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06-20-09, 05:16 PM #1
Borat star Sasha Cohen making waves in the gay and lesbian community with his new movie, Bruno
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie, "Bruno," a satire of gay and homophobic stereotypes, won't even be released until July 10. But already, everybody has an opinion.
Some critics have decided in advance of its release that it doesn't spoof homosexuals -- it bashes them.
"I don't think he's helping the cause doing that character," comedian Jennifer Elise Cox said in an interview. "It's a mockery." Fashion correspondent and former "Project Runway" contestant Nick Verreos agreed, calling Cohen's character "problematic."
Cox and Verreos's critical statements were two of many made by entertainment insiders -- including Logo Network's president of programming Brian Graden -- that were catalogued by Third Rail Media. Other actors and comedians nodded along as a reporter suggested that the gay character Bruno was a kind of "blackface." (The video ended with text labeling it "queerface.")
But while some in the LGBT community are fretting that Cohenís character is a step backward, others wonder if their worries are a case of political correctness run amok.
"Sacha Baron Cohen does a character well, and he pushes the envelope until it falls off the edge," Colombian-born comic Andrew Kennedy tells FOXNews.com. "If as a performer you're 100 percent full of conviction, people give you more leeway. But this political correctness has gotten out of control.
"I was in Florida, getting ready to do a show, and I told my waitress I wanted my coffee black. She said, 'No, no, we say "I'll take it plain" now.' That's ridiculous."
Comics have been feeling that pinch for a while, with the only "ethnic" group safe to poke fun at seeming to be straight, white, 30-something males. Fox's "Family Guy" is an "equal opportunity offender" when it comes to poke-in-the-eye comedy, says executive producer and show runner Mark Hentemann, but even that show recognizes the line in the sand.
"[White males] are the target where no one will ever cry foul if you laugh at them," he says. "It's only when we get into other minority groups that there's a line there."
Still, he says, he understands why: "White males as a group are not marginalized. They're the mainstream, and they haven't been maligned as much as other groups have."
Which may be part of the reason Cohen is getting flak for appearing to pick on a "marginalized" group. Cohen is Jewish, which makes him part of a stereotyped group himself, but by not being gay, he's not part of the LGBT community. (Cohen is engaged to actress Isla Fisher, with whom he has a daughter.)
This is another line in the sand of sorts, according to Jim Colucci, satellite radio show host of "Must Hear TV" and author of "Will & Grace: Fabulously Uncensored."
"I can call my sister a tramp -- but you can't," says Colucci, who is gay, explaining that jokes coming from within a group are often deemed acceptable, while jokes about that group coming from outsiders may not be.
"Intent is key to whether I find something funny or offensive," he continues. "Chris Rock can make jokes about black people and you laugh with that -- the intent is clear, and it's coming from a place of love. This is a tricky line."
So has Cohen crossed the line? Or are his critics in the gay community being oversensitive?
"Whenever they cover the Pride parades, the media puts on the most outrageous pictures -- the feather boa, the guys without shirts," says Bill Gehrman, president of the Independence Business Alliance, greater Philadelphia's LGBT chamber of commerce.
"That's part of our community, but I'd like a little more exposure that shows the true diversity of people who represent the gay community," he adds. "We're not just campy actors and actresses. We're not just a stereotype."
Bear in mind, Colucci says, that Sacha Baron Cohen is the same actor who portrayed "Borat" in 2006 -- so give him a break.
"He's earned enough street cred, as the kids would say, that you know to expect outrages from him no matter who his supposed target, and you can't take anything too seriously," Colucci says.
"We know that everything he does is going to be one degree more gross and more outrageous than most other people. So you have to go into it with an open mind.
"I can't imagine anybody going into the Bruno movie and seriously expecting to see an honest depiction of what a real gay person is like."
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