Reading Dwight A. McBride’s criticism of Brokeback Mountain and of the cultural context that produced it brings up points about race in love stories, gay and straight, that can easily be applied to considerations of other films from the semester. I was thinking, for example, of Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends and the presence of race in that story. The class tensions of Germany depicted by Fassbinder in his narrative is pretty much exclusively white. The only noteworthy non-white character in the film’s web of affections is other not only from the social milieu of the main characters, but is visible only in a context where the otherness is as literal as being in actually separate country. This attitude is consistent with Fassbinder’s Querelle as well – though none of the characters have a stable or coherent notion of their attraction as being gay, the black man in the film especially is a safe point of introduction for the titular character into the sensations of gay sex because his externality to the white homosocial world of the sailors is so obvious as to preclude serious consideration of him as having conflicting feelings of male desire the way the white characters do.
In contrast, this essay makes even sharper the significance of My Beautiful Laundrette. The film resists a notion that there’s the white world of romance and the exotic romances of people of color on the other side of the divide by way of its narrative structure right from the set-up: the world of England is an unmistakably white one, yet we see the story through the eyes of a Pakistani boy. Thus the notion of brown men as somehow outside the issues which trouble white gays is an impossible one to sustain while watching the movie. Without telling an especially complicated story, nor one with a moralizing or sermonizing tone in the least, My Beautiful Laundrette manages to put on display the absurdity and obsoleteness of narratives which consider white gays as a self-contained social group uninfiltrated by political questions beyond homosexuality itself.
McBride, Dwight A. “Why I Hate That I Loved Brokeback Mountain.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Volume 13, Number 1 (2007): p. 95 – p. 97.
Fox and His Friends, dir. Rainer Fassbinder. 1975.
My Beautiful Laundrette, dir. Stephen Frears. Orion Classics, 1985.