'Brüno' Gay Controversy: Rights or Stereotypes?

Sacha Baron Cohen naked on GQ cover

Brook Barnes in the New York Times:

“So it goes for Brüno, a movie that, in mercilessly exploiting the discomfort created when straight men are ambushed by aggressive gayness, happens to (surprise!) expose homophobia. Gay groups are reacting with deeply mixed emotions, heightened by the recent triumphs (Iowa) and losses (California) in efforts to legalize gay marriage. Is the film then vulgar, inappropriate and harmful? Or bold, timely and necessary? All of the above?

“Ultimately the tension surrounding Brüno boils down to the worry that certain viewers won't understand that the joke is on them and will leave the multiplex with their homophobia validated.”


Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno

Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood:

“There's now a YouTube video … making the rounds which features notables like Peter Paige (Queer As Folk), Nick Verreos (Project Runway), and Brian Graden (LOGO network founder) discussing their concerns about Brüno's impact on the LGBT community. (It was shot at an event honoring Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.) Problem is, they haven't actually seen the film. And it's always unwise for interest groups to make judgments on a creative endeavor before they've actually experienced it.”


Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno

Seth Abramovitch in Movieline:

“Its timing could be a brilliant coup for its prank comedian star: an effective yet entertaining illustration of the bigotry facing millions of gay Americans. Alternately, it could turn out to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back — a final humiliation after a year of disgraces for a minority whose relationships may or may not have recently been compared to incestuous pairings in a document released by the Obama administration. Universal doesn't really care either way; Cohen could be dragged to the [West Hollywood gay club] Abbey by an angry mob for an old-fashioned Bastille Day guillotining as far as they're concerned, so long as their $42 million gamble's performance at the box office doesn't earn it the unofficial subtitle 'Land of the Lost 2.'"


Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno

Via The Playlist:

“According to The Wrap, 'The filmmaker [Larry Charles] conducted “significant reshoots” to temper the troubled reaction of insiders from the Hollywood gay community, according to one person involved in the Bruno production who declined to be identified.'

“Umm, but when? The troubled reactions just started in the last two weeks. Brüno screened last night in New York to long-lead media, it's cut, finished, locked and loaded. Did they know the reaction was going to be that bad, so mid-way through production shot, 'gay-friendly' or did they just use their time travel machines?"


Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno

A letter purportedly sent by “an insider” to a couple of news outlets, including Finke's:

“The film has not been screened for a large number of gays for a reason. Throughout the many private screenings [the filmmakers] have had, the reaction from gays has been almost uniformally one of alarm. It is not a scathing depiction of homophobia – but a grotesque satire of homosexuality. Brüno is a sickening mixture of narcissism, fetishism and shallowness - and he is virtually the only gay representation in the movie. The 'homophobia' of the various straight men who he encounters and propositions, seems only natural when faced with such an odious sexual monster. Sacha, Jay and their writers did significant reshoots to try to temper the troubled reactions of the few gay people they invited to screenings. One 'out' comedy writer refused to help on the reshoots, because he found the content so disturbing.

“The reshoots did not do much other than manage to get Elton John and a few other music celebs to participate in an ending that seemed to promote gay marriage. However, these musicians - including Chris Martin - continue to be concerned as they have not been shown the finished film. Can you imagine a comedian going around in black face in a movie, doing a stereotype of black Americans without ever once using a black collaborator or showing the film to a black audience? Gay men continue to be the last easy targets of the fratboy comedies so prevalent these days. And while Brüno pretends to be subversive, it is no different.”

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2 Comments to 'Brüno' Gay Controversy: Rights or Stereotypes?

  1. lolo


  2. Mark Zamen

    It is difficult to say whether the film will do more harm than good; it depends on who is seeing it and the viewer's attitudes prior to watching. It seems we would do well to look upon the movie as a plea for sanity conveyed by the vehicle of satire. Perhaps this film's approach is needed to
    help bring to an end the concept still held by a large portion of society that gay men and women are second-class citizens - or worse. That is the salient point of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for acceptance (of himself and by others). You can learn more about the book at http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BrokenSaint.html.

    Mark Zamen, author