23 Jun 2009

Brüno: a mockery of gay stereotyping or a promotion of homophobia

photo from wikipedia

Again, Sacha Baron Cohen will try his best to blow us away with his forthcoming film Brüno. His previous works,Da Ali G Show or Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, are hilarious, if we only look at them from the perspective of 'farce' disregarding the hidden cultural conflicts and prejudice. Yes, as a 'normal' consumer (of entertainment, media and culture), I agree that his works provide me a great chance for a good laugh. However, being an 'abnormal' consumer of the modern society, I found his works quite disturbing and highly problematic.

Transforming himself (a straight male in real life) into a gay fashion reporter from Austria, what exactly does Cohen want to say to his audiences? The Bruno character has been seen in Da Ali G Show, and the behaviour of this specific character is the stereotyping of 'what a gay man should be'. The New York Times reports that such a character reinforces the stereotype of homosexuals and thus might validate homophobia. The report says that the film in fact is to show what the life of the minority group - the homosexuals - is and to mock those who are afraid of these flamboyant boys (or queens). However, his approach and jokes, as the report says, seems too deep for the normal consumers to understand. Indeed, we always tend to pick up the face value of whatever we see, especially in comedy or farce - what makes us laugh is never something that needs to be thought of. If what we laugh at in this film is Bruno's very gay behaviour, tones, and expression (and I believe this is where the most of the audience find hilarious), then the character only makes the public confirm their imagined image of homosexuals. Of course, Bruno's gayness (highly visceral, all about the body) could be a mockery of how we choose to detest and then ignore the existence of these people. But this requires the audience to really look into the details of the film and think. In the meantime, such critical context, as in Borat, is only a vague concept that is placed deep inside the film. Hence, normal audiences will never be able to pick it up. They will never know it is them who are mocked by the characters on screen. Since whatever is critical in his work is always a vauge concept (such should be a modern trend in our contemporary society - everything is vauge and face value rules), the reuslt of this film might be a reinforcement of the gay stereotypes covertly promoting homophobia.

Though I have decided that this film would have helped those confirm their imagined image of homosexuals, I still would like to see it. It is not a crime to have a good laugh at the cinema. Maybe there is really something meaningful and critical in the film, and we have to see it ourselves to tease it out.