Monday, July 13, 2009

Bruno: Is the joke on me?

I have no wish to see Bruno. I never saw Borat. They're simply not my style of comedy, but Bruno worries me in ways Borat never did. Writer/star Sacha Baron Cohen claims his new movie is about skewering homophobia, but what happens if the audience in the theater doesn't get the joke?

Long before Cohen decided he would make millions off the discrimination I and other LGBT people face every day, far too many heterosexuals believed that gays were oversexed, irresponsible and stupid. (Dare I mention the fact that the word "gay" is slang for stupid?) Every anti-gay political campaign trades on these nasty stereotypes.

The people who work against marriage, block laws that would end workplace discrimination, and rile up voters to ban us from parenting, sometimes even keeping us from our own children, portray us as if we were all Bruno. When I worked as an activist, I encountered people every day who thought the Bruno stereotype was real.

Rashad Robinson of GLAAD worriesabout the film's impact.
It's not that we don't get it. The makers of the film "Bruno," Sacha Baron Cohen's just-released follow-up to "Borat," have said that they intend to satirize and expose homophobia. But even when filmmakers have the best of intentions, there can be a disconnect between the concept and the execution.
I agree, and I worry: What happens when people don't get the joke? I've seen some bloggers argue that, well, we don't care about those people because they're just bigots.

I wish it were true that only homophobic bigots held stereotypes. I wish it were true that anti-gay campaigns didn't win because too many people still think Bruno is real. I wish it were true that attitudes in this country were so advanced that Bruno could just be a movie and not become somebody's excuse to harass an LGBT teenager or worse.

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