question of the day: Should Universal reedit ‘Bruno’ to remove the LaToya Jackson/Michael Jackson bit?

I was away from the TV for most of the day yesterday, between work stuff and a screening in the evening and dinner out afterward and a long subway ride home, so I managed to miss the TV news hysteria over Michael Jackson’s death. Now, though, I’m watching last night’s Keith Olbermann on my DVR, and he spoke to Carlos Diaz, a “correspondent” for the entertainment show Extra, who suggested that perhaps Universal should consider editing a particular scene in its upcoming movie Bruno.

Of course, hardly anyone has seen Bruno yet — I saw it earlier this week, and Diaz said he had seen the night before — which makes it hard to talk about in any meaningful way without spoiling it for you all. But the gist of it is this: Bruno, who is trying to become famous in America, is in Los Angeles filming interviews for what he hopes will be a new TV show, and he gets LaToya Jackson to talk to him on camera. In typical Sacha Baron Cohen way, he humiliates her in ways that she doesn’t even realize she’s being humiliated, and some ways that she does catch on to. Some of that has to do with her brother Michael. Michael does not appear in the film at all, but certainly there’s a spirit of poking fun at the most outré aspects of his celebrity.
Diaz was suggesting on Olbermann that all this should be excised, and that with two weeks left before the film is released, there’s certainly time to do that.

I’m generally anti-self-censorship, and I’m inclined to say that the film should be left alone. But I can appreciate that it could be disastrous for the film, especially with people reacting like this to the news of Jackson’s death:

I imagined, before its release, that Borat would have limited appeal, but it made $128 million in North America. If Universal has any hopes that Bruno will do similar business, they’ve gotta be feeling intense pressure to do whatever they can to limit any bad mojo.

The only thing I am sure of: Sacha Baron Cohen and Bruno director Larry Charles are today moaning about the awesome, terrible power of coincidence.

What do you think? Should Universal reedit Bruno to remove the LaToya Jackson/Michael Jackson bit?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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Fri, Jun 26, 2009 12:49pm

That is actually a tough question there MaryAnn. On one hand, I agree with you on your stance of censor ship. On the other hand, despite the problems MJ had over the past several years with weirdness and court battles etc… it’s always a touchy subject when real life intervines. However, it’s not as if the media was any lax in giving attention to whatever MJ was up to on a moment by moment difference. MJ’s pain was there gain, and they have shown time and time again that they will run anybody under a bus for ratings. So, why should this movie be any different? It shouldn’t. It should have the guts to continue with it’s main purpose – which I’m assuming is to make fun of celebrity status – that so many movies don’t follow through anymore.

This is sorta like when Reagon died, and suddenly no one had a damn bad thing to say about the guy. I feel much the same about his death than I do MJ’s (though, MJ’s death is much more ‘personal’ I will admit) – honor him for his contributions to music & dance, but don’t ignore history either.

So in short, I don’t think they should cut it out. After all, MJ himself has been noted as saying that all press is good press.

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 2:07pm

Whilst most people won’t see it this way, Bruno was made long before he died so it’s not like they are making fun of his death, they are just making fun of him. Would it be as offensive if he was still alive?

If SBC wants to edit it out, I’m fine with it. It’s his work, it’s his choice. But if he’s pressured into it then it’s wrong.

And when you consider that this is a film that’s not supposed to pull any punches, it would seem contrary to the whole point of the film itself if the joke was cut, even if SBC does it himself.

And as Matt Stone and Trey Parker said once, if you say you won’t make fun of something, suddenly everything else you’ve done is offensive.

It might hurt the film’s profits but SBC has to make a choice; what’s more important? Money or integrity.

bats :[
Fri, Jun 26, 2009 3:00pm

I think in the long run, inclusion of something like this might “harm” the film by dating it/making it seem obsolete (not that other elements in it might not lead to a similar result).

I still can’t help but think whenever I see a movie or television show featuring the NY skyline with the World Trade towers among the other buildings (yes, even the intro to the animated series “The Critic”), “Wow, this was made longer ago than I thought.”

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 3:29pm

Considering how unbelievably NOT funny this movie looks, I really don’t care all that much. I’d say go ahead and excise the material. Probably won’t affect the film much any way.

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 5:47pm

Well, I’m strongly against censorship myself, but I have to say that in this case I’m not sure the word applies. A person just died that meant a lot to a lot of people, and obviously, his family is heart-broken right now, so what’s wrong with not making jokes about that person right now?

From SBC’s side, I wouldn’t call that censorship, I would simply call it being considerate.

And in terms of ‘art’, ‘social importance’ and ‘statement’, I seriously doubt we would lose all THAT much if they excised a scene of mocking LaToya and making some potshots at Michael. Frankly it strikes me at a little too easy and passe to begin with.

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 5:53pm

Short answer; no.

Long answer; coincedence blah blah blah everybody’s made fun of him at least once in their lives blah blah blah people too sensitive these days blah blah blah nobody’s gonna enter the screening of Bruno expecting tasteful and considerate humour blah blah blah………..

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Fri, Jun 26, 2009 8:35pm

Baron Cohen handles subtle twists of meaning with extraordinary deftness sometimes. If the studio gives him the decision, he may well figure a way out of this that lets him have his cake and eat it too.

They might announce a quick edit of the theatrical release had been made, out of sensitivity to the pain and shock everybody seems to be experiencing right now. But you can bet the controversial bit would be saved for an “uncensored director’s cut” version of the DVD, and feature prominently in the product’s promotional campaign when the time comes.

It’ll be interesting to see how events actually unfold.

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 9:31pm

It’s SBC’s film, and if he decides to edit the Jackson sequence for the film’s release (and presumably restore it on the DVD) under the idea that it’s “Too soon!”, I wouldn’t fault him for it.

On the other hand, if he left it in, I wouldn’t blame him or considering him “heartless” or whatever. He really is most likely making fun of the weird fishbowl of celebrity more than the man himself, anyway.

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 9:47pm

No. The overreacting has to stop at some point. Viewers can handle themselves- considering it’s a SBC movie I wouldn’t exactly worry about sensitive feelings.

Sat, Jun 27, 2009 9:35pm

Well, they cut it. Interesting decision.