So who's laughing?

When I saw the supplement to yesterday's newspaper, I was taken by surprise.


I thought maybe a local gay periodical had been dropped on my porch, and I didn't remember subscribing to anything like that, so naturally I had to pick it up to investigate.

It turned out it was just a Detroit Free Press film review of "Bruno" the homophobia exploitation film that's making waves and -- so far as I can tell from reviews like this (although I haven't seen it) -- deliberately calculated to offend nearly everybody.

The problem with me is that I have a dark sense of humor, and I laugh at the sort of comedy that I wouldn't engage in personally, and that a lot of people find offensive. (Howard Stern is a perfect example.) I laughed my head off at the last Borat film I watched, even though I recognized that he had deliberately exploited nice people -- some of whose only real crime was showing hospitality to a man they thought was a clueless Kazakh -- when he made it.

As I read more about Bruno, I thought the deliberate exploitation of this cure-the-homos practitioner looked funny, until I realized that if I said so in my blog, I might appear to be laughing at people's "religion." There are more of Bruno victims detailed here, and I don't know whether it would have been insensitive of me to place the word "victims" in quotes.... But OTOH, is this supposed to be comedy or is it serious? (Like "serious" "journalism," perhaps?)

Are there some things that cannot be made fun of?

[Here I think I should note that Bruno's victims include Ron Paul, who is not amused.]

I mean, it would seem OK to laugh at the GodHatesFags people, but when an individual minister who believes in religious cures for homosexuality is held up for ridicule, a lot of people would say that crosses a certain line. What that line is, I don't know. Certainly, religious cures for homosexuality are not a universally agreed upon element of the Christian faith, so is it really honest to maintain that mocking them constitutes an attack on Christianity itself? I think such debates are generally hopeless because of unshared premises. What I especially don't like is the idea that some disagreements should enjoy special protection as religious speech. (An idea I find nearly as odious as the idea that they are "hate speech.")

I realize that others disagree, but my observations suffer when they are treated as invitations for arguments, with people reading in assumptions and premises (see Sean Kinsell's post here) which make it easier for their "side" -- such as the idea that I am "anti-Christian" because I disagree with their particular religious views, or anti-conservative because I disagree with their view of conservatism. Arguments cannot be won, and I am not trying to win any arguments here.

So I don't know whether I should see this film, whether I should laugh if I think it's funny, and whether I should admit to laughing at it in my blog if I do.

MORE: The gay activist group GLAAD is upset about Bruno (as is the HRC) and has issued the usual demands.


Maybe they can team up with the American Family Association and announce a joint boycott. (I'm sure the Sacha Cohen people could arrange a way to pay them under the table....)

posted by Eric on 07.10.09 at 11:51 AM


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