There's never been a homosexual cowboy movie, and while the indies have been supplying gay romances to the art house circuit for years, and gay series like "Queer as Folk" and "Will & Grace" have been pulling big numbers on TV, there hasn't been a mainstream gay love story since 1982's "Making Love," which bombed and was blamed by many for damaging Harry Hamlin's career. "It's the one last frontier," says Lee.
Let's leave aside subjective questions about "frontiers" for a moment and concern ourselves with the falsifiable portion of the above: Have Queer as Folk and Will & Grace really been "pulling big numbers" on TV?
Will & Grace was a medium-sized success for NBC on Monday nights beginning in 1998, but it never became a break-away hit--even when the network moved it to the coveted Thursday night Must-See lineup. Its Nielsen numbers, never very good, have been in steep decline for a couple years now. At its height, Will & Grace never garnered more than about 14 million viewers, and on average has been closer to 7 or 8 million.
And Queer as Folk? Are you kidding? Airing on the pay-cable net Showtime, Queer as Folk could never come close to even Will & Grace's modest numbers--because Showtime only has 13 million subscribers, total. So QaF's relatively "huge" numbers--it debuted with nearly 4 million viewers--have to be taken in context. They may be nice for Showtime, but on a broadcast network, 4 million people gets a show canceled.
What we have here is another case of people desperately trying to make Brokeback Mountain part of a Big Cultural Trend.
Bonus: I haven't seen the movie yet. Maybe it's great; maybe it's a dog. I hope it's great.
But what do you think the chances are that Brokeback Mountain is the best-reviewed movie of the year, no matter what? If it stinks, would anyone dare say so? And do you maybe get the sense that perhaps many members of the entertainment press doesn't even need to see Brokeback Mountain to figure out what they think?