Cathy Renna

Bruno: are we in on the joke or the butt of it?

Filed By Cathy Renna | June 08, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Bruno, Eminem, humorous blog post, Jodie Foster, media, oscars, sasha baron cohen, silence of the lambs

The upcoming release of "Bruno" on July 10, starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a "flamboyantly gay fashion reporter" is prompting a lot of discussion and an MTV stunt involving Eminem and Bruno that needs to be seen to be believed. If you have not seen it you are probably living under that proverbial rock.

So here we go again - another round of navel gazing and debate about whether or not this film is good, bad or defamatory. Or all of the above. Like every other subjective thing in entertainment, it is all about context and intent. As I explained to a New York Times reporter the other day about the film, our community will have many opinions. This is still shocking to some journalists, although this reporter was well aware. My standard anecdote - that if you asked ten gay men when they thought of "Jack" on Will and Grace, you would have four hate him, four love and two that are are him. But let's talk about Bruno.

This film - like all of Sasha Baron Cohen's work - is something I call "extreme humor." Taken as far as possible - and then some - his films often manage to have it both ways. He manages to skewer homophobic stereotypes by playing them so over the top, all the while perpetuating them with some segment of his audience. Much like Kevin Smith's work, in particular the ever so NOT subtle homo-eroticiscm of Jay and Silent Bob, these films are meant to provoke and this one will for sure.

As I read more and more about Bruno - a film I am guessing I will see all alone unless someone wants to join me in DC (cathy@rennacommunications.com) it will be important for me to be in the audience. My goal is to see it not in a gay enclave but in the 'burbs. I want to see if the teenage straight boys are laughing with us or at us. It is fairly easy to tell the difference. That will be my gauge for how this film may impact conversations about our community. It feels like we live in a day and age where some in our own community will condemn this (with some good reason) and others will find it a hilarious celebration of the sissies they love (also with good reason). I tend to fall in the middle. I love and embrace those men in our community for whom fabulous is a noun but also understand that the sexism that lies beneath all of us fuels so much bias, within and outside out community. But to deny the existence of stereotypes is naive, rather we should embrace them and let the larger culture know we are a big enough for the butch and the sissy, the sensitive and the tough. I often feel like a big 'ol queen trapped in a boyish lesbian's body so I have no fear of that dynamic tension.

It will be interesting to see the reaction. I vividly remember seeing "Silence of the Lambs" in a Maryland suburb when it came out in the 90's. Never mind Jodie Foster in the lead, never mind it won Oscars. What struck me was that a film filled with grotesque violence against women and a major character who is a transsexual serial killer, there was only one moment that the audience was visibly (and audibly) disgusted. That was the moment Jame Gumb (the trans killer) stepped back from the camera and exposed a nipple ring. Seriously.

The reaction to Jay and Silent Bob was more nuanced - we seemed to be in on the joke a bit more and the country had changed. But Bruno is about as in your face as
one can get, so we'll see what the reaction is to a film about an over the top stereotype mincing his way across the screen.

From what I can tell the people who should be most offended by this film are Southerners, who once again are treated as one-dimensional stereotypical bigots. And the people I worry the most about feeling the fall-out of this film are our LGBT brothers and sisters in the Southern part of this country, who are, more than any of us, still the butt of the joke on more than one level.


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People usually don't get satire. All the audience will do is laugh at how Cohen played some faggot and got a bunch of hicks upset.

There will be no sympathy for the prejudice shown toward Bruno, since he is such an awkward and annoying character.

This is mere provocation for cash that will not bear anything good for the gay community.

Personally I find Cohen's uber-stereotyped thing offensive. And I find it offensive that MTV evidently went along with the gag at the awards, which was a planned job. And Cohen is using us to promote his film.

Does MTV care about the LGBT viewers they have (or used to have, at any rate)?

