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Brüno: 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
April 2, 2009 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Trailer for Brüno, the upcoming film by Sacha Baron Cohen, formerly known for his characters Ali G and Borat.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (140 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously on Metafilter: Ali G, Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:43 PM on April 2, 2009


Not the best of the web.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:48 PM on April 2, 2009


I'm quite tired of people dropping into threads just to denounce the post, especially without qualification. No-one's forcing you to read the post, open the thread, or click the link, let alone comment.

I strongly suggest you flag and move on next time, Mr. Posts-once-a-year.

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:52 PM on April 2, 2009 [69 favorites]


Well, it made me laugh, GNFTI. So best of the web or not, thanks.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:55 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's Miss Posts-Once-A-Year to you, thank you.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2009 [24 favorites]


Funkytime mit Bruno!

I love Bruno. I believe he's the character that Sacha Baron Cohen has come closest to getting killed with.
posted by Artw at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


awesome
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2009


Well I clicked the link hoping for more but this feels like a marketing post. Maybe you could consider exploring the how people perceive fashion industry and homosexuality as some sort of controversial issue.
posted by captaincrouton at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bruno's finest hour.
posted by fire&wings at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


It apparently got an NC-17 rating.
posted by spiderskull at 5:03 PM on April 2, 2009


Oh, I should have made it clear that this is only a preliminary rating -- that's not the final rating. I'm guessing they'll trim it down to an R-rated movie
posted by spiderskull at 5:04 PM on April 2, 2009


Needs the 'lavatorial' tag.
posted by rokusan at 5:09 PM on April 2, 2009


The best part of the trailer is you know they're saving all their best stuff for the actual movie experience and just selling the film on imagery and the success of Borat. Perfect call.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe he's the character that Sacha Baron Cohen has come closest to getting killed with.

America don't take too kindly to queers. He must have good security just off-camera. Can't wait to see it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2009


"Oh hai, I'm Sacha Baren Cohen. lololol @ gays and foreigners, oh, and jews and buttsecks! Haha, but it's okay, cuz I'm a liburl and really making fun of rednecks. HAHAHA."
posted by milarepa at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


LOLAMERICANS.
posted by rokusan at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2009


I'm surprised that anybody falls for SBCohen anymore. Don't media-savvy fashion types know his face by this point?
posted by HeroZero at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2009


That's Miss Posts-Once-A-Year to you, thank you.

Meee-yow, it's beautiful darling.
posted by rokusan at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2009


Man, what kind of childhood produces a guy like this? No, seriously, because I'm a dad and I don't want my kids to have that kind of childhood, whatever it is.

He's insane and brilliant.
posted by jbickers at 5:15 PM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting! (Brüno's my favorite SBC persona and I can't wait to see this!)
posted by applemeat at 5:25 PM on April 2, 2009


I'm extremely torn. I like to laugh. I hate cruelty. Laughing at funny cruelty makes me feel all sorts of funny. I'll go watch the movie, I'm sure. I'll laugh.

This New Yorker piece captures some of my ambivalence.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:29 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


ron paul
posted by Garak at 5:31 PM on April 2, 2009


otherworldlyglow: Not the best of the web.

Faggot and move on.
posted by Curry at 5:31 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like to laugh. I hate cruelty

me too. that's why I never bother with anything Cohen does, cause it's 0/2.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:33 PM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Excellent
posted by Groovytimes at 5:33 PM on April 2, 2009


Don't media-savvy fashion types know his face by this point?

This doesn't look a whole lot like this... or this . Or this. Especially if you aren't looking at them side-by-side and thinking "yeah, that's probably Sacha Baron Cohen." I'm usually not thinking about the guy in my day-to-day life, so if he walked up to me in anything other than the Ali G or Borat outfits, I would be like "who is this jerk." Maybe later I would put it together, but I honestly wouldn't have recognized this Bruno persona as the same person, had the trailer not so thoughtfully hammered it into my brain in the first 30 seconds.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


did the first link resize anyone else's browser? grrr.
posted by killy willy at 5:40 PM on April 2, 2009


That's Miss Posts-Once-A-Year to you, thank you.

Sincere apologies. I shouldn't assume, ever.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:54 PM on April 2, 2009


did the first link resize anyone else's browser? grrr.

Yes.

I am looking forward to this. I like Cohen's brand of humor.
posted by a3matrix at 5:59 PM on April 2, 2009


I say this with about 70% seriousness: if Cohen and his team are really smart and cutting with the satire, this could accomplish in the public consciousness what Milk could only dream of.
posted by naju at 6:10 PM on April 2, 2009


milarepa: "Oh hai, I'm Sacha Baren Cohen. lololol @ gays and foreigners, oh, and jews and buttsecks! Haha, but it's okay, cuz I'm a liburl and really making fun of rednecks. HAHAHA."

Your biting wit brings up a good point: All SBC's doing is playing an exaggerated stereotype to see how 'Real Americans' act. If they respond with hate and racism/homophobia, is it his fault? Is he racist/homophobic for playing the part?
posted by flatluigi at 6:15 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bruno's finest hour

Thanks, fire&wings! I wanted to include that, but couldn't find it. It's my favourite Bruno segment, too.

I'm extremely torn. I like to laugh. I hate cruelty. Laughing at funny cruelty makes me feel all sorts of funny. I'll go watch the movie, I'm sure. I'll laugh.

Exactly, me too. I've seen most of the Channel 4 and HBO episodes of Ali G, mostly in back-to-back syndication on the Dutch VPRO, and I got the feeling then already, as well. Walking out of the cinema after seeing Borat I felt I just saw a unique and important film, a film that almost seemed like it must be made, if that's not too pretentious; but I really couldn't decide whether the omelette was really worth the unabashed breaking of so many eggs.

Well I clicked the link hoping for more but this feels like a marketing post.

Sigh. Alright, you got me, I work for Universal Studios.

*lays head on bar, weeps silently*

Maybe you could consider exploring the how people perceive fashion industry and homosexuality as some sort of controversial issue.

Why don't you do it? I'd eagerly look forward to such a post. But I'm not a bleeping jukebox.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:17 PM on April 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Are you sure? Because people seem to be pushing your buttons.
posted by graventy at 6:29 PM on April 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


This isn't comedy. Its art.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:30 PM on April 2, 2009


Of the three, I thought Bruno was the least fleshed-out and realistic character but the trailer shows some promise.

