gay cowboys

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Dec 23 18:56:56 UTC 2005

On Dec 23, 2005, at 7:28 AM, i wrote about the Brokeback Mountain
characters and the notion of "cowboy".  a couple of additions:

first, in addition to  "cowboy" as an occupational status (which is
what i was inquiring about), there's also "cowboy" as a social
identity, involving attachment to the "cowboy world" (ranch life,
rodeos, horses, cowboy bars, etc.), distinctive dress (especially
the boots and the hat, but also denim, leather belts, and more) and
demeanor (taciturnity, displays of aggression, etc.) and attitudes
and much else.  the Brokeback Mountain characters are certainly
cowboys in this second sense.

(there's yet another notion of "cowboy" as a social role, namely a
particular "type" of gay man, a particular presentation of self,
involving codings from "cowboy" in sense 2, but usually with little,
if any, association with the cowboy world.)

the other complexity has to do with the specific characters in the
movie (and the short story).  both of them grew up on ranches --
cattle ranches, i assume -- and after their summer with the sheep one
of them returns to ranch work (with cattle).  (the other tries a
career rodeoing, then moves to a job as sales rep for his father-in-
law's farm equipment company.)  so it could be said that these guys
are basically cowboys (in sense 1), but when we see them first
they're in a brief sheep interlude.

arnold (zwicky at

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