"A Plea for Tolerance in Tight Shorts"

Strange article in the NYT this morning about Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming film, Bruno.

The basic premise of the NYT piece is this: is the Bruno character--a flamboyant Austrian TV host--a homophobic caricature and will the Bruno film be seen by audiences as a re-affirmation of stereotypes or as an Out Magazine editor tells the NYT, a "two hour lecture" about the perils of homophobia served in an easy to digest comedic form?

I find this whole discussion strange and uninteresting on a number of levels: [More..]

I don't think art of any kind has to be socially responsible, in fact I think that great art is often deeply offensive;

The framing of the discussion around Bruno in the NYT piece is too simplistic--it's basically 'is/isn't' the film homophobic. What if the answer isn't that simple? I saw the Bruno trailer and thought that it seemed not all that funny, overly broad in its humor and worried that Cohen had overly camped up the character.

But I'm also curious to see the film because I'm fan of Cohen's and the NYT piece mentions a few moments that seem pretty fascinating, like Ron Paul walking off the set of an interview with Bruno muttering, "this guy is a queer."

The last and most important point is that the writer of the NYT piece doesn't at all discuss the Bruno character on Cohen's great HBO series "Da Ali G Show."

Bruno was by far my favorite character on the show because he exposed the rampant vapidity and stupidity of LA and NYC publicists, hairstylists and club promoters. I liked that Cohen's targets via Bruno were powerful East and West Coast types, not the Southern folks he made too easy fun of in the not very funny Borat film.

So the question for me re: Bruno is not whether or not it's homophobic but this: is Cohen willing to target the powerful or is he just going to make a safe and ultimately not at all challenging film like Borat? We'll see...

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    When you take stereotypes... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 01:40:24 PM EST
    ...as far as Cohen does, it is impossible NOT to get a reaction from almost everyone, much as it is when crying fire in a the proverbial movie theatre.  Which is why, as actual social satire, I flet that Borat, while hilarious in places, fell far short.  We'll see with this one.  I laughed some at the trailer, it'll no doubt have pretty funny stretches in it.  But, obviously, the Bruno character is meant to be a stereotype on steroids.

    Interesting, also, to think about what stereotypes are allowed to be marketed like this and which aren't.  Could you see him playing the stereotyical Jewish character?  Like the one Borat was so afraid of when he said they had shape-shifted into roaches?  Or an African-American character so broadly and offensively (isn't that the point?) portrayed?  Etc.  Seems gay folks and foreigners, more than others, can still be portrayed as the cinematic roaches.

    But it's America, it's comedy, hold nothing back and see what happens.  

    The gays are still not powerful (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ericinatl on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 03:29:32 PM EST
    Despite the right-wing rectal contractions to the contrary.  Therefore, you have to get very META to assume that the Bruno character is an attack on the powerful (i.e., Cohen really knows gays are cool but he pretends to be one to capture unsuspecting elites in a game of one-upsman-elitism).  And that is giving Cohen and the American audience far too much credit.

    It's just one more gay character we gays must endure.  One more laugh at our expense.  But, if you weren't straight, you would get it.

    Because what it seems you really want is permission to laugh.   You won't get it from me, dear.

    An assumption (none / 0) (#6)
    by lentinel on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 04:44:57 PM EST
    People seem to be assuming that Cohen is straight.

    Does it matter? (none / 0) (#11)
    by andgarden on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 06:36:08 PM EST
    Listen, SBC can say whatever he wants, but I find Bruno offensive.

    he's married (none / 0) (#14)
    by pukemoana on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 08:05:05 PM EST
    to a woman and has a kid, I heard.  so he's at least performing straightness.

    Comedy as cruelty (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by candideinnc on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 04:27:04 PM EST
    Try to distinguish between satire and stereotype.  This clown isn't making fun of anything except the stereotype of the effeminate queer.  It is social ridicule of a minority.  As the previous writer put it, you don't have my permission to laugh, dear.  I have walked out on enough so-called comics who find gays an easy joke.

    When we have equal rights to straights-- DOMA is off the books, there is no employment discrimination against gays in the military, gays can adopt on an equal footing with straights, religious organizations are not allowed to keep tax exemptions while discriminating against gays, when landlords can no longer discriminate against us in housing--maybe then I will be less sensitive to this crass slapstick.  For the time being, it is just the gay equivalent of blackface.

    The MTV stunt (none / 0) (#1)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 01:01:21 PM EST
    where Eminem was not ready for Bruno's close-up and the subsequent admission of its fakery was mentioned as casting doubt on the assertion that Cohen interviewed unsuspecting people.  I might also add that the reaction prior to Eminem's admission of being in on the joke, did not seem to be too sympathetic to the Bruno character.  I hope that the film will have better luck at achieving its claim to shed light on the intolerance and ignorance of homophobia.  These comments having been made, I do look forward to seeing the Netflix version in six months.  

    Great art - offensive? (none / 0) (#5)
    by lentinel on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 04:43:57 PM EST
    "I think that great art is often deeply offensive"...

    I can't think of any art that I think is great that is offensive.

    I suppose we would have to ask (none / 0) (#7)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 05:45:27 PM EST
    "offensive to whom: and  when.   For example, most Christin art would be offensive to Muslims, since, by their lights, depiction of the deity is offensive.  As for the when,  the place in time may account for an offense, e.g. the Impressionists were found to be deeply offensive to the classical artists, fin de siecle.

    Maybe (none / 0) (#8)
    by lentinel on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 05:59:19 PM EST
    I could say that great art is unsettling to some - especially intrenched interests...

    But that is different than being offensive.

    More often than not, it seems to me that the greatest art is more often met with indifference. Eg: Bach, Van Gogh.


    Well, art appreciation (none / 0) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 07:46:44 PM EST
    is pretty subjective, so we probably need to add definitions for 'great'.   Now maybe some would or would not consider Robert Mapplethorpe's work to be great but we do know that the good people of Cincinnati considered it to be offensive.

    Offensive Art (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ethan Brown on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 06:17:37 PM EST
    Offensive wasn't the best word choice--a better description of the sort of art that I was referring to would have been art that's provocative, unnerves audiences, challenges them, etc. Here are a few bits of art that fall into this category that I particularly like:

    1--Iggy and the Stooges' live album Metallic KO ("Rich B__ch"; "Cock in My Pocket");

    2--A Clockwork Orange;

    3--Taxi Driver;

    4--Choke (just saw this last night and found it both surprisingly enjoyable and revolting at the same time);

    5--The Sex Pistols' Great Rock N Roll Swindle ("Belsen was a Gas" etc).

    6--Bonnie and Clyde. Seems tame now but was considered ultra violent when it was released in 1967.

    7--The entire oeuvre of Sam Peckinpah.

    This is just a start...

    Anyway, I like Cohen when he pokes fun at the powerful--and I think he's boring when he does broad stereotypes (I should have noted that the Ali G. character was much funnier on British TV, when he was a very specific send-up of UK white boy "junglists.") And Cohen's broad stereotypes, of course, don't challenge anybody's beliefs.

    Hoping Bruno will be a lot more than shock-y camp and find the debate on whether the character is/isn't homophobic really one dimensional and boring.

    Couldn't disagree more with you Chris. (none / 0) (#10)
    by mexboy on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 06:31:09 PM EST
    An artist, it has been said, is someone who delves into the depths of truth and magnifies them for everyone else-Okay, so I paraphrased.

    I don't think art of any kind has to be socially responsible, in fact I think that great art is often deeply offensive

    Art does have to be "socially responsible" to the artist's truth. What it doesn't have to be in politically correct. Those are vast differences.

    A movie is rarely art, this one is entertainment; that is why it is called show business, not art business.

    I mean Ethan, not Chris. (none / 0) (#12)
    by mexboy on Sun Jun 14, 2009 at 06:37:29 PM EST
    the pearl clutchers are wailing (none / 0) (#15)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Jun 15, 2009 at 09:25:53 AM EST
    that means Bruno is doing  his job.


    "two hour lecture" about the perils of homophobia served in an easy to digest comedic form?

    is dead on

    one other thing (none / 0) (#16)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Jun 15, 2009 at 09:29:35 AM EST
    his quote:

    Mr. Baron Cohen's malaprop-loaded antics are fictional, but the hate they can elicit from the people he encounters is ostensibly real.

    shows by the use of the word "ostensibly" the author of the article is probably straight.

    clue: there is no ostensibly about it.


    not so (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by candideinnc on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 07:25:18 AM EST
    I don't think that this "comedian" is inspiring homophobic responses at all.  I am gay, and what I see is the most disgusting kind of exhibitionism and gross effeminism attached to a gay stereotype.  It revolts me, and not because I am homophobic or self loathing.  It isn't funny.  It isn't clever.  It isn't insightful.  I can laugh at Reno 911 when gays are part of the joke, and the comedy of character is done with wit.  This guy isn't even close to humorous.

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you... (none / 0) (#18)
    by vml68 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:39:11 AM EST
    I feel exactly the same way. I am not gay and I am not homophobic. But if "Bruno" was "in my face", I am sure my response would be very negative. I feel his character is extremely demeaning to gays.

    what I see is the most disgusting kind of exhibitionism and gross effeminism attached to a gay stereotype.