Except the fighting with dildos scene. That looks like Borat's 'humor counseling guy' repurposed.
posted by graventy at 6:31 PM on April 2, 2009


I think maybe some of the people who are commenting about the idea that SBC just makes fun of Americans or rednecks don't realize that he was doing the same thing to British people for years before crossing the pond.
posted by snofoam at 6:36 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I did find Borat funny, but I also found it unpleasantly cruel. I expect to line up and see this... and find it funny, and find it unpleasantly cruel.

Eventually, after the film is released, no doubt I'll comment in some thread about a) finding it funny, and b) finding it cruel.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:43 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter finding humour too cruel is, in general, a good thing.
posted by Artw at 6:46 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


See also loud proclamations that something "isn't funny".
posted by Artw at 6:48 PM on April 2, 2009


You know what?

Andy Kaufman wasn't fuckin' funny, either.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:55 PM on April 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


This makes me want to schpritz.
posted by bardic at 7:01 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I go to school with a guy from Turkmenistan. At one point in class, our teacher made a long, inappropriate reference to Borat in class. Everyone was rolling in the isles remembering the movie. I looked over at my Turkmen buddy and he was not laughing or smiling at all. I don't think that movie did anything to change stereotyping about Eastern Europe. I think it reinforced whatever stereotypes existed and probably created some where there weren't any.

I think SBC is mean and manipulates people into saying things that are wrong to say. I think he has to take some responsibility for what he elicits in people.

For the record I also almost pissed myself laughing at Borat.
posted by serazin at 7:01 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sacha Baron Cohen is probably two movies away from becoming the M. Night Shylamalan of film comedy. Beware playing the same trick too often...
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:06 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, whatever that is, it takes courage. Mean? Fuck that. These are adults, not toddlers. Grow up.
posted by docpops at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think he was trying to overturn stereotypes of eastern Europeans, he intentionally used a culture for which Americans have no well defined stereotypes. He could bring up any kind of outrageous prejudice (like anti-semitism) and people felt comfortable letting their own biases out, because hey he's a foreigner he don't know no better.
posted by empath at 7:10 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


That was kinda mean.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:12 PM on April 2, 2009


Curse you empath! The above was a joke response to docpops.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:12 PM on April 2, 2009


"Sacha Baron Cohen is probably two movies away from becoming the M. Night Shylamalan of film comedy."

Bruno is his last character though. I'd like to think SBC has enough sense to when to call it quits.

Then again, he was the only funny thing about Talladega Nights.

FWIW, I loved Borat. But I had to fast forward though the dinner scene with the Southern gentility. Too painful to watch.
posted by bardic at 7:21 PM on April 2, 2009


These are adults, not toddlers. Grow up.

Are you Dick Cheney?
posted by MegoSteve at 7:23 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I saw Borat and yes, I hated it. I do think SBC can be effective in exposing the hypocrisy and veiled bigotry but I also think the he diminishes his message with a lot of the over the top obnoxiousness and cruelty. I really don't find him funny and just felt really really really sad sitting in the theater listening to all these other patrons laughing hysterically as he poked fun of people that to my mind are easy targets already. It was a totally depressing experience. And I don't have anything against posts about him or his movies generally but I think there's a lot more interesting stuff out there about what he does than what we were given here.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:33 PM on April 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Why does "Brüno" have an umlaut? That's not how the name is spelled, and the only time Germans use extraneous umlauts for humour's sake is to make fun of Turks. He'd never spell his name that way.

Anway, I thought the trailer was funny.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:34 PM on April 2, 2009


ANYWAY
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:34 PM on April 2, 2009


Your biting wit brings up a good point: All SBC's doing is playing an exaggerated stereotype to see how 'Real Americans' act. If they respond with hate and racism/homophobia, is it his fault? Is he racist/homophobic for playing the part?

Yes, because it's no insight to prove that people are racist/homophobic. How is proving that people are bigoted funny?

I wish I could believe that everyone who saw Borat or Bruno were laughing derisively at the ignorant Americans/Brits/whoever SBC targets next. But I don't believe that, because it's not true. The bulk of the audience is laughing at him being a fucking stereotype - and it's hilarious to laugh at foreign people and homosexuals, isn't it?
posted by crossoverman at 7:41 PM on April 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


The appeal of SBC is completely bewildering to me.

That so many people would be so fond of modern day minstrel shows is quite surprising.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:51 PM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The idea of cringeworthy is perfect for this stuff. SBC and a lot of the Colbert interviews are fascinating to watch but I'll be damned if I'm not grinding my teeth after a few seconds. How the hell do the people being interviewed/mocked not see it? I keep expecting them to fall to their knees suddenly enlightened but no, it never happens. WTF

They bring about the same reactions in me that the Saw movies do.
posted by M Edward at 7:57 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, because it's no insight to prove that people are racist/homophobic. How is proving that people are bigoted funny?

I strongly disagree. I think Cohen does a fantastic job of stripping away the genteel facade of American culture and showing just how thin that surface layer of tolerance is. Popular culture feeds us so much bullshit about how egalitarian we are, so I think it's nice to see the truth for once, to see how casual the bigotry can be. He provides a much needed service, and while he elicits laughter, it's bitter. It is insightful. It's one thing to hear it said, but another to see it and hear it from a variety of people.

I don't feel any pity for the people he skewers that are bigots. He gives them just enough rope and to me, it rarely feels like he's doing more than nudging them along. There are plenty of examples in Borat and Da Ali G show where he fails at baiting the people and then Cohen's characters look like asses instead, which is fine, because they're funny characters. It works both ways. Check out the driver instructor in Borat. Cohen tries to set him up, but fails. The guy is a decent man and comes across as such, and what's more it's left in the film. There are plenty of moments like that, where Cohen just ends up embarassing himself in front of fine people. He might piss them off, but I don't think he's scarring anyone.
posted by picea at 8:11 PM on April 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


The bulk of the audience is laughing at him being a fucking stereotype - and it's hilarious to laugh at foreign people and homosexuals, isn't it?

This is an interesting point. When my students quote lines from Borat, its never the ignorant stuff other people say - its always the stuff that Borat said. To whit, they've left the movie laughing at the stupid foreigner, not at the stupid Americans.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:12 PM on April 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


(of course, an artist can't control how an audience perceives and uses their work - he may have had the intention of exposing American intolerance, but he also inadvertently encouraged it some, too. Some people don't get satire.)
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:14 PM on April 2, 2009


I wish I could believe that everyone who saw Borat or Bruno were laughing derisively at the ignorant Americans/Brits/whoever SBC targets next.

That's definitely the audience I saw the movie with, and it's clearly what he's doing. Cohen's entire TV show, after all, was setup after setup, like the very best of the Daily Show takedown interviews -- the kind they really can't do anymore since nobody is blindsided by them and realizes they're not a real news show.

