Saturday, November 11, 2006

Defending Borat

I want to come to the defense of the new film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. I will defend and then say why I don’t intend to see it.

First the film has raised the ire of Kazakhstan itself. And is actually banned in Russia because of this. The assumption is that the comedian Sasha Baron Cohen is ridiculing Kazakhstan. Now I’ve seen quite a few clips here and I don’t think he is doing that at all.

The real target of his comedic actions are the American people. Cohen has created a character so absurd and ridiculous that he defies belief. Yet there are people who believe. I dare not even call Borat a stereotype as there is no stereotype that I know of what someone from Kazakhstan would be like. That people would actually fall for the charade is what is absurd.

I have little doubt that if I were from Kazakhstan that I would find the character offensive. That so many Americans were simply willing to believe the character shows how utterly inward-looking most Americans tend to be. They simply don’t know much about the rest of the world. And that ignorance means that a comedian can pretend to be from another country and completely fool lots of people. The joke is not on Kazakhstan at all but on the American people.

I suspect that many people enjoying the Cohen brand of humor simply aren’t getting it.

For decades Americans watched and enjoyed Allen Funt’s Candid Camera show. Funt would put people in odd situations and film how they reacted. It was often quite amusing. Cohen does a similar thing but instead he puts Americans in a cultural candid camera. He presents a character that is unbelievable and then shows how people, not knowing any better, find it believable. The real point seems to be how far can Cohen go before people realize that this is entirely fake. And in some circumstances he seemed to be able to go a very far way without the targets of his humor figuring out that they were just being stupid.

Kazakhstan really ought to be offended by the film. But if the American public actually figured out who was the real target of Cohen’s humor they might be.

Next we have two stupid frat boys suing the company that produced the film. The two dunces in question are shown making racist remarks and sexist remarks. They are suing because they claim they were told the film would never be shown in America and that their remarks are embarrassing to them. Their paid hack, the attorney, says the film them “objects of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress.” The film did that!

I’ve read the papers they filed in court. They claim: “Believing the film would not be viewed in the United States and at the encouragement of DEFENDANTS, PLAINTIFFS engaged in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in.” See they were only racist for European consumption not for American consumption. They don’t mind making racist comments that are seen in Europe they just don’t want their racism exposed in the United States.

They weren’t handed a script and told to read the lines written for them. The trash they spoke came right out of their own heads. They admit they signed releases but claim they were told it had to do with liability issues. So? Didn’t they bother to read what they were signing? And they claim they were drunk when they signed the release anyway.

Isn’t that also their own problem? Why do drunks always think that being drunk is excuse for anything they do while drunk. Here is a clue frat boys. If you don’t want to do stupid things when drunk don’t get drunk!

Now if these morons had films showing them being dragged into a bar by the film crew and tied down as drink after drink is forcibly poured down their unwilling throats I might accept their whining. They can claim they are victims but I don’t buy it. And my experience is that most people who are assholes when drunk are assholes when sober. I have a hard time believing they were tricked into being racist.

I can understand their concern. After all they may want to grow up some day and become the Republican senator from Virginia. Don’t worry boys. You’re off to a good start.

Now some of the bigots in Borat were quite happy to be outed as bigots. They are proud of their bigotry. In the rodeo scene, filmed in Virginia Borat meets the producer of the rodeo with his “traditional” greeting of kissing the man. This shocks the producer of the rodeo, Bobby Rowe. (Me, I’m shocked by any grown man who still calls himself Bobby.) When Borat goes to kiss the man he says not to do that since he might be mistaken for being gay.

Borat’s reply is the classic move to get Rowe to express his views. Borat says: “We hang homosexuals in my country.” Rowe replies: “That’s what we’re trying to do here.” Rowe doesn’t disavow the comments and when asked about them went into another antigay tirade. Doesn’t he realize that if he claims he was drunk he can file a big law suit?

Why won’t I see the film? I’ve seen more than enough via the internet actually. I just don’t find this kind of humor funny enough to watch more than a few minutes of it at a time. I might be able to endure five minutes of this kind of set up on a weekly basis but please don’t subject me to anything longer in one sitting. Even some of the clips which I saw were just too long and while I got a mild chuckle out of them I just find the stupidity of the American public depressing.

I guess it has something to do with the fact that these are people who vote in candidates who then take it upon themselves to make war. Sure sometimes that is necessary. But I just think people shouldn’t be electing leaders to invade countries if they know nothing about the country. If it were up to me no military incursion by the US would be allowed unless a completely random sampling of voters showed that most of the could find said country on a map.

This, to me is the real story of the Borat story. It is that lack of knowledge about anything outside the United States that is the object of ridicule here. I do not like he fact that around the world that people with a mentality from the Dark Ages have control of dangerous weapons. And for the same reason I get little comfort from the fact that the American people elect the most powerful man in the world. It scares me when people so uninformed have this sort of ability.