Steven Spielberg’s next movie tells the touching story of two male Palestinian suicide bombers who fall in love and engage in graphic on-screen sex before detonating themselves at a Natany shopping mall. Tentative title: Blowback Mountain. I made that up, of course, but more than happenstance links Ang Lee’s gay cowboy film Brokeback Mountain with Spielberg’s Munich, the subject of the cover story in this week’s Time magazine.
It isn’t only that gays have a thing for cowboys (remember the Village People?), not to mention Arabs (wasn’t Lawrence of Arabia a gay flick?). The American left sympathizes with Palestinians for the same reason that it sympathizes with homosexuals, and the putatively oppressed of all hues and tongues.
Liberal Hollywood is the heart of America’s Democratic Party, and its offerings for the Christmas season explain why the opposition to the present administration remains weaker even than the flailing White House. A red-state cultural revolt won the last election for President George W. Bush (It’s the culture, stupid!, November 5, 2004), and Hollywood presents a view of the world that Americans find –well, revolting. This is not an accident, but a nasty prank by the Zeitgeist.
With the coincident debut of the gay cowboy film Brokeback Mountain (Homo on the Range,  as the San Francisco newspapers wrote) and the conspiratorial fantasy Syriana, it has been a banner week for gays and the Palestinians, at least in the American cinema. Syriana depicts a conspiracy by the Central Intelligence Agency and oil companies to subvert an Arab kingdom, while Bareback Mountain attempts to “queer” the traditional American cowboy film.
While these exercises in cutting-edge culture struggle at the box office, a film version of C. S. Lewis’ Christian allegory The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had a $70 million opening weekend.
“Bareback Mountain” portends commercial disaster. In the young-adult demographic group that sustains the American cinema, on-screen anal sex draws limited interest. Young men find it embarrassing to watch a star like Jake Gyllenhaal in this context, while young women find it disappointing. But no film of the first decade of the 21st century will flop as miserably as Spielberg’s Munich, a “prayer for peace” derived from the 1972 terrorist attacks on Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Spielberg’s theme, as he explained in the Time story, is the futility of the Israelis’ subsequent retaliation.
Futility makes poor theater. If Spielberg had portrayed a moral equivalence between the great white shark and its hunters, Jaws would have bombed at the box office. American audiences sat on the edge of their seats waiting for Roy Scheider to wreak vengeance against the toothsome monster. Indiana Jones’ enemies meet hideous deaths, to audience cheers. The director who made his reputation pandering to vengeful bloodlust now wants moviegoers to ponder the moral equivalences in war. Vengeance makes for good box office, as Aeschylus well knew. Moral ambiguity just wins the Pulitzer Prize (or in the case of Harold Pinter, the Nobel).
Speaking of the Pulitzer, noteworthy is Spielberg’s choice of the world’s worst playwright as screenwriter, namely Tony Kushner. Thanks to HBO, Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning magnum opus Angels in America was played before the world by the likes of Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. Kushner’s “gay fantasia on political themes” waves placards and shouts slogans with the worst kind of agitprop didacticism. Kushner is not only gay, but also a Marxist. Of Jewish extraction, he despises Zionism.
Kushner identified with the Soviet Union until its collapse. Afterward he told an interviewer, “The collapse of the Soviet system does not mean that capitalism has succeeded … Socialism is simply the idea that people are better off if we work collectively and that the economic system we live in is made by people and therefore can be controlled intelligently rather than let loose. There’s no way that can’t be true.”
I have nothing against homosexuals, although I think homosexuality a poor theme for political agitation. I have a great deal against Marxists, especially apologists for the Soviet empire. And I have even more against crashing bores who inflict on the public such dialogue as:
“The point was to be righteous. If I lose that, that’s my soul.”
“Do you think you can part from your fears? Your doubts?”
And those are lines that Spielberg chose to put in the movie’s trailer.
It may seem incongruous for the liberal mainstream to set against the Bush administration a gay Marxist’s view of the Middle East. In fact, Spielberg’s transition from the world of Indiana Jones to the realm of Angels in America measures the miserable state of the liberal mainstream since September 11, 2001. Well may Americans disapprove of the president’s poor handling of Iraq, but they are quite happy to slaughter their enemies when opportunity permits. Nor do they sit up nights worrying, like Kushner’s fictional Mossad agents, about whether they might kill the wrong fellow on occasion.
If one disdains revealed truth as a relic of the barbaric past, one finds truth only in the “authentic” self-expression of every grouplet in the world. Gays become authentic by actualizing their own truth, along with African-Americans, Native Americans, Palestinians, or whatever band of sufferers might turn up with a grievance.
The more evidence accumulates that the “authenticity” of some groups centers on wreaking havoc on other groups, the more desperately liberal opinion clings to the illusion that the self-expression of each grouplet may be subject to universal reconciliation. The enemy in the Middle East, according to Spielberg, is not the Israelis, nor the Palestinians, but “intransigence.” If only everyone would be nicer to each other –gay and straight, Israeli and Palestinian, cowboy and Indian –all would be well. To be able to say this without laughing, one does not have to be a Marxist –but it helps.
Arabs as well as Israelis will be outraged by Spielberg’s “prayer for peace.” Mohammed Daoud, one of the Black September terrorists who organized the 1972 attack, contacted Reuters in September to denounce Spielberg’s pro-Israeli stance, while Israel’s supporters have denounced his attempt at even-handedness between terrorists and avengers.
Spielberg encapsulates everything that Islamists are fighting: the septic tide of American popular culture seeping through and eroding traditional society. The Arab world despises Marxists, homosexuals and Hollywood directors. To the limited extent that Americans bother to see Munich, it will persuade them that, like it or not, they are stuck with the likes of Bush. He may not be one of history’s great orators, but from literary a standpoint, I would rather listen to a Bush press conference than a Kushner script any day of the week.
 Homo on the Range