Tuesday, January 24, 2006

From Teaching to Brokeback Mountain

Yesterday was a special day in two of my three classes. It happens every semester, and I will christen it "Week-All-But-Three-Students-Don't-Do-the-4-Page-Reading-Assignment" Day. Every semester, around week 3 or 4, this happens: 3/4 of the class (if not more) just totally blows off a day's assignment, and then I get to be the Big Bad Professor who has to call them on it. This happened at Fancy Research University where I did my graduate work, too, but the difference in the way that students respond here is different. At FRU, the students seemed to have a sense that they were blowing off their work, and they expected me to call them on it. They were somewhat chastened, but they never apologized, nor did they claim not to have known about the assignment. Conversely, at this university, the students seem 1) entirely surprised that I can tell that they didn't do the work and entirely surprised that I call them on it, 2) entirely surprised that I expect them to know what is assigned by reading the syllabus and that I actually stay on schedule with the syllabus, 3) entirely upset and worried that I will think that they are irresponsible. I kind of think that they are irresponsible, but more than that I think that they are testing to see what they can get away with. It's a normal thing to do, I'd say. But at any rate, that was yesterday. Today, in Intro to Lit we'll be finishing "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and I'll be transitioning into drama stuff and introducing Krapp's Last Tape, which they'll be watching in its entirety Thursday. I'm really excited to see how they react. This will be the first time that I'm teaching it in Intro, and I know that it will challenge them, but I think that it's important to introduce them to "drama" that is neither a musical nor Shakespeare nor Trifles (which is in every damned anthology) nor a Tenessee Williams play (not that there's anything wrong with Tenessee Williams, but it's often the only drama to which they've been exposed other than Shakespeare and Trifles in a classroom setting). So yes, that's what's up with teaching. We shall see how this all goes.

Brokeback Mountain
I entirely loved the film. Random reflections on my experience watching the movie (which might give a little away but not the ending of the movie, but nevertheless read at your own risk):
  • There was an awkward moment, right after the first scene of fucking, at which I had to tell the old people (who I think thought it was a regular cowboy movie and not a two-male-cowboys-fucking movie when they bought their tickets) to shut up. I have a voice that really carries, even when I whisper, so it was kind of embarassing when I said in irritation "Could you PLEASE be quiet?!" At the same time, though, they'd been chatting it up from the beginning to that point, in spite of the fact that CBF and I turned around and gave them the evil-shut-up-in-the-movies-eye a few times, and I could not have them ruin my experience of the film.
  • I was horrified that a number of the audience laughed at Ennis's story about the cowboy who was murdered when Ennis was a kid.
  • I do think that Heath Ledger's performance was wonderful, but I also think that the reason that people are praising him and pretty much ignoring my boyfriend Jake Gyllenhall is because Jake Gyllenhall actually plays a gay cowboy whereas Heath Ledger plays a straight cowboy who just happens to fall madly in love with a man. Cruising for Anonymous Sex with Men in Tijuana + Cheating on one's One True Man-Love seems to = that people will not be comfortable praising your performance. Or maybe it's just the bad mustache that did him in.

By the way, I realize that this probably should have been two posts, but I started it as one, so there you have it.


BrightStar said...

I also thought Michelle Williams was great and totally robbed at the Golden Globes.

And I hated Jake's 'stache, but dug his performance.

Dr. Crazy said...

Michelle Williams was great, though I feel like I've seen her doing the same kind of performance since Dawson's Creek. I was also impressed with Ann Hathaway (and utterly surprised that she did the frontal nudity!)

michelle said...

still trying to get to see this! hoping to sneak it in this week.

let us know how teaching krapp's last tape goes.

Diego said...

I really enjoyed your post on Brokeback Mountain.(actually enjoyed both halves) I can't believe I've seen thayt damn movie 4 times! I'm going to bookmark you and explore you blog when I get home tonight.

Diego said...

I wrote 3 blogs on Brokeback Mountain. Check them out and please feel free to post comments.


Jefe said...

While I think it's possible that homophobia/gender issues play into the praise of Heath Ledger's performance, I think it's a bit reductive to impute it solely to that. I'm a big old queer with a huge crush on Jake G. and no urge for Heath at all, but I thought Heath's performance was absolutely incredible. He did so much by doing so, so little.

That said, the more I reflect on the movie the more complex the character of Jack seems in hindsight, and I have to give it up to Jake for that. As long as we're blogwhoring, I blogged it here:


Dr. Virago said...

Excuse me, your boyfriend? I think not. He's mine, dammit.


Btw, I am apparently so lame that in my intro. lit. class the two dramas I teach are a)Streetcar Named Desire and b)Twelfth Night. Right, color me chastened. I will be more creative with the drama next time. :)

juanboy said...

Your point about the general praise of Heath over Jake certainly seems plausible.

But I'm inclined to think that a couple of other things play into it: namely, the fact that it's really Ennis' story, strictly in terms of the screen time he's given, and the fact that Jack is slightly less inarticulate about his feelings for Ennis than Ennis is about his feelings for Jack. I think HL does an amazing job of conveying Ennis' tortured confusion and frustration without having much in the way of dialogue to fall back on.

Digital Art Photography for Dummies said...

Can't see that I remembered these guys names. I remember the name Jake, but not Ennis...go figure?

Dr. Crazy said...

Hi all :)
First, yes, let me agree with all of you that characterized my comparison of the performances as reductive. I knew I was being reductive, but I wanted to post my reductive thing because remember how everybody was saying back in the early fall that this was going to be Jake Gyllenhall's breakout year because of Jarhead + Brokeback? It strikes me that the failure to break out has got to have something to do with the fact that he's a threatening and seductive gay cowboy as opposed to a conflicted one. That's not to take anything at all away from Heath Ledger's performance, though, because he was AMAZING. I was particularly impressed with how he used his voice in the film - how great his accent was, but also how his voice allowed him to convey emotion/lack thereof.

I'm still thinking all of this through, but I really do appreciate all of your comments :)

Oh, and Dr. V (and any others who are under the impression that JG is not my boyfriend): I believe he can be the universal boyfriend of all who wish to claim him as such :)

Dr. Crazy said...

Oh, and one last thing: Don't be chastened because you teach 12th Night and Streetcar - both are great plays :) I teach Hamlet (how's that for a conventional choice?) and my main reason for not teaching Tenessee Williams is that I had a bad Glass Menagerie experience in high school from which I've never recovered. Well, and I'm not an Americanist, and thus I tend toward teaching Brit Lit things in intro.... Hmmm.... Maybe I need to do an intro to lit post?

MommyProf said...

yeah, well at PrettyGood they are suprised that I can tell and then surprised that I could actually expect them to complete work when they are so busy with other worthwhile things.