Prince Gomolvilas

Barbara Walters on "Bruno": "I Don't Like Seeing Closeups of Anal Sex"

Filed By Prince Gomolvilas | July 23, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Barbara Walters, Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen, The View

In the comments section of my hotly debated post on Bruno and Sacha Baron Cohen, I briefly touched on a couple things that I didn't expand on because I didn't have any anecdotal evidence to back them up. I mentioned that the film may put "liberals on guard because it makes them question the limits of their tolerance," and I wondered "how much Bruno's antics also point to America's unease with sex and sexuality in general."

I saw that my cursory commentary on those issues began to evolve into something more concrete when Bilerico contributor Yasmin Nair e-mailed me a link to a video clip of Barbara Walters discussing Bruno with her co-hosts on The View.

In explaining why the sex in the movie so offended her, she didn't bother to talk about, say, the straight swingers party that featured wife-swapping and a buxom dominatrix. She more than once expressed her disgust at gay sex. "I don't need to know how you're doing anal intercourse," she says. And then: "I don't like seeing closeups of anal sex."

Watch (starting from the 1:00 mark):

About this, Yasmin wrote (reprinted here with permission, of course):

To my mind, that's a lot more homophobic than anything Cohen/his characters could come up with. I guess Walters is happy to have gay men be her fashion consultants (I've heard her speak delightedly about that), but can't bear the thought of what they might actually do.

This leads me to two other semi-related issues that are much too complex for one post, but I'll mention them:

  1. If religious fundamentalists weren't so hung up about sex and sexuality in general (regardless of orientation), they wouldn't have nearly an extreme reaction to the gay community that they do. Imagine what a shift in perspective these people would have if, at their core, they felt that fucking was okay.
  2. Straight people are far more obsessed about anal sex than gay men are. And I don't think that's an exaggeration.

Alas, those are additional topics for another time.

To sum up: Relax, folks, it's just sex.

[h/t Queerty]

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To be fair, Bruno's scenes of anal sex were more farcical and scandalous. The sad part is that people actually bought it as a legitimate activity gay men would engage in.

And I agree with what she said, that this is not a movie for children.

What I vehemently disagreed with is her bother that he was making fun of the "little people". No, he was making fun of despicable morons.

I'm just happy she gave the movie a negative review, as I didn't like it at all and find the concept of it tanking to be quite pleasing.

Thanks for your point about sex-hangups. The Woodhull Freedom Foundation works on "sexual freedom" issues broadly, and I agree with you that if Americans were a little more chill about sex among consenting adults our fight for equality would be moving a bit faster. Here's a link to more info on WFF

I remember w/ Brokeback Mountain a lot of critics went all "I'm not homophobic, I just don't like seeing sex in movies. That's why the gay sex is wrong in Brokeback Mountain." Forgetting completely that there was more straight sex in Brokeback Mountain than gay sex....

That little people shit in insanely offensive, but not really out of place for a high journalist like Barbara Walters. They think, wait, make that "know," that they're simply better than everyone else. People who sign releases to have an interview used on video? No, unless they're rich and worldly like Barbara, there's not way they could understand that they might appear on TV or in a movie.

I never knew Barbara Walters was such a snob, but, then again, I don't watch her stuff all that much. But Joy is way awesome.

A. J. Lopp | July 25, 2009 9:49 PM

Alex, I don't think Barbara is the snob you make her out to be --- if she were, I don't think she would have included that story about the affair with the black congressman in her recent autobiography. It would have been easy for her to have left that out and for it to have remained a secret forever. (OTOH, she wouldn't have sold as many books, either.)

My catty remarks about Barbara needing her face blurred out (below) are just punchlines --- she's really cool, IMHO --- not that she cares a whit what a "little people" like me thinks of her.

Glad you posted this.

It's so typical of how we perpetuate sex-phobia and body shame in the US.

Is it any wonder why it's illegal for women to go topless but not men?

Joe Benevides | July 23, 2009 4:41 PM

I don't like close-ups of vaginal sex. Does that make me heterophobic or lesbophobic?

