Nicht, Nicht: Bruno Ending Edited for Gay Bashing

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Summertime means blockbuster movies. After all, what's better on a hot day than heading into an air-conditioned megaplex and watching larger-than-life actors live out unrealistic scenarios with even less realistic conclusions? But while summer blockbusters often bring with them cheesy dialogue and special effects, they shouldn't bring gay bashing. And now, thanks to some last minute editing of the ending of Bruno, they won't (we hope).

Bruno, the latest film by Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Da Ali G Show), is the story of a very openly gay Autstrian man who works in the fashion world. Though we are more than a week away from the film's July 11 release date, Bruno has already enjoyed quite a bit of media attention (and speculation) as to its portrayal of the gay community. The latest? The film's ending has been edited for gay bashing.

Here is the scoop from Movieline (SPOILER ALERT):

In the current cut of the film, Bruno (Cohen) and his ditched, lovesick assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammerstan) reunite in the movie's third act centerpiece: an Arkansas cage match where the two begin to make out inside the cage while an angry audience mob reacts with disbelief and, eventually, makeshift hurled weapons. In the film's epilogue, the reconnected couple embrace domesticity with their adopted baby, and Bruno sings us into the credits with the help of an star-studded, satirical gay rights anthem.

However, when Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles screened the film back in February for a select industry audience, the result of that cage match wasn't nearly as rosy.

Writer-director Richard Day (Arrested Development, Ellen) was among the industry figures at the screening. In that version, Day tells Movieline, "The cage-match kiss resulted in a violent attack on the couple. They then cut to a press event where they are announcing their marriage or plans to, I forget which. But the boyfriend is now drooling, seemingly brain-damaged, and in a wheelchair, played for laughs."

Now, Bruno is a comedy, so it's somewhat understandable that something like a cage-match injury might get played up for laughs in this film. However, especially considering that this film is controversial already because of its (speculated) portrayal of gay life, it's also easy to see how Bruno's boyfriend ending up in a wheelchair because he was making out with a guy could be construed as gay bashing (because it sounds like it is gay bashing). And it's certainly not cool to frame hate crimes as being a laugh riot just because they take place in a comedic film.

The film isn't out yet, and so it's hard to know for sure whether or not the original ending portrayed gay bashing, or just bashing. According to The Hot Blog, the Lutz character is beat up because of his his employer, not his sexuality. However, the only two openly gay people at the screening of the original film interpreted the scene as gay bashing, and then the ending was changed, so it seems worth discussing at least.

To add to the discussion, here is a quote from the Movieline piece on the film's ending by Richard Day:

I don't know if we're why they changed it [the ending] but if we are, I regret saying anything. It would have been better to let them expose their true point of view; thanks to us they had a road map of the most egregious offenses and can also claim to have been responsive to our concerns.

Though Day's position is understandable, it seems that he should be glad if he was the one who convinced the film executives to change the ending. Assuming he is the reason for the change (he claims he was one of only two homosexuals at the original screening and that the two of them were the only people who had a problem with the original, wheelchair-bound conclusion) then his pointing out of the film's insensitivity to gay issues prevented an offensive ending from being viewed by millions of people. Hooray! Why would he want the executives to keep the offensive ending and "expose their true point of view" if he was in a position to change that point of view?

At any rate, the ending has been changed, though it's unfortunate that it took an outside audience member to point out that the original ending was inappropriate and upsetting. It doesn't take an uber-PC genius to figure out that gay bashing just isn't that funny. Does it?

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Comments

8 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I want to say right off the

I want to say right off the bat I'm a little confused about what is being said here, but I can speak as someone who has seen the film (I attended the premiere).

If the question is if whether the cagematch scene is gay-bashing the answer is YES! The way the scene plays out is that the audience turns on the two once they start making out onstage. There's absolutely no other reason for the attack.

This bigger question of the whole film is who is the audience laughing with and who is the audience laughing at? It's just like the terms "queer" and "dyke" - used often within the community but they take on a WHOLE other meaning outside of it.

I believe that the gay bashing is meant to be showing people as they really are - shining a light on the wrestling fans. But another POV could just view them throwing chairs as a funny, natural reaction to two dudes making out.

To me the idea that Bruno is "portraying gay life" is laughable, it's CLEARLY a parody of how mainstream media treats gay men, especially the totally over the top parts about adoption and sex.

BUT again it's just like the queer/dyke thing - someone else might watch the movie just laughing at those "crazy queers" and not see the parody at all.

Ignorance of the 'Co-stars'

I agree. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I feel like the trailers are funny because of the parody (Sacha Baron Cohen's obvious trademark) not because "queers are so funny/ridiculous." We, the people sitting in the theater, know that Cohen is playing a stereotype. And, it's the sincere, negative reactions of the real people that is the source of the humor. It's the intolerance of those around the characters Cohen plays (or, even more so, their readiness to accept such a blantant and offensive exaggeration) that makes the intelligent members of the audience laugh.

