If nothing else, the current Letterman-Palin controversy has shown that comedy cuts all ways. Now Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno is on the hot seat for its hot button humor. The comedy was always going to push the proverbial envelope because Cohen is getting paid to play gay in an outrageous spoof of straight attitudes towards gays, and gay attitudes towards straights. Then again, mercilessness begets media attention which sells movie tickets. But is the price being paid too high? There’s now a YouTube video (see below) making the rounds which features notables like Peter Paige (Queer As Folk), Nick Verreos (Project Runway), and Brian Graden (LOGO network founder) discussing their concerns about Brüno‘s impact on the LGBT community. (It was shot at an event honoring Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.) Problem is, they haven’t actually seen the film. And it’s always unwise for interest groups to make judgments on a creative endeavor before they’ve actually experienced it. The New York Times the other day did a decent piece summing up the controversies surrounding Brüno. However, a source intimately involved in the Brüno production complains to me that it “completely misses the mark”. That’s because this insider provides me with some not before now known behind-the-scenes details for me about why the film has had, and probably should have, problems with the gay community:
“The film has not been screened for a large number of gays for a reason. Throughout the many private screenings [the filmmakers] have had, the reaction from gays has been almost uniformally one of alarm. It is not a scathing depiction of homophobia — but a grotesque satire of homosexuality. Brüno is a sickening mixture of narcissism, fetishism and shallowness – and he is virtually the only gay representation in the movie. The ‘homophobia’ of the various straight men who he encounters and propositions, seems only natural when faced with such an odious sexual monster. Sacha, Jay and their writers did significant reshoots to try to temper the troubled reactions of the few gay people they invited to screenings. One ‘out’ comedy writer refused to help on the reshoots, because he found the content so disturbing.
The reshoots did not do much other than manage to get Elton John and a few other music celebs to participate in an ending that seemed to promote gay marriage. However, these musicians – including Chris Martin – continue to be concerned as they have not been shown the finished film. Can you imagine a comedian going around in black face in a movie, doing a stereotype of black Americans without ever once using a black collaborator or showing the film to a black audience? Gay men continue to be the last easy targets of the fratboy comedies so prevalent these days. And while Brüno pretends to be subversive, it is no different.”