Maybe if John Oliver wore a mesh t-shirt.
posted by rokusan at 8:16 PM on April 2, 2009


Man, what kind of childhood produces a guy like this? No, seriously, because I'm a dad and I don't want my kids to have that kind of childhood, whatever it is.

It has been expunged from Wikipedia for a while now, but apparently he was involved in investment banking in some capacity at Goldman Sachs before his comedy took off.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:18 PM on April 2, 2009


"How is proving that people are bigoted funny?"

Oh my god please. Seriously? How is that funny? Did you ever laugh at anything in your life?
posted by kolophon at 8:18 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


And I laughed and I laughed.

"To Austria gay TV!"

"Im s... what?"

How is that not funny?
posted by Dumsnill at 8:19 PM on April 2, 2009


Whenever I think of Borat I think of an article by Erlan Idrissov, the former Kazakh ambassador to the UK and the current ambassador to the US. I think the article is worth a read.

Part of the problem I have with Borat is that I think about the situations and I can't figure out what the right thing to do WOULD be. People react in ridiculous ways and if they don't react initially he just keeps pushing them until they do something outlandish. There are definitely parts I found funny but in general it's not only that I find it cruel, it's that in certain situations I really don't think there is a right answer and I find the idea of making fun of people for making the best of a difficult situation distasteful at best. There are clearly exceptions to this and some of the people certainly are ridiculous and mock-worthy but if the joke is either "Haha I've done something awful and they are pretending to ignore it while looking awkward" or "Look at them respond they are so over the top it is HILARIOUS!" then you really can't win.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:23 PM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Boy, I can't wait to hear whatever Brüno's equivalent of "Is very nice! I liiike!" repeated ad nauseam for the next two freakin' years!

(Although, I admit that I use "Show me your Gypsy treasures!" a little more often than I probably should.)
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:29 PM on April 2, 2009


I also hate Christmas and candy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no idea whether SBC watched Tom Green back in the nineties, but everything SBC does seems to owe a debt to Tom Green's comedy. I thought Tom Green was funnier. SBC is funny, but I was disappointed with Borat.

In Bruno, I am really looking forward to the Arkansas cage-fighting match that turned into a bout of man-love.
posted by jayder at 8:36 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't quite understand why everyone's saying it's wrong to laugh at SBC's comedy. Since when were we bound by morality in what we laugh at? It's either funny or it isn't. Some of the funniest comedy depends on us laughing at things that are very cruel, very immature, etc. If I laugh at a racial or national stereotype, whether it's of my own race or nationality or another, I've never felt I had anything to apologize for.
posted by jayder at 8:39 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"How is proving that people are bigoted funny?"

Oh my god please. Seriously? How is that funny? Did you ever laugh at anything in your life?


Yes, this is helpful. Go from me being offended at SBC perpetuating stereotypes to achieve the lazy (read: obvious) insight that "people are bigoted" to me being humourless. There are a lot of things to laugh at in the world which don't humiliate, degrade and embarrass other people.
posted by crossoverman at 8:40 PM on April 2, 2009


I don't think its wrong to laugh at his comedy, but I question his choices of comedy. He wants to make a point - but I'm not sure he's making the point he wants to make.
posted by serazin at 8:57 PM on April 2, 2009


I'm not sure if he's funny or not.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:58 PM on April 2, 2009


I don't feel any pity for the people he skewers that are bigots.

And those he skewers who are not, or at least no more than the typical of us? I pretty much lost interest in him on the series of stories about how the production deceived people to get them to participate (e.g., that he was creating a documentary, and that the contract they were signing was a 'standard documentary contract' that failed to mention the bucks Cohen stood to make at their expense). The response of many at the time was that they were bigots, so they deserved it. And I thought what they did to the Romanian village (telling them they were participating in a documentary, that the production would benefit their town, and then holding them up to the world for humiliation and cheap laughs) undermined any claims they had to offering legitimate social commentary. I don't see how Cohen is different from anyone else who exploits someone else for a buck and tries to rationalize it as a public service.
posted by troybob at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


SBC perpetuating stereotypes

As a gay man, I forgive SBC for "perpetuating" stereotypes on your behalf.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a gay man, I forgive SBC for "perpetuating" stereotypes on your behalf.

As a gay man, I'll thank you not to speak for all of us.
posted by crossoverman at 9:06 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think he's trying to make a point at all, I just think he likes fucking with people.
posted by dead cousin ted at 9:12 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


>>There are a lot of things to laugh at in the world which don't humiliate, degrade and embarrass other people.

There's a place for America's Funniest Home Videos and a place for Cathy.

You can use Cathy to line a birdcage, ferinstance.
posted by now i'm piste at 9:15 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why does "Brüno" have an umlaut? That's not how the name is spelled, and the only time Germans use extraneous umlauts for humour's sake is to make fun of Turks. He'd never spell his name that way.

Same reason as in Spın̈al Tap.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why does "Brüno" have an umlaut?

Luring in heavy metal fans.

I looked over at my Turkmen buddy and he was not laughing or smiling at all. I don't think that movie did anything to change stereotyping about Eastern Europe.

Turkmenistan is many things, but it is not part of Eastern Europe. See this ural.
posted by dhartung at 9:22 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a gay man, I'll thank you not to speak for all of us.

As a gay man, I'll thank you not to let SBC speak for all us, either.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 PM on April 2, 2009


I think he's not so much after exposing hypocrisy or some such noble buffoonery, but just to create intensely uncomfortable scenes. That has more to do with one's experience as a viewer and how one relates to what they see (which normally flows quite smoothly and predictably even when the subject matter is unpleasant) and less to what sorts of reactions he's trying to elicit from the on camera subjects. Being in a place where you're not sure whether to laugh, dismiss, cringe, be informed, or any other usual psychic convention that makes taking in TV/movies a very passive affair and instead having to be in the moment of your reaction as it occurs is quite a talent. He's also clever and tosses in dildo gags to keep the appearances of a comedy, but Cohen's work seems to me to be all about provoking viewing audiences to question how they view things a bit more. I could be projecting all of that and he could just be really good at shamless sadism, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on April 2, 2009


+of
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 PM on April 2, 2009


(Although, I admit that I use "Show me your Gypsy treasures!" a little more often than I probably should.)

You really need to stop loitering in public toilets so much; one of these days you're going to get seriously hurt.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:31 PM on April 2, 2009


As a gay man, I'll thank you not to let SBC speak for all of us, either.

