Brüno: Gays Ask for Changes

Does Sacha Baron Cohen's flamboyant alter ego help crush or fuel homophobia?

By Marc Malkin Jun 17, 2009 8:40 PMTags
Bruno, Sacha Baron CohenUniversal

No doubt about it—Sacha Baron Cohen uses every negative gay stereotype you could possibly imagine in his portrayal of Brüno, his Austrian fashion journalist alter ego.

He's a flamboyant limp-wristed queen who has wild sex, dresses in barely-there S&M ensembles and has never met a Swarovski crystal he doesn't like.

Is it any wonder that a big portion of gay Hollywood finds parts of the upcoming Brüno movie more offensive than humorous?

The big question right now is will Brüno leave audiences laughing with gays or at gays?

GLAAD, the gay media watchdog group, is so concerned about Cohen's depiction of homosexuality in the flick that it asked Universal Pictures, the studio releasing Brüno, to include a message of support for gay rights and tolerance from Cohen at the end of the movie.

The request was denied. "We have very mixed emotions about the movie," said Rashad Robinson, GLAAD's senior director of media programs. "Those of us who saw the film agreed that you can't critique it as a single film because it's more like 90 minutes of individual sketches. Some are funny and hit their mark but others hit the [gay] community instead."

Universal said in statement that Brüno's intent is to challenge people.

"Brüno uses provocative comedy to powerfully shed light on the absurdity of many kinds of intolerance and ignorance, including homophobia," the statement said in part.


One scene includes Brüno and a sexual partner tied up in chains in a hotel room, wearing nothing but G-strings. Also in the room? A tarp on the wall is dirtied with fecal stains and there are gerbils in a dresser drawer, according to Hollywood blog The Wrap.

Robinson said GLAAD is also concerned about a scene in which Brüno appears on a talk show to discuss his adoption of an African baby. They asked that a photo shown during the bit showing a baby sitting in the same hot tub where two men are having sex be cut.

"This movie does not unmask stereotypes by showing pictures like that, they enforce them," Robinson said. "As someone who sat at the back of a focus group audience outside of Los Angeles, I felt they were laughing at us at times."

He is still hopeful the hot tub photo will be cut. Universal has promised that GLAAD can see the movie another time before its July 7 debut, Robinson said. A rep for the studio declined to comment about the possibility of a future screening.


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