thoughts on Bruno

Possible spoilers ahead.

I saw Brüno in the theatres this afternoon, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I mainly went out of curiosity, because I’m fascinating by his over-the-top performances. I heard a lot of concern from folks that this might be the type of movie that’s hilarious for queer folk and allies in different ways than it’s hilarious for a less queer-friendly crowd — in that, the film can be a chance for voyeurism into the oh-so-strange queer world for a straight viewer. Does the movie reinscribe queer-as-spectacle for some viewers? I don’t know.

What I do know is that so much of the movie was already shown in previews that it became predictable and boring. I laughed quite a bit (even uncontrollably and noticeably — those that have gone to movies with me will know that my laugh draws attention from others), but those moments of hysteria were sandwiched by boredom. About half-way into the movie, I just wanted it to be over. I know the movie wasn’t really made for its overall narrative or suspense, but the serial nature of the movie made it a bore when half the jokes were already given away in previews.

I also knew going in that, if anything, I’d walk out feeling hounded by liberal guilt — laughing at jokes that were racist or worried about how the film would portray gay men in the eyes of audiences who might not be gay-friendly. I guess I didn’t laugh enough to walk out feeling guilty about enjoying jokes in the movie. But I did walk out feeling annoyed and disturbed by the film’s reduction of people of color to base stereotypes. An example that probably won’t give much away: at one point, Brüno doesn’t have any furniture in his new home, so he “hires” the Latino employees working on his house to become furniture for his guest. Obviously trying to get the audience to laugh about the way many white people treat Latino laborers, the film seemed to just flop here. I couldn’t laugh at all. As with most parody, the film tried to walk the line of making fun of a situation and reinforce the situation, and the film seemed to just reinforce dehumanization.

I was also annoyed by the regionalism of the film. The most homophobic and religious people were from the South, were people of color, or both. While urban whites often reacted to Brüno’s flamboyancy and explicit sexuality with disgust, it was tolerated. In the South, however, religion and rural “backwardness” made Brüno intolerable. The logic of the movie continues a “balkanization” of the United States where LA is the liberal, open mecca and the South is rural and backward.

But overall, I was underwhelmed.

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7 Responses to thoughts on Bruno

  1. Nels says:

    Michael, I’m planning my own post on Bruno, which I liked in a lot of ways. One thing your post is making me wonder, though, has to do with where ex-gay ministries are located. You’re right about regionalism. As someone from the South, I am always hyperconscious of how the place is represented. But I’m wondering how ex-gay ministries are located around the country and how public they are. I’m betting he had an easier time finding them in Alabama because they are so public there. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them here in CT, but I would be surprised if they were as public as the ones I’ve seen where I grew up.

    But that’s minor point. I’ll be trying to post my own thoughts soon.

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks, Nels. I think you’re right about the visibility and access to ex-gay ministries being easier in Alabama than, say, CT. Even in central PA, I don’t have an idea how to contact one (though I haven’t tried).

    I’m looking forward to reading your post!

  3. Chanel says:

    I just want to say I’m somewhat relieved to hear that you might laugh at a racist joke (and feel guilty about it later).

    Isn’t this the same actor who did Borat? I think I saw that one – did not make me laugh at all.

  4. Michael says:

    Yeah, same guy as Borat. Though I never saw that.

  5. Ricky says:

    I’m entitled to my opinion so I’m going to share it…. I thought the movie was hilarious the jokes were very fresh and genuinly funny….. how cohen can find a terrorist but the us government can’t…. how he uses raciel and sexual jokes….. you are what you are get used to it if your african or homosexual then take a joke…. people will make jokes and you know its funny, don’t get me wrong africans have all the rights to make jokes about white people…. but i thought this and borat are hilarious cheers to sacha baron cohen keep trucking man, and hes loved he got bono,slash,and even elton john( who is gay…) to play a part in his movie if elton john can take a joke so can everyone else..

  6. Ricky says:

    Feel free to delete my post, I mean this is an open blog, I’m not trying to put you down, I just think differently, we all have our thoughts and are entitled to our own opinions. Thank you for the time.

  7. Michael says:

    Thanks for your opinions, Ricky. I don’t quite get your point about Elton John, though.

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