Bruce LaBruce’s forthcoming porno, Otto, or: Up with Dead People, promises new forms of transgression. Just what we expect! But what I didn’t expect was the stunning iconography of the movie’s still photos, depicting a handsome, grey-faced, affectless zombie, dressed in high-fashion hoodies and hiding in plain sight amid flowers and shrubbery.
The Facebook invitation to a Toronto launch party–cum-screening for Otto includes a photo gallery. I was looking forward to seeing even more pictures, since the whole campaign is superb. But dead centre in the gallery I saw a thumbnail of our hoodied zombie and thought exactly the following: “Is he holding what I think he’s holding?” I made the mistake of enlarging the picture.
Yes, zombie Otto is standing there holding a dead bunny.
Here’s a proposition for you: Nobody has the right to use a dead animal in gay porn.
LaBruce explained the provenance of the bunny on his (unpermalinked) blog:
The art department has procured a huge dead rabbit for the scene in which Otto chows down on some roadkill. I feel guilty about the rabbit, so I ask if we can at least eat it at the end of the day – roadkill gourmet – but the art director informs me that it’s already been sitting out in the sun too long. Well, I tried….
The art director stuffs the gutted rabbit with cleaned pig intestines and sashimi tuna coated with strawberry sauce, which Otto has to eat. What next, waterboarding?
Indeed, what next?
I E-mailed LaBruce “on the Facebook” to find out if that really was a dead bunny. After he eventually figured out what I stated up front (that I was writing a blog post), he replied:
As I’ve talked about in a number of interviews already, the animal in question is a hare that we purchased at a farmer’s market in Berlin, where hares are eaten as commonly as foul. So the use of the hare is no different than using, say, a turkey in a Thanksgiving scene in a movie.
In fact, I wanted to see if we could eat the hare at the end of the day’s shoot, but the carcass was left out in the sun for too long and it was inebible.
I hope that answers your question.
Here’s another question: Can you show me the contract the hare signed in order to act in the picture? I thought porn was all about consenting adults. A dead bunny is neither.
Of course I don’t buy the argument that Germans eat hare so it was all right to kill that one. Nor that it would have been better to have eaten the thing after the shoot wrapped up. (It didn’t happen, so it didn’t improve things, either.) Nor that “a Thanksgiving scene in a movie” requires a dead turkey.
Do you buy the argument that it was OK to use a dead rabbit in a gay-porno video? Thought not.
I read your blog post and I must say I resent the fact that you have characterized my movie Otto; or, Up with Dead People as a "gay-porn video." If you had the opportunity to watch the movie you would understand that it is an art film that is very much about consumerism, the aversion to consuming flesh and meat, and the way that pornography and the popular media package sex and body parts as so much meat. There is a scene in the movie in which the zombie actually visits a meat processing plant and eats raw chicken as the workers in the plant debone the chicken parts behind him. Should I not have included that scene as well? The zombie in the film, it is revealed, was a vegetarian when he was alive, and his aversion to eating human flesh is one of the central metaphors of the narrative. You are certainly entitled to your opinion about whether or not the dead rabbit should have been used in the film - although I still argue it's no different from using a real dead turkey on the table in a thanksgiving scene - but to try to characterize my movie as a "gay-porn video" in order to imply that the rabbit was used in some sort of salacious or sexualized way, is totally unfair and a gross mischaracterization of the work. Furthermore, had we not used the hare in question in the movie it would have ended up on someone's dinner plate anyway (as that is what it was being sold for at the market), so I really think you should put it in a less histrionic perspective. I take my work seriously, and I have to say that out of the hundreds of audiences I have shown the film to so far, no one has suggested that this scene had a prurient or frivolous intent. Thank you for your attention.
I should have also told him that I was born on a farm below the poverty line and my father was a hunter and trapper and he killed animals for fur and meat as part of the income he used to raise his family. He hunted to put meat on the table. I was raised seeing animals being killed all the time as part of the natural cycle of life and death. At nights riding home with my father in the family car he would sometimes swerve to hit a racoon or a rabbit. He would stop the car and throw the fresh road kill in the trunk. If the pelt wasn't too damaged he would skin it and stretch the fur and cure it and send it to Hudson's Bay Company just as he would if he had hunted it with a gun or trapped it. That's just the way he was raised to make a living. So obviously I have a completely different perspective when it comes to animals, road kill, and what is and isn't proper or moral. Some of my siblings ended up being vegetarians. I was a vegetarian for three years starting when I was eighteen but I gave it up when I started having dreams about being chased by hamburgers.
Incidentally, I wonder if these guys have seen the British TV show "The Road Kill Gourmet", in which a chef goes around the country looking for fresh road kill, cooks it up gourmet-style on the spot, and eats it.
Anyway, I'm posting the trailers in question here in case you haven't seen them.