As a gay man, I don't think he's speaking for all of us. (And I know you don't think that either.) He's speaking for himself, by using a stereotype to allegedly make fun of homophobes.

Using stereotypes - even if his cause was noble, even if it was funny - is still perpetuating a stereotype.
posted by crossoverman at 9:34 PM on April 2, 2009


Forget this, "as a gay man" shit - I'm not from Kazakhstan, but I still find his Borat character stupidly offensive and unfunny as Bruno.
posted by crossoverman at 9:36 PM on April 2, 2009


Using stereotypes - even if his cause was noble, even if it was funny - is still perpetuating a stereotype.

Not if it is ridiculing people's reaction to their own stereotypical views. And I'm sure on some level (or I hope that) you acknowledge that this is what he is doing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:39 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not if it is ridiculing people's reaction to their own stereotypical views. And I'm sure on some level (or I hope that) you acknowledge that this is what he is doing.

I acknowledge that he might be trying to do this, but all we have left is "hey look, some people are assholes" and people quoting his characters. I dread to think what Bruno quotes we'll hear repeated over and over in the coming years.
posted by crossoverman at 9:54 PM on April 2, 2009


I'm not sure if he's funny or not.

Did you laugh?

As a straight man, I'd just like to say 'Hi!'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:02 PM on April 2, 2009


The "Austria Gay TV" wrestling team truly was SBC's finest hour -- but I thought it was only secondary that he got them to freak out over the gay part. (Not that it didn't require a clever buildup.)

Funnier by far was that he got them to keep trying so hard to scream with more and more energy. Kind of like the supermarket clerk in Borat who patiently explains each form and brand of packaged cheese and moves on to the next while only letting himself show mild exasperation.

Somehow neither one seems overly cruel to me, since SBC is clearly taking advantage of people's better nature, and the ones who are trying to be nice about it don't come off that bad. When he coaxes them to let their bigoted nature hang out on camera, it's just the frosting on the cake.
posted by mubba at 10:06 PM on April 2, 2009


People, people... it's important that we come to some sort of consensus here.

Oh wait.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:08 PM on April 2, 2009


Whatever stereotypes that Cohen "perpetuates" were here yesterday, are here today, and will be here tomorrow, in all the same forms.

If he puts on a persona that lets the victims release their inner ugliness, and if the audience questions their own ignorance as a result (which did happen to some degree from all the controversy over Borat, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not), then that's progress.

There's nothing SBC is doing that either preserves or even promotes homophobia. The mouthbreathers are doing just fine at that job without Cohen's "help". We will have the Dobsons holding "God hates fags" signs at military funerals with or without Brüno.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:09 PM on April 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Borat and Bruno are distant, only-come-to-the-family-reunion-if-someone-with-money is-about-to-die cousins of David Brent.

Uncomfortable that they showed up? Yeah, that's kinda the point.
posted by Cyrano at 10:21 PM on April 2, 2009


2nding a lot of this as very reminiscent of Tom Green.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:32 PM on April 2, 2009


Beans, beans, beans, beans.

People really don't find SBC funny? Are those the people that like Dane Cook? Who are the people that like Dane Cook? That's what I want to know.
posted by Bageena at 10:36 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw "Borat" at a theater in suburban Jackson MS, while visiting family. A collective groan was heard from the audience when former US Rep. Chip Pickering, a Republican who just happened to represent the district in which the theater was located, was seen speaking to the Pentecostal church people. I repeat: This was Republican Pickering's district. Most of its members groaned at his appearance onscreen.

Otherwise, the audience spent most of its time laughing, hard. I was right there with them.
posted by raysmj at 10:37 PM on April 2, 2009


I've noticed an interesting phenomenon while watching just about anything SBC does: the more people who are in the room, the easier I find it to laugh. I think he's funny, but I can't watch his stuff alone (this trailer excluded, but even here I just mostly felt uncomfortable.) Being around other people laughing, however, seems to alleviate a lot of my own tension, and I'm now trying to figure out why. It's the same thing (to a much lesser extant) when I'm watching The Office, so it's got to be more about uncomfortable situations than about any particularly demeaning stereotypes.

I'll say right here that SBC is not, or at least isn't always, or even primarily, trying to make a point. The dinner scene in Borat , for instance: how is one expected to react when the stranger with a camera crew who you've invited into your home then has a prostitute show up at the door? (please correct me if I'm misremembering how the movie scene went down, exactly.) SBC's default position is simply to act like a human Candid Camera prop, and to paraphrase The West Wing, if he stumbles into relevancy he gets lucky, and that's often what he'll then present. His entire job is to affect characters that will elicit negative reactions in those he comes in contact with. Let's be honest about it - he's a professional troll.

OTOH, all pranksters are trolls. The humor of a prank isn't so much in its set-up as in the reaction, but "prankster" isn't a universally reviled word, the way that "troll" is. So, if we start anew by just calling him a prankster, most of us will admit that he's a damn funny one, remarkably gifted at bringing out the worst in people. Furthermore, there are much worse ways one could use such a dubious gift. Finally, he seems to have a sense of humanity beneath it all, as evidenced in him showing the clips of decent people reacting decently to his antics, and the ending of him returning to Luenell (not actually a prostitute, of course, but rather the actress Luenell.)

I've never found his stereotypes to be offensive, really, but that may simply be because I'm of the group who laughs at them as parodies of stereotypes themselves. I don't think SBC had any hate towards Kazakhstan when he created the Borat character, but rather just knew it was a country whose name would be vaguely recognizable by Brits and Americans, but that those same people would know virtually nothing else about the place, which puts it right in the sweet spot for play-it-as-you-go culture clash comedy. I don't know that it's totally cool that he did so, but I get why he chose Kazakhstan, and there doesn't seem to be any malice behind it, as far as I can see.

In the end, I tend to feel sorry for the victims of his pranks (I already feel bad for the hunters who clearly went out on a trip with Bruno and a camera crew of their own volition, and whose biggest crime in the trailer is a refusal to be compared to Sex and the City characters. That doesn't mean I didn't laugh, though. SBC is just a prankster, though, and sets himself up in situations where someone is bound to look ridiculous. The fact that he shows the footage where the ridiculous person is himself makes it work

Though even there, he's still the guy getting paid and has the cover of simply "playing a character," as well as being the instigator, so it's not really the same thing.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:58 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This could be something. I mean, it could just be a funny movie, or maybe even a flop, if people think that it's too much of a retread of Borat, but think about the target audience of this film.

