Brüno: Is Satire Dead?

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martin dufresne

Mon June 22, 8:49 pm ET
MARSEILLE (Reuters Life) Irreverent comedian Sacha Baron Cohen took his new persona a notch higher on the political incorrectness scale when his team rented a local French jail for a high-spirited song and dance advertisement for famed "Savon de Marseille".
Cohen is all over Europe's most trendy destinations these days, building up attention of the European release of ‘Bruno', a cavalcade of antics from his new incarnation as a gay Austrian fashion reporter.
"Daddy's Soap" is a Madonna-like choreographed faux commercial starring twenty local juvenile delinquents and a look-alike of Jean Genet, a famous French poet and gay icon who did time in a number of French prisons. In the number, Cohen enacts his impression of an art nouveau soap dish holder while dancers revel around him acting out a rape fantasy. The British-born provocateur extraordinaire is skirting sensitivities to make even more of a splash than he did in 2006 with the hit movie "Borat".

Doug

martin dufresne wrote:

"For too long, guys coming here from around the world have been forced to
have sex with women," Cohen said, standing in front of a pink-lit brothel
building in the Dutch capital as surprised tourists and stag party
goerslooked on.

"It gives me great pleasure to declare Amsterdam's pink light district
officially open for business," he said, as about a dozen men emerged from
behind curtains at the windows of a three-storey brothel.

Huzzah! Except that, as I can see from the photos that were taken then, they really aren't my type. When they hire on someone who hasn't soaked in Nair, I'll consider it. Great publicity stunt, though.

martin dufresne

Tue June 23, 11:49 am ET
KRAKOW (Reuters Life)

Sacha Baron Cohen, or rather his new doppelganger, Brüno, unveiled today - in full S-M regalia - plans for his "Forgive and Forget Truth or Consequences Reconciliation Tour". He did so just outside the gates of the former Auschwitz concentration camp, 50 miles west of a popular tourist spot, the Polish town of Krakow.
Eyebrows will surely be raised by Cohen's ambitious project of mending fences between European neo-Nazis and flaming folles, such as "Adolphe". This mustachioed Austrian hunk (photo) will be strutting on-stage in one of the most risqué numbers of Cohen's road show, an offshoot of his new comedy motion picture, Brüno. Venues are already being snapped up near every former Nazi death camp, where at least 50,000 gays are said to have died during WWII. Carl Vaernet, the infamous Nazi doctor who experimented on homosexual prisoners to isolate a gay gene will be impersonated by a David Bowie clone singing "Gene genie" in a Vuarnet track suit.
Stopping at no provocation, the cast of "Forgive and Forget" will sport a traditional Austrian band with serial numbers printed on their lederhosen.
As Brüno, a gay Austrian fashion icon, Sacha Baron Cohen claims Adolf Hitler as a grand-uncle, but his "Forgive and Forget" Reconciliation Tour is calling him a "prodigal sonofabitch" that needs to be brought back in the extended European family. Cohen is no stranger to controversy since the success of his 2006 « Borat » film, that mocked Central Asia Muslims for the delight of Western audiences.

Noise

I like Cohen's satire...he manages to take some of the cultural assumptions to such a new high that he exposes the underlying assumptions most of us just accept.

 

Ghislane:

Quote:
I agree with unionist's assessment of Borat. I especially could not stand the part where he stays with the Jewish couple at their Bed and Breakfast and is horribly anti-semitic.

 

That was close to the funniest scene in there Ghis...a totally irrational fear to the point of silliness of this older jewish couple thats running a bed and breakfast. Isn't taking such a stereo-type to that extreme and mocking it in that manner the definition of Satire?

jas

Haven't seen either of the Cohen movies, but my understanding of his humour is that he's making fun not of specific groups but of the stereotypes of those groups, by taking them to ridiculous extremes and seeing how far that stereotype is still held. So the joke is on those who "other", not on the othered themselves.

