Sunday, November 19, 2006

We can learn a lot from Borat

Europeans have held a fascination with our country ever since the American Revolution. French aristocrat and social critic Alexis de Tocqueville traveled the United States in the 1830s to study this relatively new nation and its people. His resulting work Democracy in America is still one of the most cited books in the American media. De Tocqueville’s effort has been duplicated by his own countrymen; first by philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir )America Day by Day ) and more recently by philopher and self-appointed American expert, Bernard-Henri Levy's American Vertigo: In the footsteps of de Tocqueville.

Sascha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G, Borat, and Bruno) is certainly no philosopher , but his latest movie Borat should make us take a really long look in the mirror at ourselves. The film is shot in “man in the street” style with Cohen posing as Borat an offensive and racist journalist from Kazakhstan. The film audience is treated to interviews with Americans who either actively or passively participate in the character Borat’s racist comments. The footage is largely from the southern red state region and viewers are treated to suggestions on what to do with homosexuals, college frat boys upset over the fact that we no longer have slaves, and helpful hints on which gun might be best to kill jews.

Borat is a catalyst for a lot of racism in the film. The character’s anti-semitism (Cohen is Jewish) is a recurring theme throughout the movie. While not all of the people he encounters participate in the racism none of them challenge his views. There could be many explanations for this, but most likely they are being polite and non-conforntational (and of course editing the hundreds of hours of video). Nevertheless, the movie sheds some uncomfortable light onto American bigotry and Borat is able to bring that racism out of the parlor and onto the street.

Recommended reading: This Purdue Phd candidate took her class to see the film.



Blogger Danny (the karate guy) said...

Isn't it a shame how much hatred still exists in our country? Although, as you state, their is no one in the movie shown challanging his comments, I did explain a view of acceptance on his HBO show. I think showing someone behaving appropriately would not make good mockumentary material.
What do you think?
You can read my comments and see the clip at

November 19, 2006  
Blogger Timmy said...

I have to see this!

November 20, 2006  
Blogger Nölff said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I know the frat boys are from here in SC. I saw them on the news.

November 20, 2006  
Blogger torporindy said...

Yeah, they were from University of South Carolina. One of the guys is wearing his COCKS hat in the movie.

November 20, 2006  
Blogger Jim said...

I'm a huge fan of Da Ali G Show, so I went to go see this on opening night. Perhaps I just have a crude sense of humor, but it amazes me when I hear people criticize this movie because it's "ambush" comedy. I know that people in the movie didn't realize that Cohen was playing a character. But what is so bad about duping bigots and cutting through the ridiculously stuffy facades that people put on?

November 21, 2006  
Blogger torporindy said...

Jim, there is nothing wrong at all with it. I liked the piece written by blog alice where she took her college class to see the film. It was interesting to see which parts offended some, but not others.

November 21, 2006  
Anonymous Beezer said...

Sorry to disagree, but 'Borat' was the worst film I've ever seen! Seriously. I have a great sense of humor, but this movie simply crossed the line.

Wasted $8 to watch my country and my gender totally disrespected. The constant onslaught of bathroom antics, references to masterbation and perverted sexual humor was downright nauseating.

All the crassness is now being excused because Sacha Baron Cohen was supposedly "making a deep statement about society"? If Sacha had some deep socio-political message, it could have been wrapped in a more intelligent package.
Any 6th grader with a dirty mind could have made this film.

Perhaps Sacha's biggest statement of all is to make a totally crappy movie, disrespecting several ethnic groups and Americans nominate it for an Academy Award?

Jokes on us, folks!

November 22, 2006  
Anonymous Clarence said...

I can attest that Beezer does indeed have a "great" sense of humor- one of the best I've ever come across. Seriously.

November 29, 2006  

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