‘Thinking outside the Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’

Ich bin Brüno!Brüno, the latest work by British comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen, has just achieved the highest-grossing opening weekend for an 18-certificate (i.e. adult-rated) film in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

This ‘mockumentary’ revolves around the reactions of various celebrities and members of the public to Baron-Cohen’s portrayal of the eponymous flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista. Since those involved believed they were dealing with a genuine rather than fictional character, their responses to his outrageously exaggerated portrayal of stereotypical homosexuality provide a satirical comment on the prejudice and hypocrisy present within a supposedly enlightened modern society.

Extreme reactions provoked by the filming led to Baron-Cohen being both threatened with assault and arrested multiple times, as well as facing subsequent legal action. This mirrors the response to his previous controversial film of the same format, in which he played ‘Kazhakhstani’ Borat. Not only did this similarly result in legal action, but the ensuing furore culminated in an international diplomatic incident.

Whilst such films may claim to provide a revealing insight into homophobia, anti-semitism, and the like, they also raise uncomfortable questions for the audience themselves. For example, it is debatable as to whether they are truly viewed by all cinema-goers as a sophisticated piece of social commentary, or whether they simply allow the ‘politically correct’ an opportunity to laugh at otherwise unacceptable stereotypes.

In terms of their technical approach, many of the humorous scenarios featured within these films echo the ‘breach studies’ of ethnomethodologist Garfinkel, which examined the responses of unsuspecting participants to deliberate violations of social norms.

In a further psychological link, Sacha Baron-Cohen is the cousin of Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge.

(And in case you were wondering, ‘Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’ is German for ‘speed-limit’!)

Square-eyeBrüno’s official MySpace page

Square-eyeFilm review from the Guardian

Square-eye£1.99 - smallSmith, J. R. & Louis, W. R. (2009). Group Norms and the Attitude–Behaviour Relationship

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One response to “‘Thinking outside the Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’

  1. I’m blond. I laugh with jokes of blonds. I don’t have any problem with that. Because I know that people don’t agree with the statement (if they are honestly): blonds are stupid.

    I’m a lesbian too. I know that a lot (!!!) of people think that gay people are inferior. I had and have to deal with that. So I find it difficult to laugh with jokes about gay people. Because I know most of the gay people are having a really bad time especially when they ‘discover’ their gayness. Their friends or family can be really cruel when they discover… I can’t laugh with the jokes because I also know (!!) that a lot of people are convinced that gay people are immoral or inferior… And they like it when they can show, once again, their superiority, by pulling down a homosexual. So why would I like it, when they do that, or if I’m not sure they don’t mean it?
    If the joke is told by a gay or a lesbian, that’s different for me. Because I know then for sure that the person really believes it’s a joke. And, yes, then I can laugh with it! The same if the joke is told by a friend or so.

    If you’re a muslim, you probably won’t laugh with jokes of muslims, when they are told by Western people. Why? Because too many Western people think they’re superior in front of Muslims. When 2 Muslim guys tell such jokes to each other, I think that’s different.

    And like I already said, I have no problem with jokes of Blonds, or jokes about my nationality or…. Because these jokes are really jokes, they never meant to hurt. Because, in many facts, they are ‘against’ their own people. They’re innocent.
    Joking about a minority that still has to deal with a lot of prejudices, discrimination and, yes, laughing in the face of them, is confronting them with the pain and the would- be superiority of the other. I think some have to be a minority to really understand it.

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