A Brüno Storm is Brewing
Of all this summer's hotly anticipated studio releases, only one arrives buck naked, waxed, and astride a winged pony named Controversy: Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno. (Pictured here, gracing the cover of the latest GQ that virtually no human being is going to buy. Presuming people still buy magazines.) Its timing could be a brilliant coup for its prank comedian star: an effective yet entertaining illustration of the bigotry facing millions of gay Americans. Alternately, it could turn out to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back -- a final humiliation after a year of disgraces for a minority whose relationships may or may not have recently been compared to incestuous pairings in a document released by the Obama administration. Universal doesn't really care either way; Cohen could be dragged to the Abbey by an angry mob for an old-fashioned Bastille Day guillotining as far as they're concerned, so long as their $42 million gamble's performance at the box office doesn't earn it the unofficial subtitle "Land of the Lost 2."
Well that's not entirely true. In a statement to the NY Times, Universal defended their movie as a powerful agent for social change:
" 'Brüno' uses provocative comedy to powerfully shed light on the absurdity of many kinds of intolerance and ignorance, including homophobia. By placing himself in radical and risky situations, Sacha Baron Cohen forces both the people Brüno meets and the audience itself to challenge their own stereotypes, preconceptions and discomforts.
"While any work that dares to address relevant cultural sensitivities might be misinterpreted by some or offend others, we believe the overwhelming majority of the audience will understand and appreciate the film's inarguably positive intentions."
What does gay Hollywood think about it? A red carpet reporter at a recent event approached a few recognizable faces (actor Jack Plotnick, former Project Runway contestant Nick Verreos, departing MTV honcho Brian Graden, and others), and most expressed concerns and agreement that what Cohen might be engaging here is queerface. Queerface isn't necessarily a bad thing, particularly when Australian Method queerface actor Kirk Lazarus attacks a gay role, and so we'll reserve judgment.