July 13, 2009, New York, NY – The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued the following statement from incoming President Jarrett Barrios in response to the film “Brüno,” which opened in movie theatres nationwide Friday, July 10. The film grossed an estimated $30.4 million worth of ticket sales in North America according to Hollywood.com Box-Officeand was the top grossing film of the weekend.
“In many parts of the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people live life in harm’s way. We are among the most frequently targeted for hate crimes—including physical attacks, verbal assaults and destruction of our property. In particular, LGBT youth experience bullying and violence in school and social settings--harassment that contributes to lower self-respect, depression and increased incidence of suicide.
Into this context steps the movie “Brüno,” an 80-some-minute series of sketches apparently intended to skewer these homophobic attitudes—and get some laughs along the way. Clearly, the filmmakers wanted to use satire to highlight and challenge homophobia. But their film also reinforces troubling attitudes about gay people in ways that run counter to the intentions of the filmmakers.
The movie repeatedly builds entire scenes around stock stereotypes and situations that make gay people and families the butt of crude jokes. I can’t help but think of all the teenage kids already getting bullied, beat up and ridiculed for being--or for being thought to be--gay. For these kids, this movie will give their tormentors one more word in the anti-gay lexicon of slurs: Bruno.
Instead of challenging stereotypes, it reinforces them for many of those who voted to take away the freedom to marry from loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in California. Many states have gone even further—Arkansans went to the polls and effectively eliminated the ability of gay people to adopt or foster children in that state. In a cruel twist, “Brüno,” some of which was actually shot in Arkansas, includes a scene where the title character shows a talk-show audience photos of sexual activity occurring in the presence of an infant child. Can this help the gay families across the country who continue to be reduced to political punching bags at the ballot box?
It's unfortunate that “Brüno” ultimately misses the mark, particularly when there are still far too few positive images of gay people in major studio films. Some members of our community will not be offended by this film. Others, like those of us at GLAAD, find it frustrating and discouraging to be confronted with a movie that wants to increase America’s discomfort with homophobia, but which for much of America, seems likely to decrease its comfort with gay people.”