Yes, he plays a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter, but heterosexual Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Bruno is, for all intents and purposes, a comedic exercise in exploring gay stereotypes and going on a witch hunt for homophobes — both concepts that, on their face, we’re perfectly fine with. But while we debate in our own community what the film Bruno will do for gays, America at large is about to be told what we think of the film by two leading Gay Inc. organizations. Let’s see if you agree with your mouthpieces?
In a Sunday feature, the New York Times will look at Cohen’s movie and whether it’s good or bad for the gays. Like any worthwhile media outlet, the Times needs to ask folks what they think about this — and who else to turn to but soundbite-friendly organizations like GLAAD and HRC.
Here’s what GLAAD senior director Rashad Robinson says about the film (via Drudge): “Some people in our community may like this movie, but many are not going to be OK with it. Sacha Baron Cohen’s well-meaning attempt at satire is problematic in many places and outright offensive in others.”
And here’s HRC spokesman Brad Luna: “We strongly feel that Sacha Baron Cohen and Universal Pictures have a responsibility to remind the viewing public right there in the theater that this is intended to expose homophobia.”
And yet, nobody has ever accused Cohen of being a homophobe. His characters, maybe, but in his everyday life, the man isn’t out there driving stakes through our hearts. His comedy, rooted in the days of Ali G, maintains the M.O. of embarrassing people who take themselves too seriously, exposing hypocrites, and denigrating racists, homophobes, class elitists, and so forth. Sure, he makes a killing in box office receipts, but it’s not at our expense. These are not the punchlines you get from idiots like Bill O’Reilly. There is a significant and measurable difference.
For any portion of America’s movie-going audience who doesn’t understand that, this film isn’t going to change the minds of Joe Conservative. They will laugh at the gay stunts — and so will we, for very different reasons. Namely, we’ll giggle in a “I can’t believe he just went there!” way. The cackles from the bigots in the audience will be of the “silly faggot!” type.
Bruno doesn’t need to be a finely tuned teaching moment; that’s asking too much of mainstream cinema fare. But the film let’s us laugh with and at stereotypes. It’s a pornographic enterprise into America’s remaining taboos. If the film starts even one conversation about “how wrong” all of that is, it’s a success — and, dare we suggest, something we should support.
UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign writes in to Queerty to expand on Luna’s quote provided by Drudge, adding: “If the context and intent behind this kind of particular humor is about exposing and making fun of homophobia to show the ridiculousness of it, that is one thing. What is undeniable though is the impact on the audience is going to vary. Although we view the movie for what it is, a satirical portrayal of stereotyping, we shouldn’t lose sight of the seriousness of this issue. The #1 epithet used on schoolyards across the country remains anti-gay slurs. In the last few months, we have had to continually witness the heartbreaking suicides of young boys who were taunted and bullied using anti-gay epithets. It continues to remain a serious problem in this country. As Sacha Baren Cohen and Universal Pictures prepare for the upcoming release of Bruno, they have a responsibility to make sure that the viewing public understands this character is done as satire to poke fun at stereotyping. Otherwise, they run the risk of 16 yr old high school boys across the country feeling empowered to bully schoolmates. And tragically we already know what the consequences of that are.” Agreed.