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Part 1: Brüno & The Nature of Hate

November 15, 2009

The following blog post is an edited version of a piece I wrote just before the release of Brüno last July and just after stepping down as a teacher from the private Christian school I worked at during the ’08-’09 school year. I’ll be posting the piece, which was originally entitled “Real Men Aren’t Gay: Homophobia, Sexism & the Current State of Masculinities,” over the next several days in multiple parts (it’s kind of long).

(Very important disclaimer: I’m not suggesting you run to the video store to rent this movie!)

Part 1:

bruno

It’s crude. It’s graphic. It’s beyond politically incorrect. And it’s bound to make just about anyone extremely uncomfortable. Yet, Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s most recent movie, due out on DVD later this week, may be one of the most important movies of the year.

Frankly, I don’t even find Brüno that funny. On a strictly comedic level, he doesn’t hold a candle to Cohen’s other two characters, Borat and (still my favorite) Ali G. But to evaluate Cohen’s work strictly in terms of its comedic value is to overlook its deeper agenda.

Sure, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was arguably the funniest movie of 2006, but the film’s real strength was in its ability to expose the latent bigotries of American public life. And Brüno’s no exception: Behind all of its offensive humor, the film succeeds in exposing the deep-seated hatred for homosexuals in this country.

Having worked as a teacher at a Christian high school, an environment in which otherwise concealed hate is often embraced, if not lauded, I am inclined to say that of all the latent forms of hatred that live on in this country, none are as widespread and vitriolic as that currently harbored for homosexuals.

While Cohen doesn’t exactly “prove” this to be the case with Brüno—though I think he comes close—he goes beyond a simple illustration or a mere confirmation of hatred, and it’s this move which accounts for the true genius of his movie and his comedy in general.

Though perhaps capable of alarming us on some visceral level, simple illustrations and confirmations of hate leave the more important question of why we hate in the first place completely unanswered and often present hate as a whimsical emotion altogether devoid of meaning. But whether our hate is for homosexuals, Muslims, Americans or ponies, it always carries meaning, and Cohen, it seems to me, understands this (the nature of hate) as well as anyone in Hollywood today…

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