So I went to see Brüno. Hearing all of the controversy swirling around it, how could I not? For instance, GLAAD is saying the Sacha Baron Cohen’s film Brüno reinforces "damaging, hurtful stereotypes" and “decreases the public’s comfort with gay people,” while HRC (a group that has been less than satisfactory at doing its job and protecting civil rights) is claiming that Cohen should do a better job at reminding his audience that the movie is not homophobic. In addition, a parade of gay men have been telling me that the film is once again using gay stereotypes as a way to laugh at gay people, men I would add who either did not see the film or walked out after the first few minutes.
So I went to see Brüno, and I loved it. I thought it was shear genius. Not only did I see it once, I went to see it again and I will be seeing it for a third time at the Castro theater next Thursday the 20th. It should be clear to everyone that the point of Brüno is not to make fun of gay people but rather to point out homophobia and ridicule it, and in that Brüno succeeds brilliantly. If that were all Brüno did, that would be plenty. But Brüno has so much more going on. While Cohen is using over the top gay stereotypes to highlight American's homophobia he is also commenting on the cult of celebrity: how it is defined, who has access, and how it manages to disillusion itself, and managing to do it in a truly hysterical manner. I especially enjoyed the two blond vapid 'charity PR consultants' Brüno hires to help him pick, you know, the next 'Dar-five.' Are these people real?
And that was the big question I asked leaving the film, the same question Borat aroused. Who much of Cohen's films are staged, how much of the audience is manipulated? In the end, I don't believe it really matters. This is not journalism per se. It is staged and the audience is manipulated. The staging and manipulation are a device Cohen uses to highlight intolerance and bigotry, intolerance and bigotry which is continually denied and ignored in this country. That is what is all too real.