, it is towards racial minorities through the combined use of close up shot, facial expressions, and cuts. It has also been developed in a different context, during the 2010s, where racism has been fought against through riots and protests such as “the March for Black Women” that happened in 2017 in Washington, America, and the Australian Racial Discrimination Act to protect those in the minority. The advert is attempting to bring light on the 21% of complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act concerning employment as its setting is in a workplace environment shown through the long shot of the building in which the advert is set. During the advertisement, the camera focuses on the man holding the elevator for a white woman, and through the closeup shot of his facial expression that is content, the viewer is shown that he is pleased to do so. Once the woman is inside the elevator it cuts to another woman running up to the elevator except for this time it is a woman of a racial minority. Instead of reacting the same way, we see him walking inside the elevator with an unpleasant facial expression. His actions represent the negative attitudes displayed by our society towards racial minorities considering the societies’ attempts to avoid this discrimination by incorporating a “Racial Discrimination Acts”.

Another way that Brokeback Mountain portrays the same issue of discrimination is through the combined use of setting and closeup shot. In America during the 1960s homosexuals were not accepted by most of society and so for their safety, many gay people forced themselves to live fake, heterosexual lives and would drop their ‘straight’ façades only behind closed doors. During the movie, Jack and Ennis would take a break from their heterosexual lives and meet each other at a motel, which symbolises as their haven where they won’t be persecuted for their desires as they are not approved by the American society in the 1960s. Also, during the scene, there is a close up on Jack and Ennis where they are cuddling, and their ability to be open with each other shows how they are less tense in an environment where no one can see them. Them being relaxed shows how homosexuals were only open to express their real lives behind walls and the moment these walls go down they have to switch back to their ‘normal’ lives. The setting of the motel and the closeup shot of Jack and Ennis shows that being in a homosexual relationship is dehumanising as it meant that a part of your life stayed hidden away and ‘in the closet’.

Additionally, the advert portrays the issue of discrimination is through the use of close up shots and symbolism. The context is not just referring to the period of the visual text but also the setting the text is positioned in. This advert is set in a work environment to convey the issue of discrimination in the workplace. In the beginning, there is a close up of the elevator indicator pointing up. In the real world “up” symbolises getting a better job or social position. While the man holds the door for the white woman he does not do the same when the woman of racial minority attempts to “go up” and so he stops her from this opportunity. This shows how women of a racial minority are still denied opportunities in the workplace due to their nationality so overall it portrays how they are discriminated against. Thus discrimination is represented as something that happens in professional settings, not just in ‘rough’ neighbourhoods or among the uneducated.

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The Issue Of Discrimination In ‘Brokeback Mountain’ Film. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 21, 2022, from
“The Issue Of Discrimination In ‘Brokeback Mountain’ Film.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
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