Brokeback Mountain's Golden Globes success is as good a time as any to get the following out the way: my old friend Mickey Kaus obviously has some issues around gay men. His first instinct in December, before even seeing "Brokeback Mountain," was to predict its doom at the box office; he then valiantly kept hoping the movie would fail. Then he saw the movie and you can hear his view here. Here's a mini-fisk of Mickey's argument that Brokeback is in fact a great date movie (by which, of course, he means a straight date movie):

MK: The relationship between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal is so unconvincing...

AS: Stop right there. This is a highly subjective judgment, so I can't really say Mickey's wrong. But I found the relationship entirely convincing and I haven't found someone yet who didn't. The awards showered on Ledger, and the unanimous consent of every reviewer that Ledger's performance is extraordinary, would be meaningless if the relationship he is conducting were completely unconvincing. Mickey is the odd one out here - not that there's anything wrong with that. I wonder if he'd find any relationship between two gay men convincing. But he's not done yet. Here's Mickey's take on why Brokeback is still a good, straight date movie, despite its being about those people ...

MK: You can go on a date with a member of the opposite sex and you can say two things. You can say, Gee, what we've got going is better than what those guys got going ...

AS: Excuse me? The reason for the tragedy of the Ennis-Jack love affair is not that it's obviously inherently inferior to any straight relationship. It's because society at the time made it impossible to be fully expressed - in a world where gay men could be murdered if their orientation were known. Take this analogy: imagine a movie that told the tragedy of an inter-racial love affair in the days of miscegenation laws. The love affair was made impossible by law and society and the black partner was subsequently lynched for dating a white girl. Would Mickey's response be that it's a good date movie for white couples because they can reassure themselves that "what we've got going is better than what those guys got going ..."?

MK: And you can breathe a joint sigh of relief that if you're a heterosexual and you're heterosexual, I'm not going to screw up your life the way Heath Ledger screwed up the life for his wife.

AS: Sigh of relief? What was Mickey so scared about that 'relief' is his response to the movie? Again, his point is logical enough, but the obtuseness! Ennis does screw up his marriage - but the reason is the lying that society imposed as a condition of his survival. Not to see this context is to be blind to the deeper tragedy of the story, especially as regards the women in it.

The real reason Brokeback is a good date movie, of course, is simply that it's a classic tale of star-crossed lovers. Many, many straight men can make the imaginative leap to seeing how universal love and longing and loss are. All I can say is that, sadly, Mickey isn't one of them.

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