Homophobia masked as comedy

I saw Bruno a few days ago, and I thoroughly disliked the experience. The movie had received excellent reviews from many respected movie critics, some of whom claimed that the triumph of Bruno was that it mocked societal acceptance of homophobia.

It was my experience that the only thing that Bruno seemed to mock were the homosexuals it purported to defend. Although I lost track of the number of scenes where gays were portrayed as lascivious perverts, I cannot think of a single scene where there was a sympathetic gay character.

I am reminded of one scene in particular (spoiler alert!) where a naked Bruno is portrayed seated in a hot tub with his adopted African toddler and two naked men. In this hot tub scene, despite the presence of a child, the men in the hot tub pose in lewd positions that would raise the ire of any Children's Aid Society. This scene was unsettling on many accounts, one of which was the fact that such a scene does nothing to quash public fears about the ability of gay men to properly raise children. Another problem with the scene was that there was no follow-up attempt to correct this child-predator stereotype of gay men. Bruno was homophobic without questioning homophobia, and therein lied the offense.

There were many other equally tactless scenes in the film, some of which mocked not only homosexuals, but blacks, foreigners and theists as well. It was as though the screenwriters of Bruno decided they would try to denigrate as many groups of people as possible in 81 minutes of film reel.

Some people will say that the goal of Bruno was not to mock classes, but to mock our caricatures of these classes. That is, it was not Bruno's exaggerated gay mannerisms that were funny, but the fact that we attribute such mannerisms to gays. If this indeed was the intent of the Bruno screenwriters, they failed in a very important respect: At no point in the film was the audience presented with a normal homosexual male who, in contrast with Bruno, would have caused the audience to question stereotypes about homosexuals. If there had been a sympathetic gay character named Joe, for example, who was not overly flamboyant and sexual like Bruno, the film would have done a better job questioning societal acceptance of homophobia. Instead, every gay character in the film was portrayed as either a child abuser, a sexual pervert or a superficial fashionista.

It is tempting to defend Bruno on the grounds that the screenwriters have a right to free speech (a right I heartily support) and, as a result, nit-picky 'liberals' like me should just stay away from the movie if we don't like it. However, as I will discuss in my next post, I believe that there is a critical difference between what you have the right to do, and what you should do. Too often, the right to free speech is used to justify morally questionable behavior.


digitally404 said...

Thank you for the review. I also heard there are some really shocking parts, and I'd hate for people to judge the quality of the film by its shock impact. Sacha's Ali G is good because there's nothing repulsive in anything he does. Borat was funny, until the he wrestled with a naked man. And now Bruno, I imagine goes a bit too far just the same.

What happened to just having some funny interviews?

I have no desire to see that movie anymore.

Eva said...

I think that 'funny interview' comedy has been superseded by shock-value comedy in the mainstream, unfortunately.

Shock-value comedy a la Bruno seems lazy compared to the improvised wit of Eddie Izzard or the dead-pan absurdism of Monty Python. It's just not too difficult, nor is it particularly clever, to try to think of ways to shock an audience.