Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Cultural Learnings of Borat
Yesterday I went to see “Borat,” the film by Sacha Baron Cohen that has caused a bit (but only a bit) of controversy, whilst rocketing to the top of the film charts here and in the USA. The film had the most homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynistic script I have ever heard, and yet it didn’t offend anyone in the audience. The reason was of course, that Borat’s “cultural learnings of America” were entirely spoofed, and the laughter (of which there was a lot) was at the bigots portrayed, and bigotism in general, rather than with them.
“Borat” is a fictional Kazakh reporter, who interviews unsuspecting Americans, attempting to get them to agree to his warped view of the world (it is customary in his fictionalised version of Kazakhstan to kill Gypsies, hate Jews, and treat women badly because they have “brains the size of squirrels’.”). Either that or he attempts to adapt to the American way of life, but singularly fails to move away from his Kazakh sensibilities, and ends up offending and confusing his hosts.
It was risqué, sure. It was in appalling taste. But it was hysterical, and it’s good that this kind of thing is allowed. We’re trustworthy enough to know the difference between something that is genuinely offensive, and something so ludicrously over the top that it becomes the offensive ideas themselves that we laugh at.
My only gripe is that it was so over the top that it missed the opportunity of ensnaring far more racists and sexists and homophobes! The average person would have run a mile from the sort of views being expressed by Borat. If he’d have made them a bit more subtle, he could’ve coaxed far more people into his (spoof) way of thinking. But of course it wouldn’t have made half as many people laugh!