Both this thread and the Brokeback Mountain one force me to make another umpteenth trip to Midnight Cowboy again. (Everybody roll their eyes now... lol!)
When the one film lost to Crash in 2006, Time magazine had an opinionated column about how paranoid the Academy was despite choosing a much more provocative Best Picture 36 years earlier.
Why was Midnight Cowboy a "safe" film back in the sixties, but not Brokeback Mountain? Probably because the main character Joe Buck (Jon Voight) was doing everything possible not to be called "gay" (or the three letter F-word) even though he had no problem with the physical act itself. Had Rico not stopped him, he would have been OK hanging out with the cross-dresser... then he tells Rico how happy he is to have "protection". ("You sure know the ropes.") He had no problem going to a Times Square theater... until the closeted teenager (who didn't want his folks to know) couldn't pay for his services. Yet Joe had issues with Rico calling out his cowboy get-up by the three letter F-word and being appropriate only for gays (referencing John Wayne at one point). Later he has to "prove" to Brenda Vacarro the paying female customer that he isn't "gay", an actual word discussed while they played scrabble. He would have been OK satisfying the closeted businessman, but when he used religion as an excuse "not to" and didn't pay him actual money, Joe got upset and, eventually, strangled him. Bottom line, The Act wasn't the issue. Just The Word Usage... as if being called "gay" meant that you are less of a man. ("I ain't no real cowboy, but I'm one hellavah a s**d!")
It is also interesting that this film was released in May 1969, roughly one month before the Stonewall riots and the start of the Ferguson brothers trial over the murder of Ramon Novarro, which... despite exposing the star's private life, also marked one of the first times there was any sort of sympathy towards gay victims. Therefore, this Best Picture winner arrived a special turning point in American history... the end of an era when something was viewed as simply "bad" and a "mental condition" and the beginning of an era when people fought to be treated as equal human beings under the law. This makes Midnight Cowboy all the more interesting: this is a "gay" movie that keeps trying to prove it is a "straight"... even though it makes little difference. Time magazine stated (and I can't remember how they worded it exactly) that Joe was forced against his will to be something he was not (or didn't want to be identified as such), while the two leads in Brokeback were not feeling any guilt or shame as the conservative members of the Academy wanted them to.
Edited by Jlewis, 09 February 2016 - 07:23 PM.
Edited for Language