More Dogs on Main Street |

More Dogs on Main Street

In another proud "first" for Utah, it appears that we are the first state in the union to have a theater ban the movie "Brokeback Mountain." There may be a lot of theaters around the country that looked at the offering and decided to pass on it. It’s not for everybody. But here in Utah, Larry H. Miller’s Megaplex Theater had booked it, was advertising it, and was all ready to roll film when Larry heard what the movie was about. "Oh, my flippin’ heck!" He pulled the plug. News of the movie being banned in Sandy has spread around the world, with a quick Google search showing coverage in media in Ireland, England, and Australia, as well as being fodder for Jay Leno and others. Of course it is always reported that the movie was banned in Utah, and only in the small print do we learn that it was pulled from one theater, but is in general distribution around the state.

There are a lot of things about this story that have me wondering. First of all, the movie was released weeks ago to art house-type theaters. It’s created enormous buzz. It was hard to pick up a newspaper that didn’t have a big review of it. David Letterman has been joking about the "gay cowboy" movie for weeks now. There are cartoons about it in the New Yorker. In other words, it’s hard to imagine that Miller wasn’t aware of the movie, unless he’s been living in one of the grease bays at the Toyota dealership. I suspect that he has qualified people managing the theaters, and that Larry doesn’t normally do the scheduling himself. But it’s still hard to imagine that he was oblivious to the movie and the content, and if he had concerns, didn’t call the manager and suggest that they not book it. In its place, they have the new Quenton Tarrentino torture movie, "Hostel," which sounds absolutely sick.

Miller apparently learned about the movie in an interview with the Salt Lake side of KPCW’s global radio empire. The reporter explained the movie to Miller, who had an on-air heart attack. He called and pulled the movie immediately even though the ads for it were already in that day’s newspapers. I don’t dispute Miller’s right to show what he wants or doesn’t want in his theaters. He’s big on LDS-themed movies, and that’s probably good business in the Sandy market. It’s his call whether to run a movie that might offend a big swath of his market (who wouldn’t see it because it is "R" rated, but would take offense anyway). But if he is that concerned about it, you do have to wonder how it got through the selection process and landed on the schedule. The publicity level involved in simply electing not to book it in the first place, and the controversy swirling after yanking it are entirely different. One is a simple business decision that never gets discussed outside the office. The other makes Utah the butt of jokes around the world. Thanks, Larry.

Frankly, if there is a scandal here, it’s the description of "Brokeback Mountain" as the "gay cowboy" movie. I hate to burst anybody’s bubble, but these guys are sheepherders, not cowboys. You can put a Stetson and chaps on a sheepherder, but it doesn’t make him a cowboy. The Cowboy Anti-Defamation League is quite upset that popular culture is so far removed from the range that people don’t understand the difference between cowboys and sheepherders. People have been shot over that, and Hollywood doesn’t understand the difference. Did you ever see sheep roping in the rodeo? Is the cable television schedule packed with professional ram riding? Did you ever see John Wayne shear a sheep? Those critters on the Chisholm Trail — they weren’t longhorn sheep. The story line is just intolerable to your average cowboy. To suggest that the Marlboro Man could be, you know, a sheepherder, is just too much to endure. You can call a cowboy most anything you like, just don’t call him a sheepherder. Calling him a sheepherder, well, pardner, them’s fightin’ words.

But the good people of Sandy are rid of the gay shepherd menace, unless of course they drive across town and watch it at the Broadway theaters. Local shepherds, cowboys and others can put their spurs on and see it out at Kimball Junction. I haven’t seen it yet, but from all reports, it’s as moving as the initial reviews suggested. There are no reports of people running out of the theaters announcing to the world that they, too, want to be gay sheepherders suffering conflicted and confused lives.

The Utah State Legislature starts its annual session on Monday. In addition to the usual concerns about gay sheepherders marrying and abortion, they will be trying to figure out how to squander a huge budget surplus. It should be fun. The hot topic of the year may turn out to be the "intelligent design" proposal. This comes from Representative Chris Buttars, who is objective evidence against the theory of intelligent design. He wants to make sure that our public schools are teaching that evolution is just a theory (supported by a lot of scientific evidence), while creationism is gospel truth (supported by about 10 allegorical words in the Bible). It’s not clear if we will have competing measures to teach the Navajo Indian version of creationism, or Hindu, Buddhist or Eskimo. Every culture on earth has its own explanation of where we came from and why we are here. Apparently everybody but Buttars is wrong.

I’ve said it before — we don’t want the music teacher teaching auto mechanics, the art teacher teaching math, or the Sunday school teacher teaching science. Why, then, should we require the biology teacher to teach religion?

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