Is there a difference between the stereotypes in Bruno and Transformers 2?
The latest flap along those lines involve two of summer's most anticipated movies: Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno and the whiz-band action film Transformers 2.
Some critics have already taken aim at Bruno, denouncing Cohen's in-your-face mockumentary centered on a cartoonishly effeminate and hyper-sexual fashionista as a gay minstrel show.
Writing in Salon, David Rakoff provides a typically caustic review, calling the Bruno character "an open hydrant of empty, venal ignorance" and denouncing the film as "bad for gays" over its too-broad attempts to provoke homophobic reactions from unsuspecting people.
Other critics have lodged similar complaints against Transformers 2, noting that two new robot characters, Skids and Mudflap, talk in a patios normally associated with young black people and are mostly ineffective, foul-mouthed characters used almost entirely for comedic effect.
Director Michael Bay shrugged off the criticism, saying ""We're just putting more personality in. I don't know if it's stereotypes — they are robots, by the way. These are the voice actors. This is kind of the direction they were taking the characters and we went with it."
Which raises an interesting question: When is such stuff considered stereotypical?
When Tracy Morgan voices a jive-talking hamster in the new animated movie G-force, is that a stereotype, or Morgan just doing what he does? Does that verdict change when you watch the commercials, where his character struts in front of the camera like he's doing a modern-day pimp walk?
I'll be discussing these ideas at about 9:30 a.m. this morning, appearing on National Public Radio's Tell Me More. My verdict, as someone who has seen Transformers but not Bruno: It seems tough to lay the stereotype label on Bruno, which is specifically crafted to pile on all those gay stereotypes in one character to satirize how we all react to them.
That's a lot different than creating two stereotypical fictional characters -- like Star Wars' Jar-Jar Binks -- purely for comic relief in a movie focused on a totally different subject.
In this game, I think, you get points for intent. Tune in at 9:30 and see if anybody else agrees with me.