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Steve Chiotakis: The Austrian media is up in arms over comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest movie. Bruno” follows the adventures of a fictitious gay Austrian fashionista traveling to the United States. Critics say the film damages Austria’s image and could cause economic harm. Kazakhstan was equally outraged over its portrayal in Cohen’s first movie, “Borat.” From the European Desk in London, here’s Stephen Beard:
Bruno: Ah so, I’m Bruno! I’m at Milan Fashion Veek.
Stephen Beard: Baron Cohen has been sashaying around Europe — in character — plugging the movie and dispensing fashion tips:
Bruno: Gordon Brown, I mean that guy needs a total makeover. He needs a fake tan — he just needs to come out. Come on Gordon — click those heels and say hello!
But Bruno is not going down well in the land of his supposed birth. The Austrian media are not amused:
Lisa Trompisch: Some of Sacha Baron Cohen’s statements are not so funny for us. They are not acceptable:
Lisa Trompisch is with the daily newspaper Heute in Vienna. She says Bruno goes beyond a joke, describing Mein Kampf as a “fashion bible,” and Adolf Hitler as “Austria’s black sheep” — portraying the country as Nazi and homophobic:
Trompisch: I think it’s not funny. And I think today we are living in an open-minded, modern Austria and should reject those statements.
Austria’s state broadcaster, ORF, has even suggested that Bruno could damage the economy, deterring tourists and investors.
Robert Jones of the brand consultant Wolf Olins concedes the movie could do some harm:
Robert Jones: There will be a board meeting somewhere in the world that’s considering whether to build a factory in Austria or form an alliance with an Austrian business. And at the backs of those minds — unspoken — will be the thought: “Austria equals Bruno. Let’s go somewhere else.”
But he warns Austria should not follow Kazakhstan’s example and try to sue Cohen. That’ll only boost the movie. The best advice for Austria and for all the people duped into taking part may be to sit back and try to see the funny side of Bruno:
Woman: How did you find your son?
Bruno: I swapped him.
Woman: You swapped the baby?! For what?!
Bruno: For an iPod.
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
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