Austrian fashionista Brüno sets off to become the most famous Austrian in history. Hilarious and terrifying, Brüno is an insightful look at American culture.
After the flamboyant, ultra-gay Brüno (Sacha Baron Cohen) loses his job as a fashion commentator on Austrian television, he sets his sights becoming world famous. He finds inspiration from the world of politics, Hollywood and history. He brings his assistant’s assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) with him to America where he sets many plans to become famous into action. His plans take him around the world and back again. Except for Brüno and a few establishing characters, all of the people they interact with are not acting; they are real people with genuine reactions to Brüno. Famous politicians like Ron Paul and personalities like Paula Abdul are stunned, on film and caught fully exposed (socially, not physically).
More interesting than the famous people are the average global citizens Brüno rubs against, the most extreme of which are the Americans. Between the laughter, scene after scene, my heart broke. As a citizen of America, I am personally mortified by the behavior of some of my co-citizens. There is a scene with a woman and Brüno that if the roles were reversed, would be called a sexual assault.
After seeing Brüno, I am officially afraid of Arkansas, and the rest of the Midwest, for that matter. Redneck, white trash, nitwitted boobs, pumped up and ready for blood become thoroughly unzipped by Brüno. Knowing that they were not actors, their behavior was so shocking, I was overcome with both fear for the actors and disgust at the Arkansasans simultaneously.
In Brüno, it isn’t just the good ole boys who show no noticeable remnants of humanity. What could most kindly be described as an ethnically diverse rabble at a low-brow setting verbally attacks Brüno viciously for being gay. Even though Brüno does provoke a bit of well deserved anger on their part, the audience disproportionately reacts, making themselves look like fools and staining the fabric of America.
It would be easy to fall into the trap that Baron Cohen sets for the audience. Amongst the wagging penises (of which there are many), raunchy gay jokes and “faggy” stereotypes, Baron Cohen slips in a message about American society, written by Americans. By the end of the story Baron Cohen recorded, I couldn’t laugh anymore – I was angry.
During Brüno, and after, when I considered the film, I kept coming back to the story of Matthew Shepard. In 1998 Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten and tortured within an inch of his life and tied to a fence in Wyoming. He later died from his fractured skull. The “good ole boys” who killed him, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney later said it was because Shepard was gay.
More than a decade later, America should be ashamed to be standing under the flag with these Henderson and McKinney knock offs. Easily incited, willing to submit their minds to their faith, uneducated and brain dead, they troll the American heartland – unchecked pre-murderers waiting for their opportunity to pistol whip, beat, torture, tie to a fence and let die someone who offends their “sensibilities.”
Before you stand pompously in a state, like say California, and say that could never happen here, I have two words for you: Proposition Eight. Just like the people mentioned above, we might not have attacked gay people or Brüno physically, but we allowed our co-Californians to do it legally.
Brüno definitely has its moments of levity, but they are wisely placed, to encourage the audience to lower their guard and look in the mirror. What will you see when see Brüno staring back?