It reaches much broader than a PBS or HBO documentary. To a lot of people who will watch it, gay men do lisp, wear mesh, attack straight men with dildos, ect. Those aren't stereotypes to them, that's what they've been feed by our culture. So they go to see the movie about the gay guy that they can laugh at. Most of the trailer appears to show the Bruno character as the object of ridicule, after all.

But I have a hunch, given his previous film, that the tables will turn. Remember the scene at the rodeo in Borat?

I think this film is going to show how ugly bigotry against gay people is in this country, and, even better, it's going to show it to the very participants in that hatred.

I'm not sure what the result of that would be, really, but given the heated debate surrounding gay marriage and gay rights in general, I think this might be a catalyst for...well, something, at least.
posted by jnaps at 11:05 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Borat just seemed like setup after setup. Reality TV for Michael Moore fans.
posted by zoinks at 11:35 PM on April 2, 2009


Sacha Baron Cohen is probably two movies away from becoming the M. Night Shylamalan of film comedy.

Meh. If Sacha Baron Cohen was an American, he'd *still* be playing Ali G. He'd be hosting a show on MTV with Snoop Dogg and appearing on Celebrity Squares.

I think he's funny, but I can't watch his stuff alone

If I am watching his stuff alone, I often find myself walking out of the room because I can't bear to watch people making such asses of themselves.

I liked him a lot better when his targets were the rich, the famous and the powerful.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:57 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Plans are underway for Baron Cohen to bring Bruno to the big screen, and after an intense bidding war that included such Hollywood powerhouses as DreamWorks, Sony, and 20th Century Fox; Universal Pictures paid a reported $42.5 million for the rights to the movie.[15] A number of shell companies and Web sites have been created in order to draw potential interviewees into interviews by creating an illusion of legitimacy.[16]

When people feel like they are in on the joke, after paying admission, they naturally feel like Borat or Bruno are not doing anything to anybody that they didn't deserve, because Borat, or Bruno are "secretly" regarded to be ultra hip and in total disguise, and therefore get the benefit of doubt. Going along with that phenomenon, the self-justification of Borat and Bruno is that people "let their guard down" in the presence of a seeming idiot, stopping short of admitting that he is really trolling for such people with his own political agenda that they may or may not agree with, but who knows?

I'm suggesting that people have let their guard down in the screen presence of someone they still don't know or understand culturally or politically. Nobody really knows if Eastern Europe or gays are really not his intended victims, and Cohen's ability to keep people guessing is very telling on this matter. Ironically, Cohen's representatives, quoted in Wikipedia, have used Carroll O'Connor as a role model, an actor who spent much of his retirement being confronted by fans of "All in the Family" simply because Archie Bunker was their favorite bigot for all the wrong reasons to O'Connor.
posted by Brian B. at 12:12 AM on April 3, 2009


I think Cohen does a fantastic job of stripping away the genteel facade of American culture and showing just how thin that surface layer of tolerance is.

Yeah, I would agree with you if he wasn't obviously going after the low hanging fruit.
No pun intended.

Still funny though.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:44 AM on April 3, 2009


I don't think SBC had any hate towards Kazakhstan when he created the Borat character, but rather just knew it was a country whose name would be vaguely recognizable by Brits and Americans

I have spent the last 15 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I don't know exactly where / how SBC did his research for Borat but it is incredibly accurate. This isn't just "some foreign place", it is very much a portrayal of Central Asia. The only thing that was completely off was the hating Jews bit - that is much more an Eastern Europe / Russian thing rather than a Central Asian phenomenon.

What made it so funny for me was that I have personally met scores of people like Borat in my life.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:21 AM on April 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


...and in cinemas all over the non english speaking world, people are laughing and wondering how this Meatbomb person didn't see through the facade.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 AM on April 3, 2009


"Sacha Baron Cohen, formerly known for his characters Ali G and Borat."

I believe he's still known for them.
posted by Eideteker at 4:05 AM on April 3, 2009


probably carnally.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:07 AM on April 3, 2009


To me, shades of gray in giving people enough rope to hang themselves. It's one thing if someone who is dressed/has a beard/etc., to appear to be Jewish or Muslim asks someone where they can find a mosque or synagogue and the person says, "Fuck you. I hate Jews/Muslims."

Am reminded that some network (NBC?) show did a thing w. hidden cameras, people dressed in Islamic attire at a Nascar race to see how people would react... and took some heat for it... and people there were fine with it.

As an aside, I have been to Nascar races with my 70-year-old dad and my 75-year-old mom and they both said everyone--virtually all of them younger or a lot younger--was extremely nice; patient; friendly; quick to share sunscreen, beer, bbq, etc. But I digress.

Feels different when someone is going so fantastically over the top to get not-flattering reactions from the people with whom he's interacting.

Too, the whole thing feels tainted, slimy with what amounts to him lying to people about the motivations behind his filming and his approach to how the people are compensated.

I could be wrong, but best recollection is that SBC--who has made and will make gargantuan amounts of money from this--has not done anything like give participants, say, $10,000, say he'll give that amount to the charity of their choice or unilaterally make donations to, I dunno, Boys and Girls Clubs in areas where he films.

Assuming I haven't missed something relative to that, feels clear that to SBC, greed and deception are good.
posted by ambient2 at 4:42 AM on April 3, 2009


if the joke is either "Haha I've done something awful and they are pretending to ignore it while looking awkward" or "Look at them respond they are so over the top it is HILARIOUS!" then you really can't win.

I disagree strongly. Look at the driver's ed instructor in Borat. Some people's humanity shines through. They pass the test. If you can see someone set up in one of these supposed no-win situations and come out liking them, it's not as no-win as you think it is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:48 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


The point is not that the gay stereotype will go away quickly, or at all.

The point is that more and more people are learning that it is actually a stereotype. Once somebody understands that (as the frat boys who protested Phelps in drag a few weeks ago clearly do), then the stereotype can be used to its only useful purpose: humour, cf. lawyers, doctors, &c.

And watching a man in an all-velcro suit backstage at a fashion show was the highlight of my day.
posted by sixswitch at 5:30 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I did not read this thread...

I wanted to but I got very full of HATE as soon as I clicked on the link for the main post.

I F*CKING HATE people who capture my browser size and change it FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER!
posted by Drasher at 5:45 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, so now I read the entire thread...
Man, get over yourselves.
posted by Drasher at 6:01 AM on April 3, 2009


I could be wrong, but best recollection is that SBC--who has made and will make gargantuan amounts of money from this--has not done anything like give participants, say, $10,000, say he'll give that amount to the charity of their choice or unilaterally make donations to, I dunno, Boys and Girls Clubs in areas where he films.


