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Monday, July 13, 2009

Brϋno

I am a gay man trapped in the body of a straight woman. When I tell my perfect husband that he shrieks and says “Don’t go there!” just before he starts clutching handfuls of his hair in what looks like a cross between sheer terror and outright horror. He’s afraid I’ll drag him back to the 1970s and my days as a disco diva, or, more truthfully, a fag hag. Oh, I know that term raises gasps or tongues go a-clucking in today’s oh-so-p.c. world, but I’m not sure whether the so-called-offended are upset over the first word or the second. If you really dig deep, like psychoanalysis deep, with all the cat’s ass-faced guardians of American mores, I’ll bet that the majority of these moralists hate the word ‘hag’ more because it hits way too close to home in its least appealing sense. They don’t really care so much about the ‘fag’ part except in that it isn’t on their list of acceptable slurs… words like liberal, Democrat, Obama supporter, etc. Anyway, I loved being a fag hag, and when a gay man “adopted” me as his hag I felt it was an honor to be taken as seriously as winning the Miss America pageant. I promised to serve with all my heart and to do everything I could for him…and for World Peace.

Hanging out with gay men is always a blast, and having one declare you as His “fag hag” is the non-sexual equivalent of becoming engaged. It means He will always take you with Him everywhere and you will become, as Kathy Griffith calls them, an honorary member of His Gays. Each gay man has His Gays, that special tribe that makes the rules for fashion, what you can watch on reality television, and, more importantly, who you can ridicule, and how far you can take it. They choose who will become celebrities and who won’t (and for how long) and they know all the secrets about who does what and with whom. As a fag hag, you are now entrusted with this vital information. Suddenly Tommy Cruise and John Travolta don’t look so shiny anymore.

As a fag hag, you do have responsibilities. You must always put your own needs behind those of Your Gay, and your moral compass had better be well-lubed before you sign-on. You should never argue with Your Gay or any of His Gays because you will lose. There is no topic under the sun, absolutely none, which you can fight with The Gays about that They won’t win. Expect Them to critique your wardrobe, your boyfriend(s), your weight, your make-up, your hair, and anything else They can think of. However, as His fag hag He will keep you filled in on all the latest (up to the second via Twitter) celebrity gossip, fashion trends, god-awful true-life murders or multiple births (as long as they involve more than five live babies and a questionable parent), and all the best hair care products. They will tell you stories that will require that you sit down before They begin, and when you go out for a night on the town you should expect to be left to find your own way home because as much as He may be Your Gay He is also a man and if He is on the prowl His little brain is going to forget you exist, but that's just the way it goes.

One gay man I will never forget is Brϋno, the ϋber-gay Austrian character created by British satirist Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat). Brϋno is a nineteen (going on thirty-five) year old former fashion talk show host (star of “the biggest German-speaking fashion-focused show on basic cable in a non-German speaking country”). After getting the boot from his gig on tv, Brϋno finds himself in desperate need of perpetuating his image as a media icon and decides he wants to be “the most famous Austrian since Hitler.” Yes, it’s that kind of movie. So Brϋno packs up his sex toys and his assistant’s assistant Lutz (Swedish actor Gustaf Hammarsten; Lägg M för mord), since his actual assistant, Diesel (Clifford Bañagale; The Legend of Bloody Mary), refuses to come along, calling Brϋno a “håsbëën” and "nëvërvås” and heads off for America, “vhere every-von ees fay-moos”.

There isn’t much to the plot of the movie Brϋno other than the titular character’s quest for fame and the outlandish things he does to get there and the filmmakers’ capturing the reactions of the real people Brϋno comes in contact with as he drives across America from the east coast to the west by way of the deep south, all while being his most flamboyant self. It should be said that many both in and out of the gay community will probably be offended by Baron Cohen’s “stereotypical” portrayal of the limp-wristed, lisping, effeminate male, but I would remind them that these stereotypes come from a place in reality or they wouldn’t have become stereotypes in the first place, and I’ve been friends with more Brϋnos than I can count, just as flaming, if not quite as Austrian. And in true Brϋno fashion, you could fill the Astrodome with them, show them the entire movie, and not one would be self-aware enough to recognize themselves in the character.

My hat goes off to Baron Cohen for being willing to show America some of its worst behavior, and its most shameful attitudes, and by behavior I am not referring to Brϋno’s sexual techniques, although those are way more graphically displayed than you might think for an R rated movie. What I’m talking about is the homophobia that is rampant throughout the film, especially in the last portion when a kiss between Brϋno and Lutz causes a real life near-riot in an unnamed city in Arkansas (and put Baron Cohen and Hammarsten’s lives at serious risk).

Whether the homophobia is overt or not, it reeks throughout the film and reflects how Americans will often “tolerate” the flaming gay guy to his face as long as they think there is a selfish reason to do so (most often just being on camera for their 15 minutes of fame), but when Brϋno poses as a casting agent that is scouting out toddlers for a company making some questionable commercials, watching parents jump at the opportunity to farm out their kids to the Gay, er guy, even when he asks if he can put their children in cars without restraint going over 100 mph or appear near radioactive materials is so appalling you can’t help but laugh nervously. It’s amazing how idiotic people can be; and, yes, not surprisingly, these are the same folks now suing Baron Cohen and Everyman Pictures for character defamation, even though all they did was air footage of how far these parents were actually willing to go to achieve their and their kid’s fame, even if it risked the kids’ lives in the process. They ought to be damned happy Children's Protective Services isn’t using the same film as evidence to take the kids out of their custody. What morons!

And speaking of morons: There are lots of laughs in Brϋno despite the sometimes sinister underbelly. Truthfully, I’ve never hooted as hard as I did at the outrageousness of this film, from the first scenes to the very end anthem featuring cameos by Elton John, Slash, Chris Martin and Bono, but there are so many ‘downright filthy’ scenes in Brϋno that I am shocked this wasn’t rated NC-17. I can’t imagine any sensible adult taking their children to see this raunch-fest. As a matter of fact I was telling Essex Cinemas super-employee Heather Rice exactly that very thing last Friday as she was taking tickets at the entrance to the theaters just as a mother walked up and handed Heather her trio of stubs to admit herself and her two pre-teen daughters to see the film. What the hell was she thinking? If I wasn’t in a hurry to get home I would have waited around to see how long before she paraded them out again.

Would it be at the very beginning when we see Brϋno and Diesel taking turns on his stationary bike, the one with a long metal attachment that forces a dildo in and out of the waiting recipient bent over across the room as his partner peddles along at varying speed? Or perhaps a bit later, when Brϋno shows his clip of a possible television pilot to a focus group; the clip includes a prolonged close-up of Brϋno’s penis “dancing” to the rhythm of the accompanying music (and then ending after a minute and a half or so with a clever bit of animated speech)? Or maybe it’s the scene of the camping trip with a fully-nude Brϋno trying to sneak into one of the other men’s tents in the middle of the night? You get the idea. This stuff is funny as hell, but it is pretty raw too, and most normal parents aren’t going to want their precious little pumpkins to be exposed (no pun intended) to such adult humor when they could just as easily be sending them off to Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs for the same bucks. No exposed pee pees there and it’s in 3D to boot. Besides, if you send the kids next door there will be more room for me and My Gays to laugh our asses off when we return a second time to see Brϋno again. We’ll save you a seat because you’ll want to see him too. Ja, you vill!

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