Okay, I realize the MTV Movie Awards were Sunday and it is now Tuesday morning, but I thought I would still comment on the incident involving Eminem and Sacha Baron Cohen.
There are probably quite a few of you too cool to watch MTV (and considering how MTV has gone downhill over the past decade, I salute you in your coolness), so you probably missed the awards show. Nothing of much substance happened. The abysmal Twilight won five awards, proving the teeny-boppers all across the globe will defend that movie’s greatness to the grave (I realize I am kind of beating a dead horse with this one, but Twilight is really, really, really not good). The cinematic masterpiece known as High School Musical 3: Senior Year also took home two awards, and thank God for that. But the awards themselves weren’t of much consequence (they never are with this ceremony anyway); what really left its mark was what happened between Sacha Baron Cohen, promoting his new film Bruno, and the forever disgruntled white rapper, Eminem.
In presenting the best male performance award, Cohen suspended himself on a wire above the audience. Control seemed to be lost, Cohen fell to the ground, and landed with his face right in the crotch of Eminem, which left his crotch and rear end uncomfortably close to the white rapper’s face. If you want to see this practical joke/train wreck play out, check it out here.
Why would I share something that is already a day old and probably gone from the limelight? Because it gives me an opportunity to lay into Sacha Baron Cohen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an Eminem fan (although I will say that I liked 8 Mile quite a bit and the song from it that won an Oscar, “Lose Yourself”). I’m all for letting his homophobic ass have it at every turn. Aside from seeming like a stupid, intolerant individual, I don’t respect his brand of music or his behavior much at all.
But I have to say, Sacha Baron Cohen is starting to fall into the same category for me. I thought Borat was fleetingly funny, but by no means worthy of the kind of awe-inspired recognition it recieved. Bruno looks like it will be the exact same movie with the same agenda: to expose the idiocy and hypocrisy of American culture at every turn. I’m fine with lampooning the finer idiotic points of American culture, God knows they exist. But it is hard to look at Cohen and have much respect when it comes to this particular incident with Eminem.
I know as well as anyone else that if your movie is subtly attacking the intolerant nature of homophobia, and you want to go after one of the biggest homophobes in our culture, you could find few more prominently placed than Eminem. But Eminem’s moment of cultural supremacy has ended. He is still a prominent figure, but he is no longer the zeitgeist setting icon that he was ten or so years ago. Eminem is still around, still somewhat popular, but perpetrating an act like this against him isn’t going to get the headlines that it once did nor is it going to create as much of a shockwave. The incident itself was just a silly thing to perpetrate. I understand that it is public attempt at satire, but it is hard for me to look at it and not see Cohen desperately trying to garner attention and controversy for the release of his new film which, based on what I have seen thus far, doesn’t say much that Borat hasn’t already said.
Looking at Cohen, it’s hard to have much respect for him. Sure he is a disruptive, anarchic comedian whose agenda is to lampoon what he sees as a hateful nation, but isn’t he perpetuating some of the same hatred? In Borat, there were plenty of scenes where he happened upon average, everyday Americans and sought to torment and humiliate them. They didn’t seem particularly intolerant nor were they perpetrating racist acts. They were normal Americans living their lives and Cohen saw fit to exploit them for comedic gain. I don’t know what he thinks he is accomplishing by walking into a fast food resturaunt and acting really gay or asking a driving instructor if he will be his boyfriend, but he’s not achieving any greater political or social purpose. He is merely exposing that people don’t really like self-important comedians who wander into a mundane situation and act really weird in order to provoke a reaction.
Maybe what I don’t like about Cohen is the bed of resentment and hostility that he seems to harbor toward American culture. There is no benevolence underneath the exterior of his characters’ goofiness. I’m not saying that there has to be or even should be, but that his brand of comedy to me communicates a disdain for his audience. He wants to profit by people that he completely despises. Incidents like the one at the MTV Movie Awards only exist to grant him more attention. I realize that I am granting him this attention right now by even referencing the incident, but it seems like people have been far to kind to Cohen thus far and haven’t said the obvious thing: that he perpetuates a brand of comedy that is hateful and resentful, and we shouldn’t dignify it with our attention.
Oh, and Cohen stole the moment from the adorable Zac Efron. Now that is truly unforgivable. If this kid is going to have his fifteen minutes of fame, then we should give him all fifteen.