How do you know that he doesn't give money to charity, in areas where he filmed or anywhere else? Why should it matter? I'm pretty sure the South Carolina frat boys he interviewed were not hard up for money.

Wouldn't making a big deal of how one is such a good person just be a way of buying prestige and respectability? A respectable Cohen wouldn't be any fun.
posted by raysmj at 6:02 AM on April 3, 2009


Not the best of the web.
posted by sidereal at 6:03 AM on April 3, 2009


As for greed and deception being good, and giving money to charity proving the opposite, Madoff and AIG gave plenty of money to charity and, in the case of AIG, to local and regional events of all kinds. This is a recognized way of buying respectability and maintaining market and/or social domination or influence.
posted by raysmj at 6:05 AM on April 3, 2009


From what I can gather from what people who have seen it are saying that it's basically that same as Borat but the baiting is taken to nth degree... and some are genuinely surprised he got out alive.

Oh and all you haters... he jumped the shark with the Ali G movie... Borat was when he jumped back
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:58 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Assuming I haven't missed something relative to that, feels clear that to SBC, greed and deception are good.

This critique might carry more weight if SBC wasn't doing exactly the same thing for about ninety pence a week for some tiny little shitarsed late night comedy show on Channel 4.

At that point, he was the powerless nonentity, taking the piss out of the rich and powerful by asking them deliberately dumb questions about issues that they tended to have no knowledge of -- like drugs, or youth culture. I have to say, I don't recall anyone over here complaining about how he took advantage of politicians and media folk because he decieved them -- probably because we like to see the curtain pulled back on those people.

So is he greedy simply because what he does happened to become successful after doing it for what, nearly ten years now? How does that warrant some kind of compulsory guilt-payment to various redneck, racist and frat-boy charities?

As with most comedians, SBC is doing what he thinks is funny. His success stems from the fact that lots of other people think it's funny as well. If you don't like him or think he's funny, the obvious way to deal with it is by not watching his shows or his movies.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:54 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Letterman in a Suit of Velcro, 1984
posted by kirkaracha at 8:00 AM on April 3, 2009


I have an opinion about Sasha Baron Cohen, too!

He is encouraging the misuse of umlauts.
posted by everichon at 8:04 AM on April 3, 2009


Well, personally I'm not a fan of his comedy because it often strikes me as double-edged. (Although, he was one of the better parts of Burton's Sweeney.) The idea is already out there that LGBTs who are not "straight acting" inspire anti-gay prejudice, and at least from the trailer, it seems as if he's considering "effeminate" men as also worthy of scorn. Which perhaps is not the intent, but is almost certainly how this is going to be received.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2009


Mulling over this some more, the defense in response to this is likely to be a variation of "well of course not all gay (or bisexual) men are swishy, effeminate, fashion-loving, narcissistic, lovers of BDSM who play with sex toys."

Well, so what if we are? Are our rights, our liberties, our livelihoods and our physical safety contingent on our ability to blend in with norms of masculinity? Should they be?

And this is a touchy subject for me given how it's the central question behind the Lawrence King murder case. Depending on whose versions of events you buy, either King was harassed by McInerney for months before the shooting, or McInerney was so disturbed by having an effeminate and openly gay or bisexual classmate that the school administration is to blame.

And I know it's bad to judge a movie by the trailer, but it really turns me off.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:26 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I personally couldn't make it through Borat. I don't care much for the comedy of embarrassment and I just didn't find it funny. The thing I didn't understand about the movie though is a legal/technical issue. It's my understanding that you can't just put people in a movie if they're not willing participants. They have to consent to the use of their image, sign a release, etc. So that means that either he tricked the people into signing something they didn't understand (which makes him a sneaky prick) or the people signed willingly and happily even though they got put through the ringer by him (which makes them glorywhores I guess). I'm not sure which of those is worse. But it doesn't make me like him any better.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:13 AM on April 3, 2009


I hope this film succeeds purely to bring back the Richard Bey Show. That was ultimate trash TV.

(the fact that Bruno goes on Richard Bey shows that more of this film may be more staged than Borat. Maybe Richard and SBC are in on it but they got a real audience.)
posted by ALongDecember at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2009


wabbittwax: My assumption was that he has them sign the release *before* filming, but I'm not totally sure about that.
posted by jester69 at 9:51 AM on April 3, 2009


Am I the only one who thought he totally stole the show in Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa? King Julian? Anyone?

I guess I probably watch to many movies made for children.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:57 PM on April 3, 2009


Thanks for your comment, Meatbomb.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:54 PM on April 3, 2009


The point is that more and more people are learning that it is actually a stereotype.

Perhaps, but it's certainly not SBC or Bruno who is teaching people that.
posted by crossoverman at 11:53 PM on April 3, 2009


Using stereotypes - even if his cause was noble, even if it was funny - is still perpetuating a stereotype.
by crossoverman at 9:34 PM on April 2 [+] [!]


By crossoverman's reasoning, we can't have fun with stereotypes because any acknowledgement of them as existing, serves to perpetuate them. That's going way too far.

There's something SBC is doing, that I don't think crossoverman and other SBC critics "get." Let me try to come up with an analogy, to simplify.

Let's say I have a boss who is a big-time homophobe. I get along with the boss just fine most of the time. One day, I decide to prank him by getting a friend to dress up and act like the biggest stereotypical flaming queer (SFQ) you've ever laid eyes on, and I bring this SFQ to my workplace and make a big show of casually introducing the SFQ to my boss as my good friend, and SFQ does some stupid, stereotypically flaming things just to enrage my boss.

The whole thing could be funny on multiple levels:
(1) The humor of seeing the discomfort of my homophobic, bigoted boss either express or try to suppress his seething anger and disgust.
(2) The humor of seeing someone who is not an SFQ put on a big show, hamming it up as an SFQ.
(3) The humor of making fun of the stereotype of the SFQ ... i.e., by hamming it up as an SFQ, one can actually be laughing at the fact that this is a stereotype. The important thing here is that one can act out the stereotype, while at the same time laughing at the fact that it is a stereotype, because the fact that it is a stereotype is itself a bit of laughable stupidity.

What all three of these levels of humor come down to, I think, is that when you confront a bigoted person with a stereotype such as the Stereotypical Flaming Queer, a big part of the humor comes from the fact that you are confronting them with themselves --- you're essentially saying, tacitly, "I know you think this is what gays are like, and I think it is a ridiculous stereotype, but I am going to have fun acting it out and pushing your buttons."

