On Saturday I had nothing scheduled for the evening. On an email list I am on there was a discussion briefly touched on the movie Bruno before going off on something else. I decided to see the movie. I had previously seen Borat which is the previous movie by Sacha Baron Cohen so I generally knew what to expect however I had not read any reviews so I did not know much about the details of the movie.
An over-aching aspect of the movie which is bothersome is that the movie plays on stereotypes of gays. I would hope that people would be intelligent enough to realize that the depiction of gays in the movie is not accurate. These stereotypes are much worse that I had expected and actually made the movie less funny rather than more funny. GLAAD has issued a release about the issue.
To me the movie started off rather slow and plodding. In most scenes Cohen and the other actors are not all that funny. Sometimes a bit of humor but not much. The movie gets a bit more interesting when people who are not actors get involved. These are people that know they are being filmed yet have not picked up that this is all a spoof. The part of the movie which is most widely commented on occurs near the end with the cage fight in Arkansas. When the cage fight audience in Arkansas realized that the interaction between Bruno and Lutz had changed from anger and violence to love and affection the audience vented their rage and demonstrated stereotypical redneck, homophobic and low class trashy behavior and attitudes. It should be pointed out that beer was available for $1 per cup at the event and likely contributed to the outcome. Cohen had set up a situation where a bunch of clueless people could demonstrate just how sad they really were. It would be better if there people had more enlightened views. I wonder if seeing themselves in the movie will change any of them?
It is sad that people in Arkansas have that kind of reaction but when it was shown on the movie screen the biggest laughter of the movie erupted in the theater; that patronizing laugh of condescension. It is important to remember that not everyone who has ever lived in Arkansas is a homophobic hick. And not everyone in California is a modern hip sophisticate. Stereotypic depictions should not crowd out clear thinking.
So is ridicule a useful tool for change? Perhaps in some situations but I am doubtful if the movie Bruno will be one of them.
UPDATE: I have been thinking about this for a few more days so I am going to add a couple of comments. Obviously the primary motivation of making Bruno was not change the behavior of racists and homophobes. And likely not the secondary or tertiary or ... well you see my point. But it is worth reflecting on what kind of movie would be useful. If ridicule is the tool to be used then it seems to me that the ridicule needs to be directed at behaviors and opinions and not at people. Particularly not at people who are just over the line; it might be good to give them some room to improve their behavior and say "Oh I am not like that" and then hopefully their attitudes will change also. But this kind of change can take a long time.