No, but when you use it as a criterion to convince people of not seeing the movie, it is.

Your personal prejudices should not serve as reasons to convince people into not doing X action.

I break in hives within the vicinity of vaginas, but I don't go trying to tell the straight men to lay off the women because vaginas scare me.

Joe Benevides | July 23, 2009 8:51 PM

Oh? I wasn't aware Barb was telling gay men to stop humping. I thought she was expressing her opinion about close-ups of things she's not really into. Just like my opinion about vajayjay close-ups. Please enlighten me as to when she said people should stop with the butt sex based on her own aversion to it.

By the way, not being into a certain body part or form of sexual intercourse is not a personal "prejudice", it's simply a sexual orientation or personal taste, so to speak. The word prejudice would imply that I think less of those who don't share the same sexual proclivities that I do. Let’s be careful about how we start to label others “prejudice” or homophobic based on their sexual tastes.

Please refer to a dictionary for the meaning of prejudice. It has several meanings. Discarding something right off from the bat due to some personal reaction is prejudice; you are the one giving negative connotations to the word.

What Barb was doing is telling people that the movie is bad because it has anal sex. Not vaginal sex, not naked boobs, not violence. Anal sex is what jumped out at her as perturbing from the movie.

So when will heterosexuals admit that anal intercourse can and does occur between them? If there wasn't a scene in Bruno there probably should have been.

I forgot to mention in my post that there are no actual closeups of anal sex in Bruno. There is suggested anal sex that is blurred out. Blurred out--meaning you don't really see anything at all. Throw that into the mix.

A. J. Lopp | July 25, 2009 9:30 PM

I think it is OK for Barbara Walters to say that she doesn't like seeing close-ups of anal sex.

Truth is, as time goes by, I like less and less seeing close-ups of Barbara Walters. The day will come when her face needs to be blurred out.

And if her gay stylists were to refuse to do her hair, you'd better turn the cameras off and go home.

Isa Kocher | July 24, 2009 2:44 AM

frankly i don't want to watch bruno do it to anybody either and the idea that that is something anybody should have to want to watch to be PC enough for bilerico is gobstopping stupid. the very thought of watching bruno stick it to anything is enough to make me puke. does that mean i am not queer enough for you too? ugly people do ugly sex and no one should have to sit through that in the name of comedy. YUCK.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 24, 2009 6:40 AM

I guess if "the little people" were despicable morons I DISLIKE all is well.

Look, this fool Cohen is a satirist. It is what he does for a living. Done within bounds of taste it is no problem. Where I object to this type of product is that it is a hetero guy portraying a "Gay Fashionista" to embarrass people who are often friendly toward our civil rights. He would step on Gay Rights just as easily and with as little conscience about it for a promised laugh.

Welcome to the minstrel show, only LGBT persons are the punch line. No, I have not seen this yet, but the promos are off putting enough.

Joe Benevides | July 24, 2009 1:14 PM

Lucrece: Regardless of all the sub-definitions of "Prejudice", the word has a negative connotation. Ask any English speaker if they view "prejudice" as negative or positive and you know full well the answer you will get.

Regarding Barb: She only states to not take children to see Bruno, and I agree. She clearly states it has some moments she finds funny but she's uncomfortable with the ambush style of his humor and some of the graphic sexual aspects that understandably a woman in her 70s would cringe at. She also stated that people can certainly see it and make up their minds. Nowhere does she state the movie is "bad" nor does she compare anal to vaginal. She simply gave the expected opinion of a seventy-something woman about the type of sex implied in the film. If the sex had been vaginal she still would have said it was not appropriate for children.

Please rest assured that I’m as queer as a four dollar bill, but I have a lot of straight friends and do not judge them for their sexual tastes any more than they judge me for mine. It would be ridiculous for me to point my finger at them and accuse them of homophobia every time they cringed at the thought of anal sex. I would only be opening the door to their accusing me of heterophobia every time I cringed at the thought of vaginal sex. Acceptance works both ways.

