Tuesday, July, 14, 09

The Politics of Bruno

Filed under: a moment in my head,cinema — theradishpress @ 2:07 am
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´╗┐by theradishpress

I liked Bruno. I am putting that out there. I think it is smart, crude, and funny. I do not think it is perfect, nor did I find Borat to be perfect, but both used humour to make some serious points, or point out some serious issues and problems. They both had their own issues, sure, but the nice thing about art is we can have conversations about the impact and meanings.

So, I went into Bruno with expectations and an understanding that my own political and social views would effect how I read the film. Things that I saw as humourous and proof that we live in a society rife with prejudice could be easily read by someone else as a cruel prank pulled on innocent and ignorant victims.

I noticed that myself and some Arab boys sitting in front of me in the cinema laughed pretty hard when Bruno interviewed two Jewish and Palestinian leaders, confusing Hamas with humus, and calling for Palestinians to return the pyramids to the Jews. In contrast, a scene I did not laugh much at was Bruno’s interview on a day-time talk show, The Richard Bey Show, about raising his African son as a single parent. The entire Bey audience were folks of African descent. As I watched and listened to the audience express serious concern over Bruno’s capabilities as a father to this child he claimed to swap for an iPod and named “a traditional African name” O.J., I could not help but feel saddened that they were not in on the joke. From my point of view, Cohen’s aim is to make fun of the trend to adopt, particularly by celebrities, and of children of color. But from the point of view of the audience, at least the majority of opinions that are revealed on camera, here is yet another white person literally co-opting a culture and life that is not his. One woman put it best by declaring the Bruno seemed to view his son as an accessory.

As I watched this scene I kept thinking that if it were an Iranian child and I were in the audience I would be pissed too. I would want to know who the hell this guy thinks he is. I also wondered afterward if there were African and African-American folks who watched that scene and laughed as much as I did when Cohen took his satire/documentary to the Middle East, or Middle Earth as he calls it.

When Cohen points out the prejudices and ignorance of white folks in the US I did not feel bad for them, save for one of the men he went hunting with. Showing up naked outside someone’s tent and receiving an angry response does not necessarily prove that the guy is homophobic. I know I would have freaked out. While other moments of dialogue and the man’s anger reveal his prejudice, that scene in and out of context brings some sympathy for me. I even felt bed for Ron Paul for a hot second. Then he proceeded to call Bruno a queer.

Cohen, no matter how one feels about him, does also deserve credit for being a great method actor. The fact that he can maintain his characters for so long, without missing a beat, is amazing. He kept Bruno going for premieres and interviews. It is a great publicity stunt for sure, but aren’t all actors acting at all times anyway? Aren’t they all just performing for us, the audience, and the cameras? Why not have some fun with it. Why not create totally different personalities. The level to which Cohen commits is awe inspiring. Not to mention the fact that it helped his movie get the number one box office spot, so hey, he wins. The joke is on all of us. We have all fallen for his antics.

The thing with documentaries is that they are still films that follow a story line. There are scholars who argue that they are no more real than a fictional film. Christopher Guest has been making fake documentaries for years, and he is good at it. Borat and Bruno combine reality with fiction, and ultimately there is someone directing and someone editing and someone selecting costumes and music and setting up lights and audio and all the things that make a movie. so is Cohen just more honest about the fact that things are scripted? Is he challenging viewers to find out what is actually real and what is not? Maybe it’s all scripted. Maybe Richard Bey was in on it. Maybe the ex-gay minister was too. Maybe he was an actor. Maybe the hunters knew exactly what they were getting into. Aren’t movies all about suspending disbelief anyway?

Is arguing that Bruno is all scripted an easy way to ignore that very real problem that homophobia exists? And not just homophobia. Cohen makes a point, as he did with Borat, to address racism as well. It is not as blatant, and perhaps easier to brush aside in this movie, for those who care to not confront it, but the adoption of an African child, his (Bruno’s) blatant ignorance of Jewish and Arab cultures, and his constant references to Hitler, are all examples of racism. Most of which go unchallenged, particularly by white folks. To say that Borat and Bruno are simply scripted fictional films makes ignoring things like homophobia and racism a lot easier. That way, we can tell ourselves, these are all actors. They are reading lines and being told what to say and how to perform. That way, we never really have to have a serious conversation. That way, we can argue, it’s just a comedy.

Wednesday, July, 16, 08

Quote of the Day

Filed under: quote of the day — theradishpress @ 10:42 am
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by theradishpress

Homophobia’s not like Creed, something you can just drop the instant you realize it sucks.

-Troy Johnson “Mommy’s Little Monster” in Spin

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