This kind of humor is holding a mirror up to bigots, in the sense that you are confronting them with their own twisted thinking, and they recognize themselves in the mirror --- and we find that process very funny. We think the SFQ is a stupid stereotype, but when bigots see the SFQ enacted by people like Borat, they get enraged, and seeing them react this way is funny, because it shows the cartoonish mental world in which they live.
posted by jayder at 11:56 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


But I think most people in your office, possibly including you and your heterosexual friend, would simply be laughing at queers, period. Some queers are queens, and if you laugh at queens you've got to realize that your laughter is homophobic.
posted by serazin at 7:42 AM on April 4, 2009


By crossoverman's reasoning, we can't have fun with stereotypes because any acknowledgement of them as existing, serves to perpetuate them. That's going way too far.

In a world where complex, complicated and three-dimensional queer characters are very few and far between in mainstream films and on network television, using gay stereotypes and caricatures for humour is harmful.

I'd love to believe that bigoted people watch Borat or Bruno and see themselves up there and recognise their flaws and vow to change their ways, but that isn't happening because the Borat and Bruno characters are objects of the humour. People laugh at those characters more than they recognise the absurdity of the racists/homophobes who react badly to them. In fact, given how outrageous Borat is as a character, I'm not surprised that people react badly to him.

Given that Borat the character is quoted often, it's hard to believe the lasting lesson of Borat the film is that racism or cultural stereotyping is bad.

SBC needs to use the Stereotypical Flaming Queer for half of his "joke". If he played the character more realistically (more "straight acting" to use a term I loathe), he loses half of his audience. He could expose bigotry in other ways, but it's much easier to caricature homosexuals.

Surely homophobes would be as offended by being hit on hairy muscle men who are gay, but it's much "funnier" to use a femme gay character - because there is a long tradition of laughing at the mincing queen. And it's this tradition that offends me.
posted by crossoverman at 7:54 AM on April 4, 2009


In a world where complex, complicated and three-dimensional queer characters are very few and far between in mainstream films and on network television, using gay stereotypes and caricatures for humour is harmful.

Bullshit, as revealed by the elisions. Yes, there's the fuzzy-bunny, non-zero-sum victimless-crime subgenre of humour; but most humour is built on stereotypes and caricatures. SBC's humour is a duet; he makes himself into the perfect partner for whomever he's dancing with.

I'd love to believe that bigoted people watch Borat or Bruno and see themselves up there and recognise their flaws and vow to change their ways, but that isn't happening because the Borat and Bruno characters are objects of the humour.

Nope. They're part of a system (in the physics sense, cf. the abovementioned duet) which is the object of the humour. That system is, generally, bigotry and ignorance; or on occasion just out-of-touch-ness.

People laugh at those characters more than they recognise the absurdity of the racists/homophobes who react badly to them.

Again, no. What part of the system someone is laughing at may differ, but it's the system itself that is the object of the humour.
posted by sixswitch at 10:09 AM on April 4, 2009


Surely homophobes would be as offended by being hit on hairy muscle men who are gay, but it's much "funnier" to use a femme gay character - because there is a long tradition of laughing at the mincing queen. And it's this tradition that offends me.

Yes, and I do understand that when you do something like SBC does --- play a SFQ character --- you run the risk of also attracting hordes of frat-types and bigots who don't "get" that the main intent is to make fun of bigots, but they think the imitation of the SFQ is funny.

But to condemn humor for the ways it can be misunderstood by idiots is to place unfair limits on humor. It's kind of like that black comedian, who was given a show and then sort of disappeared (can't remember his name) --- his humor played a lot on black stereotypes, and would you condemn him if it turned out he was enjoyed by a large number of racists who thought he did a fine job ridiculing blacks?
posted by jayder at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2009


jayder: Well, there are two parts to my discomfort here. The first is that I really don't think that SBC really dealt well with the double-edged and ambiguous nature of Borat as a character, using extreme stereotypes of one culture as a mirror to reflect misogyny and antisemitism, there was quite a bit of comedy that wasn't just reflection, and was seen as SBC exaggerating some prejudicial views of Central Asia. In many cases, it seemed that Borat was exposing one set of prejudices by uncritically validating another set, and I never could get past that.

The other issue is that the whole issue of the SFQ is problematic. I've noticed that people will see you as an SFQ once you've been outed, even if your behavior was under the radar before. And also some of us really are SFQs. Some people really are effeminate, into leather and toys, or drag. And generally, that's ok except that SFQs are rather unfairly blamed for inciting varying levels of prejudice from discrimination to murder.

In California, a civil and criminal court case have the potential to pivot around the issue of whether it is criminally negligent to let a kid be an SFQ in the school. If decided along those lines, it could be a scary precedent that your legal rights to be queer are only in effect as long as you don't do anything that's seen as acting queer. (Never mind the fact that "acting queer" can be as much a matter of perception as performance.)

I'm not saying that you can't perform SFQ in popular culture. Fred Schneider, Klaus Nomi, Lux Interior, and David Bowie had the benefit of musical awesomeness. Mel Brooks and John Waters get a pass because everyone is equally silly, and Blake Edwards treated Toddy with a great deal of affection as a writer. And of course, Harvey Fierstein still trumps Ang Lee, and Gus van Sant in my opinion. This was, IMO one of the magic aspects of Archie Bunker, the presentation of a character who was deeply wrong on many points, but still deeply sympathetic and human, even if you viscerally disagreed with him.

But at least one of those things that I look for is a spark of sympathetic humanity in the character. The feeling I get from the trailer is that Brüno is a contemptible character all around, and our sympathies should lie with gays and lesbians who are not like Büno. Which is fine, Cohen has the right to make his movie, and I have the right to say that it's not as revolutionary as it pretends to be.

And I certainly feel uncomfortable with a comedy in which an actor incites prejudice by playing the part of an SFQ, while courts in California decide whether Lawrence King incited his own murder by being an SFQ.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2009


jader: But to condemn humor for the ways it can be misunderstood by idiots is to place unfair limits on humor.

You know, I never have quite been able to understand this argument here. It's a free society, and while SBC can construct his humor however he likes, other people can critique his humor. Humor is not a sacred cow in these discussions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:19 AM on April 4, 2009


MetaFilter owes me 2 advil.
What a whiny wussy headache inducing thread this is.
So much overthinking and pontification on nothing... It's a comedy folks.

Your same arguments against SBC were already voiced 15+ years ago when Andrew Dice Clay was the end of civilization.
All that led to was a decade of every safe hack comic getting a sitcom.
and some of the most sanitized yawn inducing pablum (Dane Cook) on our TV.

Don't worry about "cruel" comedy.
Worry that Hannah Montana is worth a billion dollars and Tyra Banks makes enough $ to own her own country.
You should get your panties tied up over that shit.
pfft...Worry about tent cities popping up across america.

