Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Brüno" Comes Out

Opening night, my wife (we are permissive when it comes to film; my wife and many of the families we socialize with work in Hollywood so my kids have grown up with a lot of films that others would not see until older; I admit even the ticket seller was warning us) and my younger, if über-sophisticated, son (he wanted to see it without us separately with friends as his 16-year-old brother was--somehow at another theater in the trust-fund boho district-- but little bro could not) saw "Brüno." Quite a few older people walked out during the film, even in hipster downtown L.A. (Older son says nobody did in the Los Feliz-Silver Lake venue, unsurprisingly.) Sacha Baron Cohen as with "Borat" takes on a daring mix of satire and social commentary in his comedy that both celebrates and denigrates how gays often perform in front of straights and how many straights fear and hate gays. Note the verbal distinctions.

This reminded me of [in the threaded discussion for the class I teach in a topic about ethics vs. free speech, a student's] comment about porn-- the film barely got an "R" rather that "NC" rating; I figured better to have my kid see it with us so we could put it into context; my older son is very film-savvy and understands what Baron Cohen's getting at with his satire. One person's erotica is another's smut, I suppose. Although no sexual images or scenes in "Brüno" any more than "Borat" can be seen as titillating! When sexual excess is paraded so comically and obviously, it turns either to humor at its sheer ridiculousness at our body's lusts and longings, or it makes people, as in the movie, walk away in disgust at such revelations.

That's I guess how satire works: it exaggerates our hidden desires and secret behaviors until, as with a stand-up comedian or a gross-out comedy, we can only shrink away in horror or learn to laugh at ourselves and our weak, desperate, and perhaps frightening human desires for attention, satisfaction, fun, and greed. A difficult set of rights to protect by the First Amendment from a time when the Founding Fathers may never have dreamed up what "Borat" & "Brüno" parade on the screen, but I am glad we have the flexibility to have a country that allows such freedom. Others of course condemn America for such folly and warn us of damnation.

Ironic that the film has jokes about Jesus, the Holocaust, Osama, and Hasidic Jews, but when it comes to Michael Jackson, the scene with LaToya had to be cut at the last moment, so as not to offend. Talk about a skewed sense of moral priorities.

The above was my response in the on-line component of the college speech course I have started teaching, to a student body generally very conservative, from immigrant/ first-generation poor or working class backgrounds; so far students in the discussion thread have defended the right to speak about Christianity vs. school restrictions, and debated hate-speech restrictions on campuses vs. claims for First Amendment rights.

P.S. I add that older brother told me only this week that younger brother did not know until only this week what "heterosexual" meant. Although they both doubtless have heard "metrosexual" for years now. Seeing where we live, what they see, and whom they know, is this progress?

See promo film's trailer-- and click for the "Englisch" link but this may have been hacked-- at one of the rare domain names not yet taken, until by the "hottest white guy since Jesus": "". Photo from the "Elephant Journal" with links to NY Times review and videos re: film's plea for gay tolerance, or lack of: "Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt"

1 comment:

Bo said...

The idea of (socially) 'conservative students' is fascinating: it would be simply meaningless here, our right wing being slightly to the left of the Democratic Party on most issues. (The Tories are firmly behind the National Health Service, for example--anything else would be political suicide in a general election, so US right-wing spluttering about 'socialised medicine' seem wacko to us.)