Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bruno, Michael Jackson, and America

I went to see Bruno Friday night. I thought it was hilarious. Obviously, the reviewers have been far less kind than they were to Borat. It lacks the newness of Borat; and you can tell Cohen and co. had a much more difficult time getting usable material. But I thought what they got was pretty hilarious. You have to have a taste for the scatological to appreciate it. The gay sex scene with the exercise equipment was incredible. Ditto the cage match at the end with Celine Dion blasting.

Hollywood and celebrity culture are parodied pretty mercilessly, as is the South’s social conservatism. The scene with the gay conversion pastor was excruciating. It is difficult to think of a more irreverent answer to the question “Will you accept Jesus into your heart” than Bruno’s quip, “Are you hitting on me?” Of course, the assumption by both Cohen and the pastor is that acceptance of Jesus necessitates the eradication of one’s gay orientation. If Cohen had interviewed a pastor who told him Jesus accepts gay people, there would have been no material for the movie.

The assumption made by most is that Sacha Cohen hates America and the South in particular(He wrote a senior thesis at Oxford on the four civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi). But I don’t think you can make that vulgar an assumption about his motives. Sure he’s a satirist, but a popular satirist who clearly enjoys the theater America provides for him. In Hegelian dialectical fashion, he needs America as a place for his own self-definition. Now that this particular brand of satire has exhausted itself, it will be interesting to see what direction his career takes.

I’ve always had the strange premonition that Michael Jackson would die relatively young. His whole way of life seemed so unsustainable; this continual spiraling out of control. He may indeed have had Vitiligo and bleached his skin to make the coloring more uniform. Clearly he was addicted to plastic surgery at an irrational level; and there were no shortage of unethical butchers in Hollywood always willing to slice into his face and nose yet again.

When I look at pics and videos from the Off the Wall/Thriller days I’m struck by how downright beautiful he was. I’m heterosexual but I can’t think of a better adjective than that. Before Michael Jordan, Oprah, and Barack Obama, he was an Afro-American who stepped into an untouchable stratosphere. From there his personal demons just got the better of him. I don’t think he molested kids; he just wanted sleepovers with them out of a simple need to escape from his abusive and unreal childhood. Child molesters typically don’t give interviews where they speak glowingly of their sleepovers with children. Or maybe he was just that divorced from reality. Who knows.

He defines the tragedy of America’s pop cultural decadence. He was one of the greatest dancers and stage performers of the century. But one wonders if the unnatural state he had to exist in ultimately finished him. I don’t doubt this existence was difficult, but as a creature with free will he does bear responsibility for the life he chose. I hope he’s in a better place now. Undoubtedly the music was fabulous and will live on. I even have a fondness for Bad and Dangerous.

1 comment:

Sarah C. said...

"Clearly he was addicted to plastic surgery at an irrational level"

What would you define as a rational level of addiction to plastic surgery, Bert? I know you had those calf implants a couple of years ago. Are you going for the tummy tuck next?