Column: Underestimating My Parents and the Power of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ By Susan Parker

Tuesday March 28, 2006

I told my parents not to see the movie Brokeback Mountain. “You won’t like it,” I said. 

“Why not?” asked my mother. 


“Because it’s about gay cowboys?” 

“Let me put it this way,” I said. “You should see Brokeback Mountain. It would be good for you, but there’s some stuff in there that might make you uncomfortable. Maybe you could close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears.” 

“What kind of stuff?” asked Mom. 

“I don’t want to get into too much detail with you, but there’s sex in the film. Sex between men. Someday you and I can watch it together on DVD, but not with Dad. It might upset him.” 

“I think your father and I should see it,” said Mom. “Broaden our horizons. Find out what all the fuss is about.” 

“Okay,” I said. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 

I thought my concerns were well-founded. I’ve only watched a few movies with my parents because we have different tastes and perspectives. I’ve felt embarrassed in their presence when anyone on the big screen kisses for more than a few seconds. If the embrace progresses past first base my parents giggle like preteens. At third base my father tends to swear under his breath and if the actors reach home plate, Edna and Dewey squirm in their seats. The last movie I watched with them was Best in Show. Even that was problematic, and it was, for the most part, about dogs. 

Sometime within the last five or six years our child-parent roles have reversed. I want to protect Edna and Dewey from subject matter that I imagine will disturb them. Just as they once shielded me from ideas and issues they thought I was too young to understand, I want to keep them away from stuff I deem heart attack-inducing to 80-year-old Republicans. 

Last week my mother called and told me she and my father had gone to see Brokeback against my advice. “Oh boy,” I said. “How’d you make out?” 

“Well,” explained mom. “We went to the mall for the Early Bird Dinner Special and it was very good. Then we said what the hell, we might as well find out what we’re missing. So we got two senior citizen tickets and went to see it. 


“I loved it!” 

“You loved it?” 

“Yes, it was beautiful. The scenery was magnificent, the acting wonderful. And the story—well it explained a lot of things for me. Those men were in love, no question about it.” 

“And Dad?” 

“Your father loved it too! Let me put him on. He can tell you himself.” 

My dad got on the line. 

“I’ll make this quick,” he said, “because it’s long distance. We shouldn’t be talking on the phone on a Tuesday. Your mother gets everything screwed up. It’s the weekends when it’s free, not weekdays.”  

“Tell me what you thought of the movie, Dad.” 

“You know, it’s hard for me to understand how two guys could turn out that way. Genes or something, I suppose. I didn’t like watching some of it, but they really did care for one another, and that’s what’s important. It was about love and they couldn’t express it, and it made their lives hell.” 

“Yes,” I said. 

“And another thing...” 


“You underestimate your mother and me.” 

“How’s that?” I said. 

“Don’t tell us what movies we can and can’t go to. We’re old enough to see any damn flick we want.” 

“Okay,” I said. “What’re you seeing next?” 

“Hustle and Flow. But we’ll discuss it with you on the weekend when we won’t get charged for the call.