Vassup, Brüno bashers? Apparently ve’re are alles too cool und hip to bash D-list celebrities und rednecks anymore. Ich bin honestly surprised that people have found Sasha Baron Cohen’s latest piece of performance cinema to be so disappointing. It is true, as Anthony Lane noted in The New Yorker, that some of ze best zingers appear on za twitter site (“Bruno hits cinemas midnight Thursday! At last a positive gay role model after ze offensive Milk!” or “Bruno ist like Jesus or Ghandi – ve’re basically messiahs mit millions of fans – und all 3 of us look AMAZING in just our underpants.” And not to mention: “It’s St. Adolf’s Day in Austria! Everyone vill be raising a glass to ze Austrian Dream; ‘get a job, find a dungeon, raise ein family in it.’”) aber there is still so viele good stoff in the movie from the multiple dildo scenes to the adopted African baby named OJ und ze talking penis! Actually, there are too many grosse penises in der filme fur mich aber ich bin nicht so hot on real ones. Ich liebe auch der comisch references to Hitler and Austrian military history and the moment where Brüno confused the Palestinian political party Hamas with hummus.
Dropping Brüno speak for a moment, und das ist ganz hard fur mich, Tavia stated on this blog site that Brüno was more or less what he expected! Wow, you really expected to see Paula Abdul sitting on “Mexican” furniture and mumbling about how good it feels to do good deeds? You really went in thinking, I bet there will be a self-defense scene with a guy wearing a strap-on and carrying two other dildos? Ich muss lack imagination because all I expected was some good-humored homophobia and, if I was lucky, a few Hitler jokes. Admittedly, the film finds easy targets at sleazy swinger parties and “homosexual conversion” programs, and of course the white guys in confederate hats who like to hunt and ponder the question of whether they prefer “vakinas to mammaries” are always easy to take pot shots at, but then that is the Sasha Baron Cohen machine. But I take Tavia’s point about the contrived ways in which the film tries to draw out the homophobia it already presumes exists in “white trash fly over states.”
Far from just congratulating urbane audiences for being in the know while laughing at white trash wrestling fans, I think Cohen reveals to the viewer how easily embarrassed mainstream gay audiences can be and how quickly people raise the alarm on homophobia for obviously satirical or comic films. People are much slower to suggest that films in which gays are shown to be insufferably good or neat or tasteful are also homophobic in that they too lack range when it comes to representing queer character. How many more movies do we want with spectacularly good looking gay guys who play supporting roles to spectacularly stupid straight ladies (e.g. He’s Just Not That Into You). Is it not far more disappointing to see a “his and his” matching pair twittering about the joys of long term marriage than to watch Bruno play the receptive partner as his true love powers a dildo from a stationary bike? I would rather giggle to Brüno’s futile attempts to go straight than ever watch another Todd Haynes film about a seemingly straight man’s struggle to leave his wife and go gay. So, while I embrace Tavia’s critique of the obvious set ups in Brüno designed to inspire homophobia, other gay protests of the film dive quickly into the banal territory of positive versus negative images.
I often think a negative image is worth a thousand positive words and in fact there are moments in Brüno that were quite moving when it comes to militant pride: in the famous hotel scene where Brüno and poor Lutz have been found handcuffed to each other and locked into a bondage clothing embrace, Brüno’s simple refusal to be shamed or embarrassed by his predicament in front of the hotel staff, and his calm insistence that he will not pay for the movie he is accidentally about to buy because the remote control is lodged up his arschen holen (and who can blame him since it is Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium), is worth a million noble speeches in Milk about dignity and humanity. While Milk pandered to the mainstream by selling short the really militant responses to Milk’s assassination, and by depicting Milk as a saint in relation to his weirdly depicted Latino boyfriend, Brüno pulls no punches in depicting gay abjection, superficiality and apolitical camp sensibilities.
Und this is not to say that I see Brüno as somehow representative of “real” gays. Natürlich, Brüno is no more authentically gay than Will on Will and Grace or anyone in execrable “sexy” and meaningful gay films like Shortbus; he is as much a fantasy of gay masculinity or even gay swishy male femininity, as all the recent romantic comedies like Bride Wars and He’s Just Not That Into You and The Proposal are fantasies of heterosexual romance. Don’t gays deserve their own fantasy worlds complete with outrageous caricatures, shrecklich stereotypes und wild bouts of stupidity?
Ja, it is true, ich liebe Brüno. Ich liebe nicht das ending of the film with a sleazy old Sting and a sanctimonious Bono and a fat Elton John (“fat” is important here because he is sitting uncomically upon the “Mexican furniture”) singing a world peace song with the occasional chorus from an uninspired Snoop Dog. If they had asked mich fur eine ending, I would have suggested he play a woodwind instrument lodged firmly up his Auschwitz and reveal just a hint of pedophilia. I would have done more with the connections between Schwarzenegger and Hitler, I would have made copious fun of the singing fools at the end; oh, and I would have found a way to work in some lesbian jokes. But 80 minutes later, after a movie with more strap on dildo scenes than have appeared in the whole history of lesbian cinema, I don’t want to be greedy. Pushing the envelope, or in Deutsche alles herausholen, is not as easy as it looks and I hope Sasha Baron Cohen continues to play against liberal sensibilities while taking camp humor to its absolute limit.