Summertime means blockbuster movies. After all, what’s better on a hot day than heading into an air-conditioned megaplex and watching larger-than-life actors live out unrealistic scenarios with even less realistic conclusions? But while summer blockbusters often bring with them cheesy dialogue and special effects, they shouldn’t bring gay bashing. And now, thanks to some last minute editing of the ending of Bruno, they won’t (we hope).
Bruno, the latest film by Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Da Ali G Show), is the story of a very openly gay Autstrian man who works in the fashion world. Though we are more than a week away from the film’s July 11 release date, Bruno has already enjoyed quite a bit of media attention (and speculation) as to its portrayal of the gay community. The latest? The film’s ending has been edited for gay bashing.
Here is the scoop from Movieline (SPOILER ALERT):
In the current cut of the film, Bruno (Cohen) and his ditched, lovesick assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammerstan) reunite in the movie’s third act centerpiece: an Arkansas cage match where the two begin to make out inside the cage while an angry audience mob reacts with disbelief and, eventually, makeshift hurled weapons. In the film’s epilogue, the reconnected couple embrace domesticity with their adopted baby, and Bruno sings us into the credits with the help of an star-studded, satirical gay rights anthem.
However, when Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles screened the film back in February for a select industry audience, the result of that cage match wasn’t nearly as rosy.
Writer-director Richard Day (Arrested Development, Ellen) was among the industry figures at the screening. In that version, Day tells Movieline, “The cage-match kiss resulted in a violent attack on the couple. They then cut to a press event where they are announcing their marriage or plans to, I forget which. But the boyfriend is now drooling, seemingly brain-damaged, and in a wheelchair, played for laughs.”
Now, Bruno is a comedy, so it’s somewhat understandable that something like a cage-match injury might get played up for laughs in this film. However, especially considering that this film is controversial already because of its (speculated) portrayal of gay life, it’s also easy to see how Bruno’s boyfriend ending up in a wheelchair because he was making out with a guy could be construed as gay bashing (because it sounds like it is gay bashing). And it’s certainly not cool to frame hate crimes as being a laugh riot just because they take place in a comedic film.
The film isn’t out yet, and so it’s hard to know for sure whether or not the original ending portrayed gay bashing, or just bashing. According to The Hot Blog, the Lutz character is beat up because of his his employer, not his sexuality. However, the only two openly gay people at the screening of the original film interpreted the scene as gay bashing, and then the ending was changed, so it seems worth discussing at least.
To add to the discussion, here is a quote from the Movieline piece on the film’s ending by Richard Day:
I don’t know if we’re why they changed it [the ending] but if we are, I regret saying anything. It would have been better to let them expose their true point of view; thanks to us they had a road map of the most egregious offenses and can also claim to have been responsive to our concerns.
Though Day’s position is understandable, it seems that he should be glad if he was the one who convinced the film executives to change the ending. Assuming he is the reason for the change (he claims he was one of only two homosexuals at the original screening and that the two of them were the only people who had a problem with the original, wheelchair-bound conclusion) then his pointing out of the film’s insensitivity to gay issues prevented an offensive ending from being viewed by millions of people. Hooray! Why would he want the executives to keep the offensive ending and “expose their true point of view” if he was in a position to change that point of view?
At any rate, the ending has been changed, though it’s unfortunate that it took an outside audience member to point out that the original ending was inappropriate and upsetting. It doesn’t take an uber-PC genius to figure out that gay bashing just isn’t that funny. Does it?