According to news reports, there is a good likelihood that on the weekend of July 10 through July 12 you were either watching the wildly violent UFC 100 pay-per-view event or at the movie theaters watching the morally ambiguous comedy Brüno, starring Sasha Baron Cohen of Borat fame. While the first celebrates the lowest common denominator of sports as entertainment, the latter is an unclear comedic exposé on our current culture. Even though these two forms of entertainment are different in audience and content, both are in the mainstream form of pop culture and both seem determined to break the compass of right and wrong.
When we stop to ponder the mainstream success of mixed martial arts in the octagon of the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) and the beer guzzling crowds who screamed for more as fighter Michael Bisping was beaten unconscious in a sweaty pool of blood, we must wonder when we started accepting ruthless violence in mainstream sports. According to The Sun newspaper, as Bisping was knocked out, his opponent, Dan Henderson, continued hitting him, justifying his actions with the statement, “I got that last blow in just to shut him up a little bit.” When did society allow illegal social behavior to be acceptable as long as it is corporately sponsored? I’m pretty sure
if I had beat someone unconscious and stated it was to “shut him up,” I’d be in jail talking to Geraldo Rivera about my childhood experiences.
Now don’t tell me the UFC is like other sports. Other sports monetarily fine such behavior and stop the clock when blood spills. The idea of sport as art is dead in the UFC. In fact, these fighting events are an excuse for drinking, swearing, rowdy behavior and pretty girls smiling in clothes they wouldn’t even wear at the beach. This is no longer a sport but, instead, human cock fighting. But why waste the evening wondering if beating someone ruthlessly is right, while the blood on the mat is still fresh and the beer is still cold?
While the popular pay-per-view event filled America’s television sets, movie theaters were filled with paying patrons desiring to watch the character Brüno take them through a questionable funhouse of swinger parties, obscure sex acts, cruelty to children for the purpose of comedy, and all while mocking homosexuality and those who frown upon it. The ambiguous nature of the comedy has caused outrage across the board, prompting GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) administrator Rashad Robinson to write, “It’s gay people … who will be stuck dealing with the fallout from a film that ultimately affirms some of the attitudes it believes it is trying to demolish.” Robinson gives Mr. Cohen too much credit. I saw the film, and it seems he’s more interested in exploiting stereotypes for shock than anything else.
Besides sexual behavior, Cohen mocks Middle East peace settlements, the military and celebrity humanitarian work. Just as many will argue he’s satirizing the political systems and lifestyles depicted, many others can also argue that he’s just ripping on those who are trying to make our world better. The film seems unsure of its target. It appears to be less about mocking its subjects, and more about mocking those who have opinions about the subjects filmed. If you care about civil rights, children’s rights or human rights, Cohen thinks you are a fool worthy of being made fun of.
Sasha Baron Cohen appears to be bored with valuing right and wrong, and appears to gleefully flip the bird to those who wish to make homosexuality mainstream and to those who wish to maintain more conservative values.
He wants to numb the concept of thinking politically, morally or critically, just as the people at UFC want to numb us to watching violence gone mad. Despite our political differences, the left and the right do want a better world, but have different plans. It appears that Cohen and the UFC want us to back away from right and wrong so that no one will ever stop their circuses of violence and crude exploitation.
The problem with that idea is that a society that does not reflect on what is socially acceptable cannot stay strong, as it will have no compass to maintain the continuation of what it considers decent.