July 13, 2009

So What About "Bruno"?

Sacha Baron Cohen's uber-hyped film "Bruno" opened this weekend to mixed reviews but still finished #1 at the box office with an estimated $30 million in receipts.

This movie was also reviewed by GLAAD, The Gay & Lesbian Aliance Against Defamation, and they weren't exactly thrilled (hat tip to Gay Agenda). The senior director of GLAAD, Rashad Robinson, wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times about the movie. Here is an excerpt:

It's not that we don't get it. The makers of the film "Bruno," Sacha Baron Cohen's just-released follow-up to "Borat," have said that they intend to satirize and expose homophobia. But even when filmmakers have the best of intentions, there can be a disconnect between the concept and the execution. In "Bruno," the satire often loses sight of the way gay people are treated in real life.

In some scenes, the film's method cleverly skewers anti-gay attitudes. But in others it loses its way. In the film's finale, a disguised Bruno takes part in a no-holds-barred cage match in Arkansas (a state that in November voted to effectively ban gay people from becoming adoptive or foster parents). The situation is a set-up, and in the middle of the fight, Bruno begins to rip the clothes off his opponent and kiss him. The audience for the cage match, which is not in on the joke, goes berserk, screaming epithets and hurling objects -- including a chair -- at the two men. (The film's production notes say that the confrontation "lasted many hours" and required 40 police officers "to rescue the cast and crew and quell the angry mob.")

Whatever this scene may reveal, it is disturbing on a number of levels given the pervasive violence gay people often face. Late last year, the FBI reported that anti-gay hate crimes have been on the rise since 2005. Last month, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that violent hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people increased 24% in 2007 and additional 2% in 2008.

Another scene has Bruno on a TV talk show with a baby in tow. Intended to spoof celebrity adoptions, the scene suddenly veers to a photo of Bruno and the baby in a hot tub with a number of naked men, followed by a photo of what appears to be sexual activity between Bruno and the men in the background -- while the baby is still in the foreground of the photo. Naturally, the talk show audience turns against Bruno.

In too many places, scenes like these are not going to turn homophobia back on itself. They aren't going to help gay people who are struggling to overcome and overturn the unjust treatment and the deeply ingrained hostility they face on a daily basis. And they aren't going to help lesbian and gay parents in places like Arkansas who must struggle to safeguard their families in the face of laws designed to put them at risk.

We have no plans on watching the movie. We never thought "The Ali G Show" or "Borat" was very funny--they came across to us as more of a "what gross and embarrasing thing can we get away with" than actual clever humor. We are curious, however, to get your reactions or those of someone you know who saw it.

1 comment:

  1. I saw it and think it was a waste of money. There were some funny scenes and ultimately I believe Sacha Baron Cohen seeks to show the ignorance thats pervasive in society. He just takes extremes in order to get people to really open up about their prejudiced attitudes.