Rashad Robinson, senior director of media programs for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation tells the Times: "Some people in our community may like this movie, but many are not going to be O.K. with it. Sacha Baron Cohen's well-meaning attempt at satire is problematic in many places and outright offensive in others."
Aaron Hicklin, the editor of Out magazine, is not as concerned: "The movie does something hugely important, which is showing that people's attitudes can turn on a dime when they realize you're gay. The multiplex crowd wouldn't normally sit down for a two-hour lecture on homophobia, but that's exactly what's going to happen. I'm excited about that."
Except Brüno is not a lecture. Sacha Baron Cohen lies in order to land interviews, disrupts events and infiltrates situations. Cohen is being sued by one California woman who claims she was injured at a bingo tournament he hijacked.
The Telegraph points out that from Zoolander to Absolutely Fabulous to Ugly Betty, the image of the silly, shallow fashion industry as freak show has been done. So Brüno is not breaking ground there. It's the depiction of an aggressively gay character that's the point.
From the Times:
The filmmakers wanted to play [an Elton John] song during a scene in which the title character, participating in a cage-fighting match, pulls down his opponent's pants and kisses him on the mouth, prompting a horrified crowd to throw garbage at him. The answer was no… But then Mr. John reversed himself - kind of. He didn't want to be associated with the provocative scene, but he ultimately agreed to perform part of another song that functions as a coda to the film.
If your movie makes an openly gay man pause, are you treading as carefully as you should? Does kissing a man in a cage-fighting match expose the audience's homophobia? Or tap into the stereotype that gay men are lascivious, libidinous, promiscuous and wild?
While Cohen prances in lederhosen, California and other states are banning gay marriage. In a world where civil rights are at stake, does Brüno — played as a "limp-wristed, sex-crazed queen" wearing hot pants, leopard bikini underwear and riding nude on a unicorn — shatter or reinforce stereotypes?