On Jan. 5, NBC News' Today show featured Gene Shalit's review of Brokeback Mountain on his regular "Critic's Corner" segment. Rather than focus on the merits of the film, Shalit - who has been a Today show regular for 31 years - used the occasion to promote defamatory anti-gay prejudice to a national audience.
In the piece, Shalit refers to Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Jack, as a "sexual predator" who "tracks Ennis down and coaxes him into sporadic trysts." Shalit's bizarre characterization of Jack as a "predator" and Ennis (Heath Ledger) as a victim reflects a fundamental lack of understanding about the central relationship in the film and about gay relationships in general. It seems highly doubtful that Shalit would similarly claim that Titanic's Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a "sexual predator" because he was pursuing a romantic relationship with Rose (Kate Winslet).
Shalit does offer a kind word for Ledger's performance and says Brokeback Mountain does have a few dramatic peaks" before calling the film "wildly overpraised, but not by me."
Shalit has every right as a film critic to criticize Brokeback Mountain. But his baseless branding of Jack as a "sexual predator" merely because he is romantically interested in someone of the same sex is defamatory, ignorant and irresponsible. And it is equally irresponsible for NBC News to have given Shalit a platform for his gratuitously offensive comments.
You can send email to NBC at GLAAD.org