Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bruno Makes Magazines Market His Movie

Well, actually actor Sacha Baron Cohen makes the mags do his marketing for him, and most magazines seem more than happy to oblige.

GQ recently tried to drum up newsstand support (or at least newsstand buzz) by putting a nude (but carefully concealed) Cohen on the cover of its special comedy issue.

Out, a long-running gay lifestyle title, is the latest periodical to slap Cohen's Bruno on the cover and interview the actor in the guise of his character, an outrageously flamboyant gay Austrian fashionista. Frankly, I'm undecided on this. The movie's funniest bits were not the gay humor, but rather the off-hand comments (for example, about his desire to be the most famous Austrian celebrity since Adolf Hitler).

I have no idea if this is good or bad for improved acceptance of gays. There's a scene in the movie that takes place in a sort of ultimate-fighting ring in Arkansas (I think), the auditorium filled with rednecks given cheap tickets to a brutal fight game supposedly sponsored by a flamboyantly straight guy. When the action turns decidedly gay, the audience turns very ugly, throwing food and furniture at the stage and hurling all kinds of abuse at Bruno and his assistant. My take on this movie is that the type of person who filled that stadium thinking they'd see some good ol' heterosexual brutal violence is not the type of person who will fill the multiplex to see this movie, so the fears of this film fanning the flames (oops) of intolerance are probably overwrought.

Then again, I found myself curiously unmoved by this film. I think I laughed out loud only twice. It certainly isn't because I don't appreciate sharp-edged humor. As readers of this blog know, I think National Lampoon was a gem of a magazine for championing take-no-prisoners, nothing's-sacred humor. But Cohen's humor seems to be less about taking a taboo subject and eviscerating it than it is about making people feel uncomfortable and then making people laugh at them. It's a step down in terms of humor, and probably civilization.

That said, look for my upcoming review of Josh Karp's biography of Lampoon founder Doug Kenney, A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever.
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