The Gay Terminator
Nothing needs to be added to Kristian Lin’s review of ”Bruno” this week, but I have a few personal notes on watching the movie. As a lifelong gay movie fan who’s frequently been less than satisfied with “gay movies,” I smiled so hard my face was sore afterward. The film contains two or three of the biggest laughs I’ve enjoyed in recent memory – Bruno nearly convincing a would-be stage mother that her infant needs liposuction comes to mind. But shocked guffaws were just the cinnamon-flavored lip gloss on this movie’s big kiss-with-tongue. What made me so happy was watching Sacha Baron Cohen transform the perennial sissy target of “fag jokes” into a rampaging sissy Godzilla who terrorizes the landscape, grinding hapless victims under his giant pedicured feet. (There’s been much hand-wringing about Baron Cohen humiliating “innocent” people. My attitude is: If you’re at all concerned about how you’ll appear onscreen, then don’t volunteer to be filmed by a stranger’s cameras, no matter what line he feeds you).
Building bridges of understanding, letting your heterosexual neighbors know you want the same opportunities at happiness they have, choosing to discuss instead of shout – all those are very effective techniques for social progress, which probably explains why gay moms and dads with their offspring have overtaken drag queen nuns and dykes on bikes at most pride parades. On the other hand, being a member of a minority that’s constantly pleading for pity and tolerance can wear on your nerves. The two most celebrated movie portrayals of gay men in the last few years – Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain,” Sean Penn in “Milk” – deserved every ounce of acclaim they received. But DAMN! were those characters put through the wringer: Ennis del Mar wound up pining alone in a trailer after Jack Twist was stomped to death in a field, and Harvey Milk was gunned down by a Twinkie-addicted homophobe.
“Bruno,” of course, refuses to accept the tragic fate that has dogged GLBT characters since they first appeared on screen. (For an absorbing history lesson, skip the documentary “The Celluloid Closet” and go to Vito Russo’s landmark book instead). In the movie’s most famous and thrilling sequence, he incites and then escapes an anti-gay mob. He is impervious to so-called “hate speech”: When former presidential candidate Ron Paul snarls “Queer!” after storming out on Bruno’s attempted seduction, it seems less a slur than a statement of the obvious. In this era of very necessary work on marriage, military, and employment protection equality, Bruno is a nasty, horrible, degrading representation of the gay community. But as a highly entertaining combo of revenge fantasy hero, naughty wish-fulfiller, and comic terrorist who’d rather burn down the village than save it, he’s pretty damn tasty.