Amanda L. Kraft

Baron Cohen's other films

I think this is exactly the same problem as in Sacha Baron Cohen's other work. They are totally ambiguous.
In each case, people who watch the film from a progressive, tolerant perspective - feminist, pro-gay, anti-racist, etc - will understand the films as criticizing racism, homophobia etc. I think, or I choose to believe, that Baron Cohen intends this interpretation: that the films are parodies that make fun of racists, homophobes, anti-semitics, etc - and attempt to provoke discussion about these issues.
But the problem is that obviously you can't guarantee that people who ARE homophobic, racist, sexist etc won't just laugh at the "funny jokes" (i.e. the naked fighting in Borat) rather than delving deeper into why they are laughing (i.e. that seeing two men fighting in the nude makes them uncomfortable, and to ask why)...

Not satire

I agree! His humor is far too ambiguous to be labeled as actual satire. Instead, he perpetuates the stereotypes, racism, homophobia, etc. that his films supposedly "expose" as the negative and powerful undercurrent of American culture by simply repeating/recreating those stereotypes and images.

Racialicious did a good article on satire vs. perpetuated stereotypes:
http://www.racialicious.com/2009/03/09/open-thread-of-racism-satire-and-...

Also, I saw the trailer for this movie and noticed that Baron Cohen's character appears to have adopted an African American child. I don't know anything about the details of that scenario and don't plan on seeing the film. However, I wonder if this is supposed to be commentary on the issue of white, privileged people "saving" people of color from their own culture by adopting them? If anyone could post some information on that part of the film, I'd be interested in learning more. Thanks!

Satire

Hi Ellie,

I can't agree with you saying that his (Sacha Baron's) satire is totally ambiguous. Satire is always ambiguous, you will like it or you will not like it. That is the thing with satire, it says something about a society and it is mostly done with stereotyping.

If you say that you don't like his movie because here and there it's crude than perhaps I can agree with you, I have not seen it yet. Then we talk about a matter of taste. But not because his satire is not to your liking.

Furthermore the people who you say could laugh in a negative way because they are homophobic are already doing that.

It's a real shame if he Sacha Baron Cohen changed the ending of his movie because he was pressured in doing so with the wrong reasons.

I have to raise an eyebrow

I have to raise an eyebrow at your assumption that all "progressive minded" people will appreciate this film as a work of art representing the hidden under currents of homophobia that runs throughout society. I consider myself a progressive thinker - my life-mate is another woman, after all, and the majority of my time in the community is with other homosexual or bi individuals... and I think this movie is still absolutely disgusting, crude, and I don't find myself laughing at any of it - instead it just makes me feel uncomfortable. Yes, for me, it just isn't my cup of tea - this kind of humor never is, I understand that.

Of course my personal opinion of the movie is one thing - but I just would like to repeat that not everyone who doesn't enjoy this movie is a red-neck who appreciates nothing but violence.

Great!

Another conservative queer. Sasha is making us all think. In a totally desensitized world he's doing the best he can. If you look at this movie from the outside of the box there is nothing offensive about what Sasha is doing. Yet the way some of the unsuspecting people react make me want to vomit, this is what's going on in your back yard America. Sasha is an incredible actor, well actually he's an incredible performance artist there is not much acting going on. It's people that say they are progressive and call this film offensive that need to take another look at it. I can only assume how incredibly passive you are conservative queers or radical straights. Moderation in found through extremes. Even Gandhi new that. Go read some Herman Hesse you Hannity, Limbough closet loving hill Billy in a strap on! Bet you couldn't tell when I was fucking with you an making strong points. See how over your head truly ground breaking socila commentary material is. In your defense I wish the world was made of chocolate covered "nucular" bombs as well. Zing.

Bruno

This comment contains a SPOILER ALERT.
In the original ending to the film,"the boyfriend is now drooling, seemingly brain-damaged, and in a wheelchair, played for laughs.”
Brain damage is about as funny as gay bashing. This reminds me of that Seinfeld episode when George buys a girlfriend a defective wheelchair, and the last shot in the episode shows her screaming in fear as she rolls down a hill. If people with disabilities had any sort of equal presence in entertainment, that might have been funny. Might - I'm being generous.
The expression "wheelchair bound" is also offensive: someone uses a wheelchair and can - sometimes with assistance, sometimes independently - get out of one. A wheelchair promotes independence and (sometimes) displays "MY OTHER CAR IS A PORT AUTHORITY BUS" stickers and an eminism "LAME IS SEXY" button.