Actually, Joe, there's *plenty* of actual "vaginal sex" (not simulated). For instance, Bruno wanders around during a swinger party, and watches couples get it on in proximity to other couples. And there's a scene with a naked, yes, naked dominatrix whipping him into shape.

I'm not complaining about said "vaginal sex" - but it's interesting that Barbara has nothing to say about any of that. She doesn't think it's inappropriate for children. She only takes offense at anal sex. *Simulated* anal sex, I might add. Yes, this clip is a few minutes of a a show featuring four women who often talk a lot and quickly about very little of substance - but Walters' point of focus needs to be noted for what it is.

Again, I don't require that all anal sex be simulated - I'd be fine if it were real as well, but part of the film's point resides exactly in the simulation of anal sex. Which is to say, the simulation - evident in the brilliant scene where Bruno does down on the invisible spirit of one of the Mili Vanili twins - is part of the exposure of society's extreme discomfort with the reality of queer sexuality. You have to watch the scene to know what I mean, and why I think it's brilliant. This is a pretty complex film - to his credit, Cohen, despite anything Universal might claim, has not made a banal
"gay-positive" film. He takes pot shots at, well, everything that we hold sacred about both gay and straight life.

As for her concern about people bringing their kids - um, the movie is R-rated. Why would they take their kids to see it anyway?

Straights like Walters want gay men to know their place - they can serve as her fashion consultants, or be her cool gay accessories, and she can lay claim to a liberal discourse about tolerance by claiming them as her fun friends -- but they can't have sex lives.

Scenes in the same film, of straight people fucking around wildly, running around naked, talking about reverse cowgirl positions and so on? Not even on her radar.

Joe Benevides | July 24, 2009 4:00 PM

Yasmin: You paint huge brush strokes of homophobia across an elderly woman because she failed to mention that she was equally as offended by vaginal sex in Bruno as she was by anal sex?! Yet you stated: "Yes, this clip is a few minutes of a show featuring four women who often talk a lot and quickly about very little of substance".

Accusing an old woman of homophobia because she mentions not wanting to see anal sex but fails to mention the straight stuff only serves to make gay people look as intolerant and judgmental as all the true knuckle-dragging homophobes out there. We need to pick our fights carefully otherwise those we are attempting to influence for positive change will not take us seriously. Let’s concentrate on true hatemongers and leave silly old ladies alone.

Seriously? We can't say she's homophobic because she's old?

I'm not afraid to say that my grandparents were all racist to a certain degree. Yeah, they're old and 3 are dead, and that's why most people would let them off the hook, but it can and should be recognized that they're racist.

If Barbara Walters is too old to not be homophobic, then she shouldn't be on TV. I don't believe it, though, since I know plenty of cool old people, so she should just get over herself.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 30, 2009 8:05 AM

Barbara Walters creds come from a huge body of work over decades interviewing all types of people about virtually anything. This is a passing comment, not a criticism of anyone.

She has made groundbreaking contributions to history, the role of women in media and business, race relations and Gay rights. She is neither racist, sexist or homophobic. She probably would not want to watch anyone's frontal nudity because she is using her frontal lobe instead. See my comment above about minstrel show and satire. This film does not sound as though it is worth $2.00.

Brian A. from Detroit | July 24, 2009 4:09 PM

Barbara Walters, it is time to check into Shady Pines!

Joe Benevides | July 24, 2009 5:06 PM

Alex: I'm stating we should not call someone a homophobe because of something they omit in a statement. She's being attacked for only mentioning anal and not vaginal sex. That’s really taking political correctness to a new low. If she really said something homophobic, I too would call her on it.

The age factor is based on how seventy-something old ladies are going to respond to films like Bruno. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Bruno has no appeal to elderly people whether they are tolerant or intolerant. In reality I thought her criticisms were pretty minor and was expecting much worse.

I really think the gay community will not get any traction and will actually lose respect if we go around accusing Barbara Walters of homophobia based on what she omitted in a statement and her minor criticisms of a gay oriented film that was aimed way below her age group.