Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is Brüno a force for good or evil?

It seems we can't make up our minds about this caricature created by actor Sacha Baron Cohen. One gay group is screening the movie as a fundraiser for same-sex marriage, another plans to picket it as homophobic.

You must have seen the trailers: Brüno telling a talk show audience that he swapped a black baby for an iPod. Brüno reporting for boot camp in D&G camouflage. D&G? Dolce & Gabbana. Hello?

You thought it was safe to snigger because you had an insider's take on Brüno, because he's gay, just like us. But now some homosexualists are pointing out that he's not funny. Because he's not like us at all.

Vassup? Well, Brüno is a nasty stereotype. He reduces everything to its place in his superficially gay lifestyle. Orphans are accessories. Dildos are weapons. Campfires are for confabbing about Sex and the City. He's a mincing streak of blond with the attention span of a koi, an über-gay cliché who would shame the shallowest twink. This, say Brüno's critics, is the image he is single-handedly laying back on gay men. How many same-sex attracted boys will be abused in the schoolyard for being 'Brünos'? What amount of bullying will occur?

But since it follows that a community can only be afraid of something it feels it hasn't the strength to withstand, to what extent can Brüno be culpable? The only way to protect ourselves from the possible adverse effects of a Brüno is to already be protected in those institutions where the backlash often occurs: schools and workplaces. If Brüno has the capacity to cause grief for gay men, that's an indication that the environment around those men is not robust enough to counter the real life bullies who use Brüno as an excuse to go on a spree.

True, this argument owes something to the gun lobby: 'Brüno doesn't bully gays, bullies bully gays'. But if it wasn't Brüno as the catalyst for bullying it would be the NRLFooty Show, or Jeff Kennett, or Fred Nile, or some punk in the schoolyard. I hope that a gay school student being bullied would know he could report it to a teacher or a counsellor as part of his school's anti-bullying policy. An employee should be confident that if he is harassed in the workplace for his sexuality he will be able to appeal to his company's anti-homophobia policy.

On the other hand, if you believe Brüno is a champion of the gays, slyly highlighting homophobia in mainstream society, then sit back and enjoy the in-joke. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't inquire if your son's – or nephew's – school has an anti-bullying policy inclusive of homophobia.

Post a Comment