Not the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen.
posted by stavx at 6:32 PM on April 4, 2009


Bullshit, as revealed by the elisions.

What? That is a meaningless argument. There are plenty of layered, three dimensional characters on television who are white and straight and male. And every other social group is represented less than that.

And humour isn't built on caricatures of white, straight men. For example, David Brent/Michael Scott of The Office might be caricatures but they aren't the predominant representation of white, straight men on television.

In fact - and I'll use Michael Scott as the example because I'm more familiar with the US series - Michael Scott is revealed to be a very competent salesman (when face to face with clients) and beyond his predominant idiocy, he is occasionally a sympathetic figure.

White, straight male characters who are central to comedy series are usually much better drawn - their humour coming from multiple places - whereas to this day the camp aspects of the femme queer character is used for laughs. Even in Will & Grace where Will wasn't camp, it was offset by Jack who was stereotypical in most ways - vain, swishy and bitchy.

And as KirkJobSluder continues to point out, it's not that some gay men aren't SFQs - it's that their continual use for humour is damaging.

Yes, there's the fuzzy-bunny, non-zero-sum victimless-crime subgenre of humour; but most humour is built on stereotypes and caricatures.

Let's return to The Office for example. None of those characters are particularly multi-faceted but it's satirical and works for me because while the cliche of the boss who tries to ingratiate himself with his employees is amped up to the uncomfortable max, we aren't laughing at a group of people. We are laughing at a character flaw that we can recognise.

Or the Stephen Colbert character, for example - we laugh at the satire of the loud mouthed cable news commentater, but that's a character that crosses political, social and racial bounds. We aren't laughing at him because he's a stupid white guy.

Also, because "most humour is built on stereotypes and caricatures" doesn't emphatically make it right. But some caricatures are harmless. Some stereotypes are worthy of mockery. But don't try to make a blanket statement about comedy and expect it to make it palatable.
posted by crossoverman at 8:22 PM on April 4, 2009


Jayder - there's a very large difference between a black actor portraying a black stereotype with the intent of making a critical point about that stereotype, and a white actor playing a black stereotype for any reason. Personally, I cannot imagine a context where a white actor portraying a black stereotype would be funny or would any way serve to undo stereotypes.

I'm interested to hear that SBC is influenced by Carroll O'Connor because the thing about Carroll O'Connor is, he was playing the bigot. He was playing a stereotype of HIS OWN culture in order to make a critique about conservatism, racism, etc. SBC is playing a gay stereotype to make a point a point about - well, it becomes unclear once you start doing this kind of thing.
posted by serazin at 9:22 PM on April 4, 2009


This kind of humor is holding a mirror up to bigots, in the sense that you are confronting them with their own twisted thinking, and they recognize themselves in the mirror --- and we find that process very funny.

Bigots or not, I think people have a reasonable expectation not to be publicly fucked with for the entertainment of others. You might think that doing this to bigots is justified, but there are people out there who think it's probably okay to do the same to gays or liberals or anybody else who offends them.
posted by troybob at 10:19 AM on April 5, 2009


It's a free society, and while SBC can construct his humor however he likes, other people can critique his humor.

That's true, of course ... but I think what we are debating here is whether these critiques of SBC are fair.

For example, the proposition that "bigots have a reasonable expectation not to be publicly fucked with for the entertainment of others" ... unreasonable, in my opinion.

This discussion reminds me a bit of that long thread we had, a couple of years ago, about a woman's on-stage nude performance that culminated in her pulling something out of her va-jay-jay. For every commenter who said it was a stupid and irritating performance, there was another commenter who appealed to a long tradition of sexual burlesque in which her performance participated.

Similarly, for everyone here who says that SBC's role-playing is offensive, someone else could point to some great art that does exactly what SBC does. (And surely SBC's critics are not saying, "It's fine to do what he does --- just be better at it." I take them to be saying that they have problems with his send-ups of gays, regardless of how entertaining his performances are.)
posted by jayder at 11:45 AM on April 5, 2009


jayder: For example, the proposition that "bigots have a reasonable expectation not to be publicly fucked with for the entertainment of others" ... unreasonable, in my opinion.

Well, I agree that's an unreasonable argument. And so is "It's a comedy folks."

(And surely SBC's critics are not saying, "It's fine to do what he does --- just be better at it." I take them to be saying that they have problems with his send-ups of gays, regardless of how entertaining his performances are.)

Well, actually that is what I'm surely saying, by contrasting the way in which SBC apparently constructs Brüno (again, going entirely by the trailer) as almost completely unsympathetic and unlikeable, with other comedians who have brought SFQs to the screen. I have no problem laughing at Roger de Bris as performed by Gary Beach or Christopher Hewlitt (especially given the inside joke that the geriatric Don Juan of the Broadway revival was played by an SFQ.)

It's not as if Cohen is particularly novel or creative in coming up with the idea of pitting SFQs vs. mundane sensibilities. It's one of the reasons that Mae West spent a night in jail, prompting the New York State Legislature to pass a law banning homosexuality from the stage. Eddie Izzard gets a ton of stand-up mileage by showing up in mascara and heels, and daring the audience to underestimate him because of it. John Waters made his career casting Divine. It's a central conflict of Torch Song Trilogy, in which Arnold, as the stereotypical drag queen, struggles for respect from Ed and his mother. It's a reoccurring feature of Monty Python sketches.

Gay men practically invented camp after all.

But a key element of camp is that those who are in on the joke identify to some degree with the SFQ. And the trailer for Brüno leaves me without that necessary hook on which to think sympathetically towards him as a character.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2009


And to address a point raised up above, while Cohen may not be responsible for misinterpretation by idiots, he is responsible when his work is so sloppy with ambiguity those interpretations are reasonable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:27 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's kind of like that black comedian, who was given a show and then sort of disappeared (can't remember his name)

Dave Chappelle?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:08 AM on April 6, 2009


For example, the proposition that "bigots have a reasonable expectation not to be publicly fucked with for the entertainment of others" ... unreasonable, in my opinion.

That wasn't my comment, and don't quote if you're going to change the words around to suit your emphasis. I think people in general have a reasonable expectation not to be socially manipulated by strangers for fun, not that bigots have this particular pass.

If that is unreasonable, tell me why.
posted by troybob at 8:32 AM on April 6, 2009


Then again, he was the only funny thing about Talladega Nights.

Oh, that's right! The gay European character that was the hate magnet of all the NASCAR-loving Southerners.

So what's this new movie?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 PM on April 19, 2009


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