Deep in the comment section about Heath Ledger’s death over at Althouse, the discussion has turned into a debate comparing Brokeback Mountain to Wuthering Heights. The “Brokeback” fans are claiming that it’s exceptional in the way that it shows Ledger’s character’s complete confusion about his attraction to Gyllenhall’s character. Althouse parried with the point that Cathy’s attraction to Heathcliff (Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier) is as completely alien, that Heathcliff is like a different species to her.
Now, you could argue that her idea of Heathcliff is just fanciful, and that Wuthering Heights is just another cheating spouse story. But then, the same logic can apply to Brokeback Mountain.
When we relate to stories strongly, we want to feel like they’re exceptional, and we rarely want to step back and realize that we relate to triteness. (That’s how things become trite in the first place.)
I haven’t been in the mood for Ang Lee–well, since The Hulk–and Brokeback struck me as pretty trite. As Ace pointed out, if the same dialog came from a traditional cheating-on-spouse movie, it would be roundly mocked. And the concept really didn’t seem that shocking (or interesting) when Kate Jackson and Harry Hamlin did it in 1982.
I should point out that I didn’t (and don’t) get Wuthering Heights, either. I haven’t read it since I was a kid but my fallback for a lot of the romantic angst stuff is that scene in Moonstruck when Nic Cage tells Cher he loves her, so she slaps him and yells “Snap out of it!”