Gay Bruno landed balls-down on straight, angry Eminem's face last night, thus firmly heralding the beginning of the Summer of Bruno. And it made me wonder: Based on that little antic, and the leaked details of the film, is Bruno gonna be good for the gays?
Because, you know, as a movement, the gays are poised somewhat precariously right now. On the one hand, there's the uptick of states that have decided, finally, to invite everyone to the prom and allow gay marriage. And on the other hand, there's what happened in California and monsters like these—signs of an anti-movement that seems only to get stronger and angrier and crazier as the days and the fight wear on. So where are we, and what do we need? Is it a movie like Bruno which, again based on the little we know already, creates and amps up situations of extreme homophobia to cast light on the ridiculousness of the whole thing? Well, as always, the answer is both yes and no.
Yes because in an email-blast style of thinking, the more things we throw at the wall, the more that are likely to stick. If ten yukking teenage boys go to see the movie and four emerge thinking "Hey, maybe it is really dumb to dislike people just 'cause they're gay," then that's four minds changed. Sure the six others still remain, but it's a step in the right, weary direction for the war of attrition. That Sacha Baron Cohen, the man behind the hotpants, does play fast and loose and over-the-top with stereotypes is just the sort of agitprop tool that effective satire has to use, right? Something subtle and ruminative won't, by and large, have the same impact as gay kissing at an Arkansas cage match. If visibility is the name of the game, then Bruno should be considered an ally. A loud and ludicrous ally, for sure, but a valid one nonetheless.
But there's also an argument to be made that the Bruno character isn't so much debunking the stereotypes and peccadilloes of Gay People as it is just making it easier, more appropriate, codified almost, for people to laugh at them. Doesn't a movie like Bruno kind of, for those who want to see it that way, reinforce an idea that gay men are silly, frivolous, outrageous mincers who are vain and shallow at best and sex-crazed and oblivious at worst? Sure "we" (the liberal elite, the frippering coastals) get it, but there's no lesson guide handed out when you buy the ticket. Same as some people complained that Borat came, in its hyperbole, half circle and ended up being antisemitic, Bruno could be viewed as a benediction to those most rigid in their prejudices that, yes, they were right all along about those homosexuals. And if that's the case, then I'd say we really don't need another satire that only "we" get. Not right now. (And yes, I realize it's completely condescending and self-important to assume that there's a "we" who get it and a "them" who don't, but we do and there are. And a big blimpy summer comedy probably won't do much to muddy those distinctions.)
I guess, in a big over-thinking kinda way, that's the problem of gaydom in popular culture in a nutshell. How much is too much? Is there any such thing as too much? In the place of American Pie (at its core nothing more than a paean and prayer to hetero sex) should we take Bruno—a movie that, sure, makes fun of the gays but it also celebrates them, doesn't it? In lieu of Justin Timberlake (singing about ladies, bragging about doing ladies), should we humbly accept Adam Lambert—a guy who's basically gay but has so far refused to admit it—because we know that he's gay and it's important that he's gay, but also he shouldn't have to say he's gay because it should be, somewhere down the road, a non-issue? To the first instance I'd say yes, because a comedy about a gay guy should be funny. Because, you know, it's a comedy. Gays don't need to be painted as sad little saints just to win hearts and minds to the cause. Bruno don't care who knows he gay, and that's the whole point.
In the second example... Well, I got raked over the coals by the commenters for saying that, no, we shouldn't put up with Adam Lambert's reticence. Or rather, we should tolerate it, but not be happy about it. Because in this day and age... in this time when everything against us hinges on a widespread act of othering and segregating, the best thing anyone can do is openly be themselves and admit who they are (i.e. say it, because saying it does matter) without seeming to indicate for any one second that there's something to be ashamed of or worried about. Because playing to the machine means being part of the machine, which only makes it stronger.*
When Bruno comes out (heh), I hope everyone makes a point of saying that the film IS about homophobia, that it IS about tearing down walls. I'm sure everyone will, because it'll be the gay story of the gay summer. And I hope it does something. Because sexuality isn't a "non-issue" as so many commenters told me it was. For lots of us, it's the issue. Not because we want it to be or tried to make it so. Oddly, those who want the gay conversation silenced are the ones that really got it going. So I think, yeah. We should be glad that someone like Bruno has jumped in, pink rhinestone megaphone in hand, to preach his message of love, tolerance, and balls.
*Please go see "Outrage".