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."

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice