Bruno has many points to discuss – including racism, xenophobia, adoption, where exactly the line is and how Sacha Baron Cohen steps over it, as well as the intersection of all of these things – but I am going to discuss a few points that really stuck out in my mind.
Caution: Spoilers abound ahead.
The ordinary, unsuspecting people in Bruno are just that: ordinary and unsuspecting. And while I am sure the people in on things made the filming situations as ridiculous as possible, the ordinary people’s reactions certainly say something about the America we live in. Bruno was an over-the-top, stereotypical gay man; stereotypes exist for a reason, and there are gay men out there who act like that and many more who don’t. But the reactions people had to Bruno in this film indicate that being gay is one thing, but being flambouyant and transgressing are quite another. In other words, it’s okay to be gay just as long as people don’t have to acknowledge it or see it. And while being intolerant is a bit taboo, it is clear that tolerance only survives as long as someone is normative in every other way.
The first encounter Bruno had that really struck me was his interview with Ron Paul. I think most people, like Paul, didn’t automatically suspect Bruno was gay because he was foreign and just thought he had weird customs; that is until he did something like proposition a man for sex, like he did to Paul. Paul stormed out and was filmed in the hall calling Bruno a queer (in a derogatory manner) and shouting other unsettling things about gays and the situation. Had a woman propositioned Paul, I doubt the reaction would have been so violent.
In another scene, Bruno and his lover chained themselves together and couldn’t get apart. A hotel employee is called in to help and finds the two in bed stuck in full BDSM gear. The male employee refuses to find the key to unlock them and returns after explaining the situation and how he can’t handle it to a group of men in suits, assumedly hotel upper management. They all return to the room and explain that the hotel is not for this purpose. I am not sure if they were talking about the kinky sex or the gay sex. Maybe both. The next scene shows the men still chained together and hobbling down the street.
Bruno spends the entire movie trying to become famous in America and decides he can only do that if he is straight, visiting an ex-gay ministry to cure himself. After some masculine activities are recommended to Bruno, he choses working out with other men. The trainer informs Bruno that he should strike a homo and attempt to get away if one hits on you, a sort of strategy to deflect a gay attack. Also, did you know if a stranger of the same sex is smiling and being nice to you then they are gay and to be avoided? I didn’t know this. I guess people will now completely stop being friendly; I mean, who really wants to be misread as a homosexual? Gay people are also like terrorists because you can’t always tell who they are. Next thing I know the government will be issuing a rainbow alert.
The trainer also shows Bruno how to defend himself against a dildo attack. I am not kidding. This is also something every man should clearly worry about happening. In order to withstand the dildo attack you should break the person’s arms, ribs or take any means necessary to deflect the rubber phallus coming at you.
Meanwhile, back at the ex-gay ministries a man is set to deliver some great advice to Bruno: Find a woman that is tolerable and let her seduce you. I don’t know what I find more intriguing: The fact that tolerating a woman is better than Bruno being a happy gay person or that this man of God was suggesting pre-martial sex with a women as an alternative to being gay. I guess all sins aren’t created equally.
For the most part the reactions of the people are unsettling and illustrate what we as queer activists are up against.
I really can’t answer the question of whether Bruno will be good for the LGBT community. I had queer friends who went to the movie hear the people in the theater calling Bruno, in all of his flaming glory, gross and making other derogatory comments. So I guess in that respect the film does perpetuate stereotypes about gay man. But on the other hand it does expose how people react to the gay men who actually are like Bruno, as well as how asinine and ridiculous people can be. At any rate, Bruno will at least make people think, even if it is just because other people are talking.