Sisterhood Blog

The Only Thing Offensive About 'Brüno'

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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I saw the new Sacha Baron Cohen movie “Brüno,” and unlike some others who’ve seen it, I thought it was hilarious with a capital “h.”

On Tuesday’s episode of The View, Barbara Walters expressed her distaste for the way Baron Cohen, as Austrian gay fashonista Brüno, makes fun of unsuspecting people by asking them outrageous questions and then, well, letting them make fools of themselves by being too foolish to know when they’re being put on. Walters also didn’t like the rather graphic gay sex, but that’s no surprise, and for discussion in perhaps a less family-friendly publication.

Baron Cohen, the cute British comedian — who is, of course, a Member of the Tribe — has built his career on taking every stereotype you can think of and exaggerating them to the farthest possible limit.

From the idiotic post-racial rapper Ali G. to Borat, his idiotic Kazakh journalist, and now Brüno, an idiotic flaming Austrian celebrity seeker, just when you think Baron Cohen can’t get more outrageous, he does.

In “Brüno,” the things viewed by many as most offensive are the accoutrement-laden gay sex and the swap for an iPod of an African baby, whom he brings back to America and gives “the traditional African name O.J.,” and then trots out in front of a black talk-show audience, which goes wild.

Even with all that, I thought the craziest thing in the movie was the parents of child models who take their kids for a Los Angeles casting call that Brüno is running.

In the ad he’s supposedly casting, the adorable infant “O.J.” portrays Jesus on the cross and Brüno is looking for babies to play the other executed characters. Brüno asks one father if he’s okay with his baby being crucified, who hesitates barely for a moment before assenting.

Brüno then asks the mother of a baby girl brought to the casting call how much the girl weighs. The mom tells him “about 30 pounds,” and Brüno says that he wants to cast her, but she has to get the baby down to 20 pounds in a week. If she can’t, he asks the mom, would she be okay with giving the baby liposuction? The mother briefly pauses — you can all but see the wheels turning — and then says she’d be fine with it.

What? How could a parent possibly say that? And yet these and other parents in this scene do. In a movie that is a festival of freakiness, this scene stood out, for me, as a display of the craziest aspects of American culture. The gay sex and setting up of foolish people to make fools of themselves bother me not at all. But the vulgarity illuminated by this scene sure does.

Sarah Wed. Jul 15, 2009

I think simply reading your description of that scene might have horrified me enough to keep me up tonight...

Realitygal Wed. Jul 15, 2009

I laughed my butt off-Walters is showing her age! How about when he gets chased by the Chassids? LOVED IT LOVED IT!!!!

Marty Wed. Jul 15, 2009

I just got back from seeing Bruno. That's exactly the point that Sacha Baron Cohen was trying to make in the scene with the parents - to illustrate how far they will go to exploit even their own children for celebrity. I loved the scene where Bruno gets the Israeli (I forgot who it was) and the Palestinian to agree that hummus is vegetarian and healthy, and of course - not the same as Hamas!*

Barry O'Connell Wed. Jul 15, 2009

What a tacky review about a tacky movie. The Forward deserves better, the readers deserve better than this schlock.

Isaac Thu. Jul 16, 2009

I like the movie. Just as with Borat or Southpark the people critical of it are the ones who fail to understand who the butt of the joke is. In Borat I was a bit bothered not that people would accept the antisemitism -it did a brilliant job of mocking antisemites- but that it would mock a relatively poor country, Kazakhstan, which is actually not so bad. However, I think Kazakhstan was chosen precisely because mocking it wouldn't result in a fatwa. But in this film, I don't even have that reservation.

Jack Thu. Jul 23, 2009

The same Barbara Walters who was lap danced by Hugh Jackman in an interview!? Mebbe Sasha Baron Cohen should’ve done Bruce, an idiotic, flaming __Australian__ celebrity seeker. G'day, sailor!

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