Saturday, November 7, 2009

My S&M affair with Bruno: The Top 5 things he taught me about gay rights and marriage equality

I watched the movie Bruno as part of the Equal Love gay marriage equality fundraiser, and so began my sado-masochistic love-hate affair with Austrian flamer and celebrity whore Bruno.

It hurt so good. Watching him cavort across the screen through splayed fingers and laughing until every ethical sensibility ached like a broken tooth, I then left the theatre to join a room full of people asking each other the same question: Did you like it? And I knew what they were really asking was: Do I like it?

Oh, there was more laughter and applause than gasps of shock and wailing, but we struggled to admit that this was a guilty pleasure we devoured like a full-fat cheesecake while standing with our heads in the freezer, or that time our partners fell down the stairs and really hurt themselves, but we laugh-peed a little bit anyway.

Did I like it? It's a question I've been mulling over all night. I don't know if I've settled on an answer yet, but I did come up with a list. So here's the Top 5 lessons that Bruno taught me about gay rights and marriage equality.

5: Discrimination is bad (even if you are a fame-hungry, boundary-demolishing, sissy queen from Austria).

To say Bruno crosses the line sometimes in the areas of social mores, general good taste and distance the average person should keep their genitals from your eyeballs, is a gross understatement. And by gross, I don't mean “large” - I just mean “gross”.

We are all entitled to our own beliefs and to live our lives with respect. My way is, of course, the best way to live, because I am fucktastic, but that does not give me the right to attack others, however untrendy they may be. And in seriousness, when people are discriminated against for reasons that are not shallow, but are instead a part of who they are - their colour, religion or who they love – that's a problem.

And, like a t-shirt at Bruno's “Straight Dave” cage fight that reads “My A**hole's just for Sh*tting”, double standards are tacky. Bruno heavy handedly shows us that a group of hetrosexual man-beasts are more than happy to scream about straight pride, freedom and what they do with their man-ginas, but are less enthusiastic when it comes to tolerating another way of life. Specifically, one wrapped in a tiny, tiny thong.

The Lesson? Every consenting adult has the right to live freely and openly. As long as same-sex couples are treated differently under the law, gay discrimination has a government stamp of approval, and certain members of society will exploit this to justify their prejudice. And that's not cool. GLBTIQ people have done nothing wrong. In fact, we do many things right – much better than heterosexuals ever could. Like giving head. So why are we punished? That needs changing.

4: Equal rights create acceptance (and remove ammunition from Gay Converters, who inevitably have blow-job lips).

Bruno makes fun of one of our favourite nemeses – religious groups who think they can convert homosexuals. Is it new? No. Is it cheap? Maybe. Is it funny? In that way gallows humour is always funny, definitely.

Lesson? Removing segregation of same-sex couples (yes, I said segregation - the dictionary told me to) from areas of the law, and treating them as people who are equal in their own right, will breed acceptance. When it comes to civil marriage, treating 'mos the same as every other sophisticated power couple - or drunken, ill-conceived hook-up - will improve things because less harassment, discrimination and targeted violence towards the GLBTIQ community is good.

And fewer self-hating homos is very good - not just because it's likely to reduce suicide rates in our community, but because if I have to read another book, or see another film about a sad homo who hates him/herself, I'm going to gouge my eyes out with a melon-baller.

When homos no longer feel unworthy and abnormal, Gay Converters will lose a lot of business. And be able to put their blow-job lips to better uses, just as God intended.

3: Same-sex couples can create healthy, stable family units (and open the door to hilarious “Gayby” t-shirts).

Some may say Bruno's perceived mistreatment of his adopted baby is hardly a case for same-sex couples and family. To them, I say STFU. Juxtaposed against the extreme, hideous lengths the hetero parents in this film will go to to make their kids famous, calling your kid a fruity name seems the least of childhood traumas. Gay dads are awesome. Gay mums are awesome. Rainbow and blended families are every kid's dream, right?

The Lesson? A mother or father who has been in a long-term, stable same-sex relationship still has to face the world as though they were a single parent because they are not “married”, and there's a problem there. We need to recognise same-sex couples for the loving families they are.

And please, give every one of those poor model-to-be kids in Bruno to homos STAT. He may think of them as glorified spoodles, but they'd be better off than with fame-hungry parents who don't care if their toddlers operate heavy machinery or are exposed to experimental science and medical testing, as long as they have a shot at the B-list. And “Gaybies”? Come on. Made.Of.Win.

2: All love is worth fighting for (even if it has to be done in a cage).

Although you've probably heard about this scene, I won't spoil it too much, other than to say this:

The Lesson? If two people are so strongly in love that they would risk the wrath of 800 uneducated, unwashed, alcohol-fuelled rednecks in a 'roid-rage frenzy just to put hands on each other, the least they deserve is the right to have a big gay wedding, with all the frills and chiffon this country can provide.

However, before trying this stunt, I might have recommended a Thorazine drip, glass of milk and a good lie-down.

1: Equality benefits us all (if we ever want to feel comfortable in a movie theatre again).

The most important lesson to come out of watching Bruno for me is this: The sooner we have the same rights as everyone else, the sooner comedians will stop creating stereotypical, character-driven gay satire that justifies outrageousness with the thin veneer of exposing homophobia, and is as uncomfortable to watch as laughing with a mouth full of glass.

And you will laugh. Oh yes, you will sometimes roar with laughter. But the wounds on your morality will last forever.

So, did I like it? I must say the jury is still out.

As a part of the Equal Love campaign, and fighting daily for marriage equality, perhaps that makes me a little more sensitive to the element of negativity that comes from someone perpetuating often-cruel gay stereotypes, to make a point that may be lost on the non-discerning audience member. Certainly a lot of gay press is telling me I should hate Bruno out of principle. But I didn't.

I don't know that I would've been as comfortable with the laughter – or as trusting of its tone – if I hadn't seen the movie in a room full of queers and our peers. We were laughing with Bruno as much as laughing at him, and when we laughed at him it was for the “right” reasons.

Sascha Baron Cohen doesn't take the high road with his comedy. Despite the promotional materials touting an expose on homophobia, you really have to pay attention and be coming from the right mindset to spot the lessons I listed above. And I may not watch Bruno again, but I'm not disappointed I watched it the first time.

It was an experience. A morally corrupting experience, sure. But those are the best kind.

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