Unionist

[url=http://www.counterpunch.org/dines11152006.html]This article of the time[/url] captures very well some of my disgust at Borat:

Quote:
As a woman, I live in that place between cautious apprehension and occasional dread where over half the population resides. When night falls, the world becomes a threatening place. Empty streets, parking lots, deserted parks and lonely public places are to be avoided at all times. For many women, the home is no sanctuary, as this is the place where women are most frequently abused and killed.

So when Cohen makes misogynist jokes about rape, prostitution and incest, they feel anything but funny. [...]

Violence against women, unlike violence against Jews, is a major public health issue of our time and the costs to women makes it a very unfunny topic.[...]

Maybe today, we need Borat's outrageous antics to unveil subterranean anti-Semitism, but his misogynistic humor is as mainstream as Howard Stern. In Borat, the jokes about women dying (his wife), being raped (his sister) or being stalked by a crazed fan (Pamela Anderson) are passed off as business as usual in the life of being a woman. For Pamela Anderson, who was beaten by her now ex-husband Tommy Lee as she clutched her newborn baby, violence was indeed a part of her life. So watching Pamela Anderson being stalked and chased around a parking lot feels too close to reality to be funny.[...]

The other thing I hate about Borat is how "safe" his satire is. He takes on the obvious, but never the powerful.

melovesproles

Its true that a lot of Borat's targets were safe although I thought the opening spiel to the anthem bit at the rodeo took some guts.

One of his more clever preposition switches too.  "Can I say first we support your War of terror!"

martin dufresne

Guts? I don't know... he was applauded by the audience right up to and including the final lines. That reminded me of the cathartic "Kill! Kill! Kill!" end to the vignette taking place at the recruiting office in Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

As for the "War of Terror" line, it is so close to what the US is effectively waging that I can understand why it was applauded by rodeo lovers. Are you sure that it isn't merely reflective of Borat's faux broken English?

al-Qa'bong

I haven't seen the whole picture, just bits here and there when Borat has been on TV, but I did see that rodeo scene.  I guess blind patriotism was being satired there.  The rodeo fans cheered when Borat said he hoped Bush would drink the blood of his enemies, but booed when he sang, "Kazakhstan is the greatest country in the world."

 

I wonder what the reaction would be if Borat showed up at the Bonnyville Stampede and sang those lyrics (to Oi Canada, of course).

"Kazakhstan, eh?  Is the beer gardens open yet?"

 

Sven Sven's picture

Stargazer wrote:

I loved and own the Ali G eason one and two. Cohen is brilliant.

Every time I see Noam Chomsky in the banner advertisement here on rabble.ca, I think of Ali G's interview of Chomskey.  Chomskey was so earnest and Cohen was totally toying with him.  It was very funny.

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jrose

I'm not sure The Hangover could be considered a satire, but I think it still applies here. I saw the movie a few nights ago, and I must admit, I enjoyed it. Some of the humour was too offensive, but for the most part I think we've all (well at least many of us) have been in the situation where we wake up after a night that got a little out of hand and our memories are less than fuzzy.

That said, I whole-heartedly agree with a very thoughtful and intelligent post found at the Feministing community page. The whole thing can be found here: http://community.feministing.com/2009/06/my-hang-ups-with-the-hangover.html

 

My Hang Ups With the Hangover:

"I must admit the reason I don't agree that this movie is hilarious is because I do have a vested, personal and deeply painful history with roofies.  I can say from first hand experience that when one is unknowingly roofied, hilarity does not ensue.  Instead, assault, rape and worse ensue.  And perhaps it is because of my own experience that I cannot and will not take the subject of roofing lightly.  But I think the major issue raised from the movie is this: why is the concept of roofies used as the catalyst for comedy, and moreover, why is it acceptable? 

Drugging people's drinks in order to take advantage of them is an epidemic in this country that supersedes the stereotype that confines it's presence to frat houses.  It's an issue that is not taken seriously enough, as demonstrated by the need to differentiate between "date" rape and "real rape" (a subject detailed in other posts).  And then a movie like this comes along and permeates the psyche of a generation and a country that already does not take the concept of rape, let alone, "date" rape, seriously enough.  "The Hangover" is based upon the concept that roofies can lead to fun and comical adventures.  And that the people who slip them into others' drinks are, in actuality, not disgusting creatures, but loveable characters that just want their victims to "have a good time."  For 120 minutes, audiences across this country are asked to laugh at the concept of being roofied, the action of roofing and the outcome.  They're being asked to laugh at the loss of consciousness, memory and control - factors that for roofies' real victims can lead to a completely life-altering experience.  This in turn, chips away at the severity of the issue and ultimately reduces it to nothing more than a silly little drug with funny consequences."

It's a very intelligent post, worth reading. 

martin dufresne

Wow! Thanks for posting this, jrose!

Sven Sven's picture

jrose wrote:

I'm not sure The Hangover could be considered a satire, but I think it still applies here. I saw the movie a few nights ago, and I must admit, I enjoyed it.

I just came back from the movie...it was hilarious.  A perfect end to the week...mindless, silly, humor.

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Cueball Cueball's picture

So. It captures the spirit of your posts?

martin dufresne

Hey, are you knocking rape humor, Cueball...?

Vansterdam Kid

So I watched Brüno. I didn't really care for it. There were laughs, but I felt like I was watching Sasha Baron Cohen "jump the shark." I liked Borat, I liked most of Da Ali G show, including its Brüno segments. But the whole point of Cohen's comedy is taking people unaware, which he doesn't do as often in this movie as he does in Borat, because most people are "in on the joke" because they know who he is and what his schtick is. Therefore this movie is a lot more scripted and relies on "grossout" humour to get its laughs. But I think Brüno looses most of the satirical elements that Borat had, and just comes across as gross, homophobic and anti-German. When its not scripted it just seems kind of mean or over the top. I can be a bit immature and like grossout humour to a certain extent. Even if its not particularly PC, but I felt like this movie would do more harm to the LGBT community than good. And I wouldn't suggest anyone pay a dime to see this movie because its really not worth it.

Sven Sven's picture

Vansterdam Kid wrote:

So I watched Brüno. I didn't really care for it. There were laughs, but I felt like I was watching Sasha Baron Cohen "jump the shark." I liked Borat, I liked most of Da Ali G show, including its Brüno segments. But the whole point of Cohen's comedy is taking people unaware, which he doesn't do as often in this movie as he does in Borat, because most people are "in on the joke" because they know who he is and what his schtick is. Therefore this movie is a lot more scripted and relies on "grossout" humour to get its laughs. But I think Brüno looses most of the satirical elements that Borat had, and just comes across as gross, homophobic and anti-German. When its not scripted it just seems kind of mean or over the top. I can be a bit immature and like grossout humour to a certain extent. Even if its not particularly PC, but I felt like this movie would do more harm to the LGBT community than good. And I wouldn't suggest anyone pay a dime to see this movie because its really not worth it.

Thanks for that review, VK.  With regard to your "it just seems kind of mean" comment:  Borat, to most people, was a sympathetic character (the character was a buffoon but had a child-like innocence).  In contrast, the Brüno character not only lacks that innocence but is intentionally nasty to others -- thus he's a less sympathetic character to the audience.

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sachinseth sachinseth's picture

Borat was great. Bruno, not as great, but still really good. If it had come before Borat one could make the argument that it would be the better of the two since Cohen goes further in Bruno than he did in Borat.

NDPP

Sacha Baron Cohen Being Sued for Defamation by 'Terrorist'

http://www.3news.co.nz/Sacha-Baron-Cohen-being-sued-For-defamation-by-te...

"Ayman Abu Aita is depicted in Bruno as a terrorist from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.."

Rexdale_Punjabi Rexdale_Punjabi's picture

lol screw Ali-g never watched that shit heard of it though. All I know is I remember before people used to bump Tommy Hilfiger till they found out he was racist now they dont. Same w/ kris now ppl say like Fucc Kris Im sippin on Don P or Patrone or something lol.

 

I seen borat it wasnt that funny still n Im not gonna watch this. The other stuff people were talking about (only seen 1st couple) Idk wtf that is Holy grail? Lol Who's Monty Python lol

Stockholm

Well I just saw Bruno and I was prepared to be disappointed based on reviews and a few people who said it was now where near as good as Borat. On the contrary, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard. It was hilarious. To me some of the highlights included:

-Paula Abdul being lured into being interviewed about her philanthropic activities while sitting on "furniture" that was Mexican gardeners prertending to chairs etc...

-parents being willing to sign papers to let their young children be nailed to a cross and exposed to carcinogens - as long as it meant their child could be famous.

-the scene at the end at the "straight pride" rally that he turns on its head

-talking to someone from Hamas and thinking that Hamas was "hummus".

...and even little things like interviewing a model about how "tough" it is to be a fashion model - you have to put your right foot forward and then  your left and then there's the TURN...

I don't think it was a film of any great significance and there was no great "message". There were definitely a lot of cheap shots and as was the case in Borat - for all the attempts to make fun of Americans, most of the people he encounters in the film are remarkably tolerant and it takes a lot of pretty blatant sexual hijinks to get anyone to react to him. The scene where he comes to GOP Congressman Ron Paul was actually kind of patehtic and made the audience feel more sympathy for Paul.

I thin that the main reason it hasn't done all that well at the box office is that most straight people would be uncorfotabloe with the amount of gay sexually explicit content. In terms of whether the film is of any relevance to LGBT issues - it has NONE. Bruno is such an absurd caricature that it bears no resemblance to anything real - anyone who is open minded enough to see the film in the first place would understand that it was all satire and I think I'd be more offended if I was Austrian than as a gay man.

But all in all, it was FUNNY and I laughed and that's all that matters.

Stargazer

Great review Stock. Funny how the gay men I know had no issue with this movie and really enjoyed it, but the straights are all up in arms over it.

Stockholm

Its nice that we agree on something Stargazer. The phenomenon you mention, is also reminscent of certain men who try to be more feminist than the most ardent feminists! but I'll be no more specific than that.

One gay friend thought that the scene in Bruno where he appears on the talk show in front of all those African-American women was supposed to be about homophobia in the Black community. But I totally disagreed. I thought that Bruno being gay was the least of the audience's concern - they were more affronted by his racist comments about Africa being a country that was full of African Americans and that he traded an Ipod to get his adopted son and that he named the kid "OJ"!!

martin dufresne

Not unlike the Pennsylvania misogynist murderer explaining on his Youtube video that he needs to achieve emotional openness in order to snare a woman 20 years his junior...

 

Pogo Pogo's picture

I watched a comedian talking about Canadian comedy nightclubs.  He said that in Vancouver jokes are followed by a pause where people first consider whether it permissable to laugh.  To me that is a big part of Cohen's routine - daring us to laugh at topics that the morally superior will damn us for our laughter.

That said I just don't find it funny.

Sven Sven's picture

Pogo wrote:

I watched a comedian talking about Canadian comedy nightclubs.  He said that in Vancouver jokes are followed by a pause where people first consider whether it permissable to laugh.

Well, if it's just a pause, I suppose it could be much worse: A joke...followed by a pause...followed by an hour-long mandatory discussion, lead by a CHRC moderator, after which a unanimous vote of everyone present deeming the joke "funny and not offensive" is necessary before laughing is permitted.  Anything short of such a unanimous vote?  Laughing is strictly prohibited.

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Kaspar Hauser

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