In the aftermath of the Sacha Baron Cohen and Eminem stunt at the MTV Movie Awards, all the Internet was abuzz over what was real and what wasn’t.
Which is probably just how everyone involved wants it to be.
In case you weren’t watching Sunday night, Baron Cohen crash landed on top of the rapper Eminem in a sketch guided by seemingly divine intervention.
The comedian, appearing in character as gay fashionista Bruno, was suspended by a harness above the audience, dressed as an angel. As he was pulled closer to the stage, his flight was interrupted by a set of speakers.
Captain Sully he is not. Baron Cohen slowly nose-dived on the rapper, with his groin positioned right on Eminem’s face and his bare butt in the air.
“Is the real Slim Shady about to stand up?” chirped Baron Cohen, the perfect line at the ready.
Apparently not amused, Eminem told his entourage — with expletives — to remove Baron Cohen from his lap. He then promptly stormed out of the theater in an exit that appeared captured especially well by cameras and microphones.
It was particularly ironic since Eminem, fairly or not, is considered by many to be homophobic. And at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, he proved his sometimes lacking sense of humor during an interview with a puppet: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
But was his apparent disgust over the close encounter with Baron Cohen genuine, or part of an elaborate stunt?
On Monday, nobody was inclined to dispel the mystery.
Publicists for Eminem didn’t return messages. Baron Cohen’s spokesman said the comedian had no comment. MTV didn’t respond to messages, but saw fit to feature the moment prominently on its home page.
That left viewers and fans to debate whether Eminem was in on the joke. Usually, when there’s any doubt if something was staged by MTV, it was: Just last year, Seth Rogen and James Franco pulled a smokescreen of a stunt when they took the Movie Awards presenters’ podium with a big bag of what appeared to be marijuana and a joint. Franco later said that the network put them up to the gag, even supplying the script and the props.
Award show veteran Ryan Seacrest, for one, speculated on his Twitter feed that Eminem must have known, but perhaps didn’t expect such proximity to Baron Cohen’s bare bottom.
We have been here before: Baron Cohen specializes in comedy that turns reality on its head. His last film, “Borat,” was a cultural phenomenon partially because of the buzz his antics created — not to mention the resulting lawsuits from some of its unwitting participants.
His performance Sunday — and the resulting chatter — surely raised the profile of his upcoming film, “Bruno,” which comes out in mid-July. (We should all get ready for a steady diet of quandaries over what is and isn’t real in the film.)
Similarly, Eminem has a new album out (“Relapse”) that sold 608,000 copies in its first week of release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. At times Tuesday, Eminem was one of the most searched topics on Twitter, ranking above both the MTV Awards itself, and the night’s big winner, the teen vampire film “Twilight.”
MTV, for its part, would likely be ecstatic. Their award shows have long been famous for their unexpected stunts but in recent years have struggled to find a true water-cooler moment.
Howard Bragman, veteran Hollywood publicist and author of “Where’s My Fifteen,” was skeptical Eminem was in on the joke and doubted he benefited from the attention. He urged the rapper to “lighten up a little.”
“When my clients go to something like that or go on ‘The Howard Stern Show’ or certain places that you know are going to be a little outrageous, you have to go with the right spirit,” said Bragman. “Generally, you’re perceived better if you laugh along with the joke.”