The answer is obvious: Both. Frankly I'm wondering why you felt you had to write an entire article about it.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | June 8, 2009 3:29 PM

to have a bit of dialogue about this very topic - which i think is a good thing

I prefer to look at Bruno as a missing link between Borat and Scott Thompson's Buddy Cole character from "Kids in the Hall."

The thing is, a lot of stupid people won't get the satire because stupid people usually don't get satire (and we Americans are notorious for our lack of irony relative to the Brits). There was a lot of people who expressed similar reservations about Borat, fearing it would be seen as promoting prejudice against Jews and Roma, and I'm sure there were people who saw their own bigotry vindicated. In the end, though, the overwhelming majority of viewers knew what the movie was about.

But I think overall, most people will see this movie for what it is: an attempt to use stereotypes to expose bigotry, all the while humiliating and ridiculing the bigots themselves.

Everyone is the butt of the joke in a Sacha Baron Cohen movie.

Sasha Cohen is fueling anti-gay bullying against middle school and high school kids. If you wonder where the killing of young Michael King by a fellow student in California came from, or the recent suicides in Massachusetts and Georgia of kids who were taunted for being gay, or perceived to be gay, look no further than the type of "humor" that Cohen peddles. Gays should be furious about this. Boycotting Bruno really is a "save the children" issue.Cathy- isn't there enough of this Bruno stuff on YouTube to make a judgment without paying Cohen more money?

Raymond Decelles-Smith | June 9, 2009 6:51 PM

I do not appreciate the "humour" of Sasha Baron Cohen. It is interesting to note that the schtick that this son of Levites (Cohen)creates. He tricks celebrities into making fools of themselves by his callous misrepresentations of Muslim or Orthodox Christians or effeminate stereotype of a hedonistic gay person. Mr. Cohen is neither amusing or gay or anything else.

I can assure you that Mr. Cohen will never appropriate to himself a stereotype of an Orthodox Jew. No, Mr. Cohen's characters are drawn from those who are not "members of the tribe."

Hi, Cathy.

Just to let you know a bit about me, I'm a straight, married mother of two in (gulp, please do not judge me by this next fact) but from (voice drops to a low whisper) from Orange County, Ca.

I realize these few facts about me, alone, should conjure enough imagery about me that should disqualify me from having any legit feedback to offer anyone writing for Bilerico Project.

But, for whatever it's worth, I just saw "Bruno," last night in the "burbs." Actually, in Huntington Beach, Ca, and for the record. Nobody was laughing as hard as I was.


The theater was about 2/3 full. And, unfortunately, there were some children there. I do NOT know why. If anyone were foolish enough to bring a child to this film they should have to go back to take "Parenthood: 101." I mean, if they send you to traffic school for traffic violations, when an adult brings a minor to an "R" film they should have to go to back to "Grow-the-fuck-up. You're-a-parent-now" class. But, that's just my two cents.

In fact, if you want to know the truth. The kids were probably the most silent audience members there.

Which really upset me, too. That movie was freakishly sexual. Funny? Yes. Sure, but it shocked all of us there. And we were grown ups.

So, please, kids were there? NOT MINE. And God forbid my daughter comes home from middle school and says "Hey mom, there's this cute boy in my algebra class and he said he saw "Bruno" this summer. Can I hang out with him after school, sometime?"

I'd be "all like:" "He saw "Bruno?!" Get the hell away from him. No, no, no." And not because of the gay theme, because, ironically, I'm hoping she does get to know people as comfortable in their own skin as Bruno was, but because that movie is WAY too sexual, that's why.

But, these are just my random two cents from a mom in the burbs.

-- Louise On The Left.


Louise! What in the hell are you doing hanging out in the gay ghettos? And when will you be guest posting? :) Did Prince rub himself up against off on you?

For those who don't know Louise, she's the incredibly funny author of Louse on the Left. I subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds, but Louise is 7th in my "Favorites" category because it's arranged alphabetically.

Go forth, my pretties, and unleash mischief on the poor woman's posts about speeding virginity and Kathy Griffin. Just be nice. :)