Sacha Baron Cohen is in full-rev promotion mode for his upcoming movie Brüno. His stunt with Eminem got a lot of coverage but it felt regressive. It was almost a decade ago that the banal overhyped rapper got huge press for hugging Elton John on stage. A choice like Eminem for a stunt like this was a good one. Eminem has made his career with a trademark aggressive repressed homophobic and intensely misogynist slant. Who better to introduce the poignant humour behind the two- dimensional gay creation of Brüno?
Cohen is going to expose some ugly stuff. Barring no incredible surprises, when Brüno hits screens on Fri, Jul 10 we’ll be seeing fever-pitch homophobia, almost to the point of hysteria as Brüno and his crew stage elaborate tricks on unwitting, ignorant people. Brüno won’t really be funny, if it’s anything like what we’ve already seen, the film will involve terrific reveals and twisted laughter.
There are a lot of aggressive, repressed, homophobic and misogynist people in this world and we’re gonna get to see them squirm, even riot, with Brüno as the catalyst, a type of character the haters have been trained to loathe: a feminine man.
On the other side of things, Brüno tends to poke fun at homos themselves via hilarious and sobering moments of sabotage. His victims have included Heatherette and Jonathan Antin. He’s already made “flamboyant” appearances in an editorial spread with model Alessandra Ambrosio in Marie Claire and has landed on the cover of GQ looking a little bit like a naked Lady Gaga.
Many notable gay celebrities including Brian Graden, Peter Paige, Project Runway’s Nick Verraros and the brilliant Jack Plotnick have expressed concern and distaste for Cohen’s representation. Rashad Robinson, senior director of media programs for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a US-based media watchdog and self-appointed PC police, said, “We do feel the intentions of the filmmakers are in the right place — satire of this form can unmask homophobia — but at the same time it can heighten people’s discomfort with our community.”
It looks like we’ll all have to wait and see. I like the fact that Brüno heightens people’s discomfort. I find it thrilling to see a hyper-feminine-acting man throw himself into these intense situations. It’s radical. If Brüno was a real gay man, I would have serious respect and awe for his unapologetic homosexuality in the face of hostile enemies. But the truth is, Cohen isn’t gay. He is a brilliant performer who will exploit a polarized culture, making half the audience laugh at the faggot and half aghast at the homophobes. And after stirring the pot, he will walk away with a fat cheque, leaving us exactly how we were before we saw his film: polarized.
Meanwhile American Idol, which is basically the most popular television show in North America, has become a de facto gay icon factory. This is actually ironic since the formula of the show at the beginning of each season often relies on mocking gays for being feminine or anyone gender ambiguous when auditioning. The momentum began with the slow coming out of the obviously gay Clay Aiken. Then there is the magical Jessica Alba-lookalike Danny Noriega. After rapping about being gay (see YouTube) Noriega deflected inquiries into his sex life. He’s still around with a following and a new single called “24/7” featuring some amazing person called Diamonique. And then blam! Not to beat a dead horse but Adam fucking Lambert. He is gay and loving it on the cover of Rolling Stone.
How does the cult of gay celebrity inform things on the microcosmic level? Does it even do anything at all? The most promising stories are the real ones, like LA teenager Sergio Garcia’s. He was named Fairfax High’s 2009 Prom Queen. Maybe we should all be looking into that community to see how they’ve been raising their kids because somehow that high-school experience didn’t end up being a traumatizing journey through gender-construct hell for one Sergio Garcia!