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Get Over It, GLAAD

Get Over It, GLAAD


With its statement against Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno , GLAAD seems to be saying: We're about to get marriage rights; don't screw it up by putting on lip gloss and short-shorts.

GLAAD is anything but. Its latest big target is the movie Bruno , which, as you likely know, features Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno Gehard, a flamboyant, uninhibited Austrian fashion reporter who is very gay. In many ways he's the ultimate outsider -- a hot pink contrast who stands sharply apart from black, white, and gray life. He puts on a little lip gloss. As is all of Cohen's work, this one is satire.

After seeing a screening of it, knowing it is satire, GLAAD issued a statement , attributed to its incoming president Jarrett Barrios.

"Clearly, the filmmakers wanted to use satire to highlight and challenge homophobia," part of the statement read. "But their film also reinforces troubling attitudes about gay people in ways that run counter to the intentions of the filmmakers."

Here's where things get a little much, though. The statement ends this way: "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."

Wait -- "much of America"? "Seems"? Was a survey conducted at a Wal-mart or something? Seems not.

And what's "our community"? Is there just one?

I have some burning questions for GLAAD, who discuss Bruno vs. the "public" like the movie is as inherent in Americans' everyday lives as touching a doorknob. Do you really think the movie's target audience who will elect to spend $10.50 to see a movie about a flamboyant gay man is going to have their "comfort" decreased? Will hordes of people really come out of the theater deciding not to speak to their gay friends and coworkers anymore? Probably not. The people who shell out for Bruno will probably accept him, and his anal sex references, pretty well. The audience that wants to stay away will stay away. I have a news flash -- I walked by a bunch of construction workers on the street the other day and they were very much not talking about making plans to go see Bruno this coming weekend.

Is there a chance that homophobes will wander in to the movie, see it, then make fun of gay people? Of course. That will inevitably happen, but it will probably be very rare. And if a fictional character makes someone angry, is that person worth saving?

I know, of course, that when GLAAD was denouncing the image of Bruno, they weren't just talking about the actual movie, but rather the ads as well -- those insidious ads, which straight people will watch between innings! Yes, some people will watch a Bruno ad and say, "Faggot." But does that mean we should also ban Will & Grace reruns? Honestly, Jack, with all his thinly veiled anal-sex references and lack of interest in monogamy, is about as out-there as Bruno.

The people who are going to vote for measures like Proposition 8 are going to vote for them, period; Bruno (and Jack) are not going to push them over the fence on that. The people who don't like Bruno don't deserve to be coddled, or have their "comfort" considered. In even wording it this way, GLAAD is pandering to those people -- since when do we gays have to provide "comfort" for straight people?

I'm slightly troubled by something that is going on right now in gay activism in general. As gays are winning rights -- thankfully so, and there are many more battles to be won -- there is evidence of gays needing to "play it safe" in order to gain acceptance. Just keep those movies about fellatio-obsessed, bob-haired art directors away, and we will finally be able to adopt children. It also doesn't help that Bruno is not only out-there -- he's extremely feminine -- something many gay men go to great lengths to try not to be, often out of self-loathing, or fear of not being accepted.

The problem I have with the majority of the GLAAD statement is that it seems to express an unspoken discomfort with feminine, over-the-top gay men. Like, Come on guys, we're about to get marriage rights; don't screw it up by putting on lip gloss and short-shorts. I've encountered this in the gay community at large -- there are some gay guys in pressed khakis who are very afraid of overstepping the line and being considered feminine. They drive Saabs and they are in domestic partnerships and they do not want to be questioned or encounter any problems. I decreased the comfort of one such gay guy the other day when I was walking my dog and encountered him, striking up a dog conversation. He was new to town and wanted to know where to take his dog for doggie day care. He mentioned a place that's really frilly, and I said, "Oh, that place is very fancy. Your Viczlas will come home with little pink bows." "Oh," he said, "We definitely don't need any pink bows."

And that was basically the end of the meeting.

Here's another problem, which again really comes into play with the "comfort" part of the GLAAD's statement. In our great cities and towns, there are some gay men who are like Bruno... some nearly dead-ringers. Like Paul, my wildly flamboyant gay friend from college who was an acting major and wore leopard print. He was the best guy -- really smart, funny, sweet, and biting all at once -- and he happened to be a lot like Bruno.

Should he be barred as well... or not allowed to go into Whole Foods for fear of decreasing the comfort of a straight man in the dairy aisle?

I'm not going to sit here and be a big Bruno billboard either, and defend every inch of the movie as the greatest work of art ever. I know that the movie goes really far -- all of Cohen's characters do. I'm not saying that some people won't be offended, and I'm not saying it's the best movie of all time.

As it stands, though, for GLAAD to go after a fictional flamboyant fashion director as a possible reason for gays not gaining acceptance shows a markedly socially conservative tone right now in the gay rights movement. The historic cry of, "We're here, we're queer, get used to it" -- which relied on gays going just a little too far, to be a little too shocking, in order to be heard -- is now, We're here, we're queer, and we do not want to offend you in any way.

That's not comforting, especially for gay outsiders who put on a little lip gloss.

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Stephen Milioti