Is Jane Campion’s ‘The Power of the Dog’ an LGBTQ Movie?

Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is one of the biggest awards contenders of the year. Netflix pushed the western drama on the film festival circuit and now is aiming for gold at the Oscars 2022. Many audiences wonder if The Power of the Dog is an LGBTQ film, given Phil Burbank’s character developments. It’s that and so much more.

‘The Power of the Dog’ unravels an unlikely romance between Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon

'The Power of the Dog' Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon in article about LGBTQ
L-R: Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon | Netflix

The Power of the Dog follows Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a domineering rancher. He constantly bullies a young man named Peter Gordon (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his mother, Rose (Kirsten Dunst). However, Phil’s cruelty turns into shock when his brother, George (Jesse Plemons), asks Rose to marry him. She moves in with the Burbanks and Peter visits during the summer.

Phil instantly disapproves of Rose, believing that she’s only marrying George for his money. As a result, he begins to spend more time with Peter to torment Rose. However, Phil’s relationship with her son twists and turns in unexpected ways as they continue to learn more about each other. Their world progressively unravels as they spend more time together.

‘The Power of the Dog’ is an LGBTQ film about sexuality and toxic masculinity

It’s safe to consider The Power of the Dog a piece of LGBTQ filmmaking. It’s apparent through more subtle, nuanced elements and outright overt symbolism and imagery.

Peter discovers an erotic magazine filled with pictures of naked men that has the name “Bronco Henry” on them. Phil ultimately opens up about his relationship with Bronco, who took him under his wing when he was near Peter’s current age. He admired Bronco and their connection, which turned both physical and romantic.

The Power of the Dog bites into sexuality and masculinity. Phil is constantly exuding a macho sense of masculinity, bullying others to appear smaller than him. However, the audience sees his sexuality emerge during his moments alone. Peter watches Phil swim in the nude and the viewer sees Phil touching himself while laying on the ground in nature.

However, Phil’s attitude begins to change toward Peter as the story develops. He takes on a relationship with him similar to what he had with Bronco. They begin to flirt and the audience sees another side of Phil. Peter has his own motivations that don’t end too well for Phil. As a result, his sexuality and exertion of the masculine ego ultimately prove to result in his undoing.

Netflix could earn its first Best Picture winner at the Oscars 2022

The Power of the Dog leads the Oscars 2022 with 12 nominations, making it the most nominated movie of the year. It scored the obvious categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actress. However, the Netflix film also earned the essential Best Film Editing nomination that often leads to a Best Picture win.

Netflix could very well land its first Oscar Best Picture win with The Power of the Dog. Previous LGBTQ western Brokeback Mountain lost its Best Picture win to Crash. Awards analysts and audiences still fault the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences for not awarding Brokeback Mountain with the historic win. Some Academy voters may decide to make up for that with The Power of the Dog.

The Power of the Dog is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

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