US gay lobby doesn't get the 'Bruno' joke

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen – creator of Ali G and Borat – has found a new constituency to offend with his latest movie satire

His previous films have launched on a tidal wave of outrage from race-relations campaigners, Jewish groups and Kazakhstani government officials. Now, with impeccable timing, Sacha Baron Cohen has found a fresh collection of minority groups to take offence at his work.

A month before the release of his latest satirical movie, the British comedian has provoked noisy complaints from America's gay rights lobby about the alleged excesses of his new alter ego: a flamboyantly homosexual fashion journalist from Austria called Bruno. The character, who spends the film wearing mesh vests, zebra-skin underwear and leather S&M gear, is supposed to send-up the ignorance and intolerance of real-life individuals he meets during a filmed journey across the US. However, he has instead been accused of promoting gay stereotypes.

Several liberal groups claimed this week that Bruno's behaviour and image – he has bleached hair, wears copious amounts of make-up, and appears to strip-wax his legs, buttocks and chest – will actually end up promoting rather than undermining homophobia. "Some people in our community may like this movie, but many are not going to be OK with it," was the stern prediction of Rashad Robinson, of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "Sacha Baron Cohen's well-meaning attempt at satire is problematic in many places and outright offensive in others."

Ms Robinson is particularly troubled by a scene in which Bruno appears on a TV chat-show brandishing an adopted child dressed in a T-shirt with the logo "gay-by." He boasts to the seemingly-conservative studio audience that the infant is proving a highly-effective "man magnet". Also near the knuckle are scenes in which Baron Cohen's character attempts to seduce the former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (who storms out of the room muttering about "queers") and takes lessons in how to fight off predatory homosexuals from a martial arts instructor.

The film's publicity material trumpets "real people, real situations", and gay rights groups, which are in the midst of a delicate battle over same-sex marriage, are concerned that US audiences will fail to appreciate Baron Cohen's irony and instead leave the cinema with their homophobia reinforced. Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay lobbying organisation in the US, has even called for filmgoers to be instructed about the "message" they should draw from the film, which follows TV presenter Bruno's efforts to be "cured" of his homosexuality in order to relaunch his career.

"We strongly feel that Sacha Baron Cohen and Universal Pictures have a responsibility to remind the viewing public right there in the theatre that this is intended to expose homophobia," a spokesman for the group said.

Concerns are not limited to US lobby groups. This week, Brooks Barnes, the New York Times media reporter, revealed that Sir Elton John had declined a request to allow his track "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" to be used in a pivotal closing scene where two men taking part in a real-life cage-fighting match stop wrestling and start canoodling. Sir Elton, one of the most prominent gay rights advocates in showbusiness, "learned of the scene's particulars and blanched," according to Mr Barnes, who citing "one of the singer's advisors" added that he agreed to allow a different song to be used in a less inflammatory part of the film.

Baron Cohen has built a career out of stirring up public debate. The character who made him famous, Ali G, was satirising white middle class youths who adopt the persona of black gangster rappers. However, some dubbed him racist. When his last character, Borat, was accused of promoting anti-Semitism, Baron Cohen was able to deflect criticism by pointing out that that he is Jewish. But Bruno offers no such get-out: Baron Cohen is robustly heterosexual, with a fiancée (the Australian actress Isla Fisher) and a young daughter.

Universal Pictures, which financed the project, issued a statement this week saying that Bruno "uses provocative comedy to powerfully shed light on the absurdity of many kinds of intolerance and ignorance, including homophobia. By placing himself in radical and risky situations, Sacha Baron Cohen forces both the people Bruno meets and the audience itself to challenge their own stereotypes, preconceptions and discomforts. We believe the overwhelming majority of the audience will understand and appreciate the film's unarguably positive intentions."

Meanwhile, the gay community isn't the only place where concerns are being aired about the forthcoming movie. In certain corners of Europe, broadcasters have taken issue with the character's stated intention to "be the most famous Austrian since Hitler" and "live the Austrian dream of finding a partner, buying a dungeon and starting a family."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
people
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Automation Test Lead (C#, Selenium, SQL, XML, Web-Services)

£50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Automation Tes...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering