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Movie Review: Borat Makes America Look Good

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Now 24 hours past seeing Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan on opening day, I'm sure that I'm going to write a glowing review of this movie. It is an outstanding and fascinating piece of art which is very funny, and works really well on several levels. Oh, it's gonna be a heck of a review.

But this isn't going to be it. Here, I want to zero in on just one specific aspect: How the unwitting Americans came out. What I saw on the screen doesn't seem to quite jibe with what I'm reading in many stories about it. I keep reading that Cohen made fools of the Americans, setting them up to expose their dark sides, their racism and homophobia, etc.  For example, Entertainment Weekly says "the people Borat talks to become the symbolic heart of America – a place where intolerance is worn, increasingly, with pride."  But that's mostly not what actually showed up on the screen, by my best instant analysis.

That does seem to be what the Jewish Sacha Baron Cohen cleverly intended when he went undercover as Borat.  The whole design of the Cohen approach is to throw extreme social curveballs engineered to offer his dupes every opportunity to make bigoted Neanderthal level comments, encouraging such things with his own cheerful expressions of extreme bigotry. It would appear that Cohen intended to slice and dice cheap American patriotism and deep-seated bigotry, or some such. 

Borat Sagdiyev waving American flagBut in the actual practice, the Americans he tricked into being in his film mostly acquitted themselves very well.  None of these Americans seemed malicious or vicious, or even hateful.  They were all pretty nice, and very open hearted. 

Probably the Americans I would judge the worst in this film were the feminists. They had agreed to an interview, and didn't react very well when Borat insisted that Kazakhi scientists had proved that women have little brains like squirrels. The girls got a little indignant and huffed off mid-interview. This would be a misdemeanor offense at worst, but besides being humorless they were perhaps unnecessarily rude to a guest. That's about the worst treatment he got from anyone in the film.

The only overt hostility was mostly from the opening street scenes in New York, but was still measured and reasonable. Borat went down the street aggressively trying to give friendly kisses to random men. Look, if a fully adult man who you've never seen before shows up with a cameraman and tries to lay his lips on you, then he's asking to get bitch slapped. But in fact, about the worst Borat got was a suggestion or two that he should consider having sex with himself. That seems totally proportionate to the calculated and uninvited touching. 

As much as anything, Cohen was pushing buttons for homophobia throughout the movie, with Borat's aggressive male intimacy tactics.  But none of the American men freaked out or called him "faggot" or anything. The driving instructor offered the most explicit explanation that would describe the reactions of most of the men he went kissing on, who graciously accepted his kissing with something like "I'm not used to that, but that's fine."

I'd rate the feminists' reaction the worst of the Americans as they were basically the only ones really even marginally rude to Borat, but the worst expressions of any bigotry were the frat boys.  Put it this way — the worst thing Cohen could draw out of any American was a couple of whiny remarks from a couple of drunk frat boys about minorities supposedly having all the social advantages over white guys. 

Now, they made a couple of passing dumb remarks, but they were still really nice fellows.  First off, they were really nice to Borat.  They gave the weirdo foreign hitchhiker a ride and drinks.  They welcomed him with open arms, and expressed fine empathy with the foreign guy.  One of us!  Actions speak louder than words, and how you treat an actual person matters a lot more than any passing opinion about an abstract group that doesn't really exist.  In the practice, the frat boys treated the other like a brother. 

The only other American saying much bad was the guy at the rodeo – and I wouldn't consider his remarks especially egregious. The main thing was that he expressed a generalized suspicion of Muslims. Considering the current world situation, that's not 100% unreasonable though, is it? Even this most hardcore cowboy was not being malicious or hateful, only understandably suspicious.Neither he nor any American ever spouted any kind of dumb kill-em-all talk.

Borat driver's edBorat was setting up the rodeo audience to make some stupid expression of patriotic bigotry or some such, but they flatly did not fulfill such a role.  The bit was very funny, watching the audience try to figure out what to make of him. But they certainly did not just mindlessly follow along with the program that Cohen had hijacked. They applauded the arrival of the foreigner, and went along with a couple of general statements about defeating the enemy.  He went on about hoping that Bush would kill every man, woman, and child in Iraq, which was cute for his part, but the crowd absolutely did not cheer that.  They were paying attention

Then he went into an alternate lyric to the "Star Spangled Banner" presented as the Kazakhi anthem.  It went something like that Kazakhistan was the greatest country with the greatest men in the world leading them, and all the other countries are run by little girls. I'd guess that somewhere in the middle of that, most of the audience was getting the basic point that they were being screwed with, and they booed him.  The bit was very funny, but I don't see how it made the crowd look bad at all.

There's also been a lot made about a gun store owner whom Borat asked about what gun to use to kill a Jew — and got an answer.  But looking closely at the exchange, I'll defend this guy completely. First off, note that Borat asked what kind of gun would be good to "defend" himself against a Jew. The shopkeeper responded with what kind of gun he might recommend for personal defense. 

The only way this guy or several other Americans throughout the film would be guilty of offense is if your expectation is that it is morally incumbent that he cut Borat off with a self-righteous lecture when he says something that sounds bad.  Instead, he politely guided Borat back to a better social conversation, and politely brushed him off. Very Important Note: He specifically refused to sell Borat a weapon — which is why they had to buy a bear. What then was the gun store owner's offense, politeness?

Finally, there's been a lot of attention to probably the longest piece of guerilla interaction, the Alabama dinner party.  These wealthy white southerners, however, represented very well for America.  They were not stupid, hateful or bigoted. They were very polite and patient for a good while in the face of serious provocation.  Best I can tell, the only way you could say anything against them would be to convict them of racism strictly on the basis of living on "Secession Drive." 

Borat basically told the dinner party that the preacher's wife (Sally Speaker) was ugly- with her sitting right there. The preacher (Cary Speaker, pastor of Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church) held his tongue. Borat came back from the bathroom carrying a bag of poo to their dinner table. One of the women discreetly took him aside to explain how the toilet works. Was this supposed to reflect badly on her somehow?

Borat at the Alabama dinnerOnly finally when he had a large half-dressed (black) prostitute show up at the door did the hosts finally throw in the towel.  Even at that, they tried to tactfully call it a night, apparently finally calling the cops only when he just wouldn't get gone.  Was that unreasonable of them?  That seems like a great show of forbearance all around.

For my part, I'm either a good American patriot, or perhaps just a right wing nutjob.  So I intend to discount even my best considered opinion at least 10%, but still.  I don't see how you could look at this moviefilm and come out saying that the Americans looked bigoted or stupid.  If these frat boys were the worst folks he ran into, then this must be a wonderful country.  In fact, the Americans in this moviefilm would be excellent role models and influence for a third world country like Borat's version of Kazakhstan.

In summary then, Borat was uniformly treated warmly by nearly all the Americans he encountered, even when Cohen was screwing with them pretty hard.  If my fellow Americans made themselves look a little foolish in this film, it was mostly on the side of being way too patient with the visitor.  That speaks well of us.  The movie was funny, and Borat was hilarious — and I'm happy that my fellow Americans acquitted themselves so well.  I'd be proud to call any of them my neighbor and countryman.

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  • Ty

    “He went on about hoping that Bush would kill every man, woman, and child in Iraq, which was cute for his part, but the crowd absolutely did not cheer that. They were paying attention”

    You weren’t paying attention. Watch the movie again. Borat refers to Bush drinking the blood of every man, women, and child in Iraq, and it got thunderous cheering from the audience. They WERE paying attention, and loved the comments. That’s part of the biting social commentary.

  • C-Funk

    If you think Borat made Americans look good, I think you might be hanging out with some pretty abominable people. Not all the Americans in the the film behaved badly, in fact the dinner table guests exceeded all diplomacy in the way they handled his bad manners. The rodeo guy, the frat boys, and most of the New Yorkers (who were so shocked by a simple greeting that they would threaten violence) do not make Americans look good, and I was absolutely horrified to see how some of your countrymen conducted themselves. Having said that, Cohen has probably filmed hundreds of hours of footage to garner these extreme reactions, so it’s impossible to say how reflective this behaviour is. I think Cohen’s primary goal was to make a funny and different comedy, and secondly to expose some of the US and A’s dark underbelly. I think he succeeded brilliantly.

  • Um

    “The only other American saying much bad was the guy at the rodeo – and I wouldn’t consider his remarks especially egregious.”

    The rodeo guy also said, “that’s what we’re trying to do” in response to Borat’s description of the Kazakhstani practice of hanging gays.

    I’d say that’s pretty egregious.

  • Al Barger

    Ty, I’ll have to see it again to gauge the reactions at the rodeo, but I suspect that you’re seeing what you wanted to see rather than what was on the screen. It took a few seconds for parts of the crowd to catch on, but by the time he got to killing the lizards, there was pretty nearly zero applause.

    He might have gotten some applause in the middle to marginally bad stuff before people caught on, but they simply were not trying to cheer a bunch of bloodthirsty stuff. Clearly, audience reaction shifted rapidly as they picked up on where he was going.

    Um, “that’s what we’re trying to do” at the rodeo sounds kinda bad when you carefully study it on film, but it doesn’t really mean squat. What, do you think this guy seriously wants to do violence to homosexuals? That was entirely a setup. The clever Jew tricked the old cowboy into making a dumb passing comment or two agreeing with Borat’s foolishness. That doesn’t mean the cowboy has wickedness in his soul.

    Cohen might have INTENDED “biting social commentary,” but to the extent that it depended on getting the Americans to go along with dumb stuff, Borat largely failed to provoke the anti-social reactions he might have hoped for.

    C-Funk has the best overall outlook, noting that the primary goal was making a funny movie. Cohen did very well at that, but don’t read too much into it.

    However, it’s just completely ridiculous to describe the Americans in this movie as “abominable.” That word would describe much better the way Cohen abused the profuse goodwill of the Americans to attempt to trick them into making asses of themselves.

    The scripted stuff was hilarious, and a lot of the candid camera reactions were funny- but not because they showed Americans acting badly. It was mostly fairly sweet humor from watching the Americans being gentle and diplomatic in the face of extreme social provocation.

    For example, consider the visit to Bob Barr where he feeds him a piece of cheese, then cheerfully tells him that it was made from his wife’s breast milk. Watching Barr’s carefully controlled reaction was funny, but was this supposed to indicate that Barr was somehow stupid or bigoted?

    By the way, editor monkeys cut out the links to my Borat pages back at MoreThings, but you might want to skate over and check out my BORAT PHOTO GALLERY.

  • Ty

    “Ty, I’ll have to see it again to gauge the reactions at the rodeo, but I suspect that you’re seeing what you wanted to see rather than what was on the screen. It took a few seconds for parts of the crowd to catch on, but by the time he got to killing the lizards, there was pretty nearly zero applause.

    He might have gotten some applause in the middle to marginally bad stuff before people caught on, but they simply were not trying to cheer a bunch of bloodthirsty stuff. Clearly, audience reaction shifted rapidly as they picked up on where he was going.”

    Funny you say that, because I think YOU are seeing what you wanted to see rather than what was on the screen.

  • Marabuntah

    Your reviews of this film and your failure to comprehend Sonic Youth (I just read your response to Spin) proves your ranch-bound, hide hardened noodle is not ready for cultural commentary, even if it has seemingly taken place on this backlot of the internet. You are a dolt, and a musical conformist, ignorant, unimaginative, and anti-intellectual…The only reason the Americans in this film seem nice, is because you too are ‘nice’…what a putrid trough of tepid scrawl I’ve drunk today. Do not write anymore, stick to manual labour and sports.

  • Al Barger

    Marabuntah, I’m sorry that Borat’s Americans and I are not up to your standards of patience, tolerance, and intellectualism. We must try to do better so that one day we may be worthy to shine your shoes.

  • Tom Peters

    Notice people like Marabuntah offer no arguments – just name calling. Typical! The problem is that people like this are anti-american at their core and nothing will dissuade them otherwise. They throw labels around as if they had some god-like power see into everyones souls. It just happens that unless you agree with them 100%, you will be labelled with some sort of label like ‘bigot’,’anti-intellectual’, or whatever visionary label of evil they see fit to throw at you. This is nothing but typical leftist moralistic posturing resulting in nothing useful. Boring! People like Cohen and Marabuntah think they point to greater truths and enlightment in their arguments – instead they engage in the same type of stereotyping tacticts that they accuse their enemies of engaging in. Hyporcisy at its greatest! Borat is just one big joke played on us ‘dumb’ Americans – stereotypes aside of course.

  • marabuntah

    Al, sarcasm is not an argument.
    Tom, you’ve responded with a bloated wad of your own weasel words. Oh the poor Americans, victims of anti-americanism; and aren’t those left-wingers all stalinists and what not. If Borat takes advantage of good willed Americans what do Americans do to good willed Borats? They mince them, literally.
    Stereotypes? I notice your post is littered with them, and that you only allow stereotypes which support your own views. You probably didn’t notice.
    Seriously Tom, learn some grammar, a little logic, and re-read your posts. That paragraph is its own self-indictment.

  • Christophe

    “…and it got thunderous cheering from the audience. They WERE paying attention, and loved the comments.”

    I have yet to see the movie but that could also be due to the magical and wonderful powers of editing, not with the audience really reacting to his comments.

  • Al Barger

    Marabuntah, sarcasm is not an argument- but then there was no argument on your part for me to respond to. Further, I saw absolutely no indication of any Americans showing any desire to “mince” Borat, metaphorically much less literally.

    Now Mr Peters, I’m right sympathetic to what you’re saying about cheap lefty moralizing as practiced by some Borat fans, such as Marabuntah here. It’s just not well founded, and represents a cheap grasping for an unearned sense of moral superiority.

    However, I would caution you against overgeneralizing that kind of idea by making presumptions about Sacha Cohen’s intent. I could imagine him emerging from character after the marketing blitz, and becoming insufferable by making analysis like Marabuntah. But on the other hand, he might not be taking that viewpoint.

    Cohen COULD decide to look at it that he put the Americans to the test, and deciding that they came out pretty good. He offered them the opportunity to f-up, but they mostly didn’t.

    Thus, I would suggest withholding judgment about Cohen’s mental machinations, which we just aren’t in a position to know. I’ll assume charitably that Cohen does not mean to blanketly smear the people who appeared in his moviefilm- until and unless Cohen clearly says otherwise.

    Christophe, there’s definitely the magic of editing to consider, but I don’t think there was any such thing relevant in the rodeo scene. People were cheering along with the friendly foreignor, and as he started talking crazier, the applause died out. That might not fit with the anti-American narrative that some folk want to make out of the film, but that’s how the Americans actually reacted.

    Again, this is at a rodeo in Virginia, so that’d probably be among the more rightwing end of Americans. Even the cowboys aren’t actually giving up the kind of bloodthirsty display that some folks are intent on presenting as US, though. They basically went from supportive of the visitor, to confused as he’s carrying on, to pissy with the guy for screwing with them by the end. At no time was there any kind of big surge of support coming from that crowd for anything like the kind of bloodlust of which Americans are frequently accused.

  • Rodney Welch

    Apparently, the USC frat boys do not quite agree with Al that they came off as “really nice fellows,” which is why they’re suing. In a lawsuit that is so awkwardly worded it sounds as if it was written by Borat himself, it says the film “made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community.”

    I think the three saw the movie and thought of a quick way to horn in on all the dough it’s raking in. Can’t you just hear those thugs? “Dude, even if the studio settles, we’ll still be set! Cancun, here we come!”

  • Al Barger

    Rodney, the frat boys suing Cohen now is far more disreputable behavior than what they did in the film. They were obviously drinking, and were just venting a bit with a drunk on. Whereas, now they know the full score, have had time to think on it- and then respond with this punk-ass move.

    For starters, this suit is clearly going to make these guys MUCH bigger laughingstocks than they already are. Is this move going to impress ANYONE?

    I note that it was just this thing of playing victim that made them look foolish in the film, complaining about being abused by women and given less rights than minority groups. Much more so than the film itself, this move tells me that two of the three frat boys really are retards. But surely they’re not stupid enough to think they’re actually going to get PAID.

    Then again, maybe they already have been. If I were a little more Borat-like, I might suspect that this lawsuit was a put-up job, a clever promotional ploy by the Jew Cohen- much like the bankers who misspelled “bank” on some new Kazakhi money and knowingly put it into circulation anyway a few days before the premiere of the movie. Co-incidental slip up, or Jew banker conspiracy to promote Cohen’s double-secret Zionist propaganda? You decide.

  • Leni Riefenstahl

    Did you see Borat performs “throw the jew down the well” in Tucson or any other non-fox produced Borat performance ? I think not cause if you had it’s pretty obvious you wouldn’t have written such a ridiculous and funny post.

  • Rodney Welch

    Leni — Al would probably say the crowd in that infamous video was merely being friendly to the nervous foreigner, and just because they were stomping their feet and clapping their hands should in no way be taken as an indication that they were anti-Semitic — not even the woman who helpfully throws in a hand gesture for “You must grab him by the horns.”

    But I really shouldn’t speak for Blogcritics’ correspondent from Planet Bizarro. His own response, I am certain, will be much funnier than anything I could make up.

  • Al Barger

    Leni- Whatever someone else has done in other non-movie encounters with Borat does not change what these people did. You and Mr Welch can just chortle about how crazy and wrong I am- as may be- but that chortling does not constitute proof that I am wrong or an explanation.

    I have an audio recording of the Tucson performance of “In My Country There Is Problem.” I have not SEEN the performance though, and won’t pretend to definitively know the minds of those folks. Listening to the audio 100 times or so though, my guess is that the audience was more or less in on it. It sure SOUNDS like they know it’s a comedy routine.

    Perhaps I’m naive or just too generous with my countrymen, but I’d find it far more likely that the cheering and carrying on there was a crowd supporting a comic than that a crowd in a random cowboy bar would turn out to be a bunch of Nazis sincerely cheering on the extermination of Jews.

    It’s like Borat says bad things, then you simply presume that the bad old Americans all agree with him, and condemn them for stuff coming out of COHEN’S mouth. But Cohen, he’s just joking, see? Why would you presume that the Americans don’t get the joke?

  • S.T.M

    Plus, Cohen is Jewish … he can do it. And it IS funny. And he’s been known to take the piss out of everyone.

  • Rodney Welch

    The link in my previous post takes you to the video, Al.

    I wouldn’t say they were Nazis; I’d say they were people for whom Jews really don’t exist. I seriously doubt the Tucson crowd would have been supporting this comic if he sang “Throw George Bush Down the Well.” But Jews — well, hey, who cares, right? So yes, it does reveal an insensitivity on the side of the people in the bar — a group insensitivity, and that is what Borat does so successfully in these spmewhat misanthropic comic sting operations: he gets people to reveal who they really are. Some, as in the movie, are really good people: the driving instructor, the car dealer, the Alabama family. They’re just unfortunate victims of a joke. But the frat brothers, the guy at the rodeo, the gun store owner, this crowd in Tucson — well, this is nothing if not the ugly side of America.

  • t.a.b.

    The point of Borat is not his ability to expose the secret sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. of Americans. Even if you can find people who hold these views in such a distilled, uncomplicated form, usually they will still be too smart to express them on camera.

    Instead, Borat facilitates the enactment of the general American attitude towards foreigners, especially those from less developed countries. This attitude is not usually overtly hostile, as the author has noted, citing the friendliness of Americans towards Borat. However, when the Americans in the film take it upon themselves to be friendly to him, to induct him into their culture, and to overlook the offensive things he says, they perform a condescension that is inherently degrading to the foreigner. This may seem a contradictory claim, but bear with me.

    Their willingness to excuse him implies that they do not consider him to be on their level culturally, intellectually or morally. When he makes obviously imbecilic comments, comments that they would never unquestioningly accept from an American, they assume that that is just “how people from Kazakhstan behave.” Hence the reason why they do not respond with hostility. After all, he poses no apparent threat. Their paternalistic attempts to teach him the “right” things to do contain an implicit valuation of American culture over Kazakhstani culture. These lessons are not framed as “one man to another” but rather “American to Lesser Culture.”

    In my estimation, this is the underpinning of the entire concept of Borat. By exposing Americans’ paternalistic view of foreigners (through their unwillingness to hold them to the same standards as their fellow Americans), he reveals the source of a serious impediment to intercultural understanding.

    (One might also note that there are, in fact, instances where Americans openly agree with Borat’s outrageous statements. The commentary becomes particularly biting when one realizes that some Americans have more in common with this fictionalized, exaggerated foreigner than the Kazakstanis themselves probably have.)

  • Branan

    Thank you for talking some sense! I’m a little less forgiving:

    BTW: in the rodeo scene the booing is added in post. If you watch the background you see people either laughing or distracted.

    There is little doubt that Sacha Baron Cohen is a master improvisational actor. His technical skills and intelligence are not in doubt but his intentions are cause for alarm. I laughed more then a few times and hated myself shortly afterwards. I have not seen smug, classist elitism like this since – well – I wasn’t alive back in Dickens’ Victorian London – so, never.

    First, let’s dispense with the absurd notion that Sacha is an equal opportunity offender. He has never made himself the butt of the joke – he’s far too smug and cowardly for this. Instead he hides behind a brilliant disguise and makes fun of poor, racist, ignorant, and – yes – deeply ethnic Borat.

    Related to this point, he dare not offend those we might naturally wish to defend due to political correctness, guilt or sympathy. In the film’s most offensive sequence Borat enters an antique store owned and managed by an elderly white couple. Borat (In reality the Jewish Cohen who wrote a college paper on the Jewish victims of America’s Civil Rights Movement) sees a few Confederate flags and asks the old owner about them. The man says it symbolizes his heritage. This provides Sacha with the anger and excuse to completely wreck their store. He causes nearly $500 worth of damage and then insults and humiliates them further by offering pubic hair as compensation. Sacha does this because he knows no one will rush to defend these poor people. On this point he is tragically correct. When he enters the genuinely dangerous Atlanta Ghetto he suddenly puts on the kid gloves and plays the buffoon. His elitism is curiously absent because he knows he could seriously get his ass kicked. Besides, no one wants to feel guilty about laughing at young black people (they might get angry) so he makes Borat the object of laughter at this point. Best to pick on the white and elderly – very brave man……
    read the rest here:Rotten Tomatoes

  • Rodney Welch

    Did you see The Smoking Gun? The fat frat boy is going to have a hell of a time defending himself.

    t.a.b. — You make some good points; Christopher Hitchens echoes that p.o.v. in Slate, and there’s merit to it. A lot of the people ARE just being nice; the Alabama family, for example, is blameless, as are the Jewish couple who operate the Bed and Breakfast. But I can’t say that the whole point of the film is that Americans are all nice and friendly to a fault, because it does also show people at their inexcusable worst. It’s a broad worst-and-best travelougue. It’s also worth noting, I think, that you could try the Borat scheme in any country, anywhere, with any group of people, and get similar results. The truth of the matter is that people in private really can have some unconsciously horrible — and unconsciously decent — attitudes. At the risk of sounding overserious, the film holds a mirror up to the country, and it doesn’t show just one thing, but several.

    Branan — You state “he dare not offend those we might naturally wish to defend due to political correctness, guilt or sympathy.” Actually, by going after those glum, super-p.c. feminists, he did exactly that.

  • Rodney Welch
  • Al Barger

    A lot of good points being made here all around.

    Let’s start with t.a.b., who says “Their willingness to excuse him implies that they do not consider him to be on their level culturally, intellectually or morally.” Well, Borat is NOT on our level- intentionally and very much by design. That’s not some kind of fake presumption on the Americans’ part. How SHOULD the Americans have reacted in order NOT to be subject to judgment for crimes of condescension?

    Branan- I’m inclined to be more generous to Cohen than you, but you certainly have some legitimate points of criticism. I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah Cohen used the idea of the shopkeepers dealing in Confederate memorabilia as a moral excuse to destroy their shop. Besides which, it appears that pretended not to have money and paid less than half of the actual damages- from what I could make out of the film.

    We’d all probably have to study it repeatedly to read the tea leaves of public reaction, but the rodeo crowd certainly had mixed reactions. They weren’t a mob speaking as one, but thousands of separate individuals trying to make sense of what was going on in front of them. Some of them would be laughing presumably because they had picked up that it was a joke.

    No, Cohen was not an equal opportunity offender. You noted how he played kid gloves with the black guys. Note also how he doesn’t at all address Muslims, and while he gleefully libels the good folks of Kazakhstan, he carefully avoids the obvious point of making Borat a Muslim. He “follows the hawk.” The one fairly gentle roasting of the feminists doesn’t begin to make it fair and balanced. Clearly, he had his comedic guns pointed squarely at red state America.

    But it’s not true to say “He has never made himself the butt of the joke.” That is the important saving grace of Cohen. He ritually debased himself in a direct and physical manner that you couldn’t abstract away intellectually- particularly in the notorious nude wrestling scene.

    He made himself- Baron Cohen- look worse than any of the hick Americans. Maybe the frat boys got drunk and talked a little stupid, but that was Baron Cohen laying there with Larry Davitian’s fat, hairy, 50 year old nuts laying on his chin.

    Overall Branan, this is one of the couple of best, most insightful Borat essays I’ve seen. It’s definitely too good to be buried in a comments thread. Perhaps you should become a Blogcritic, and post this as a stand-alone story.

    Rodney, if Cohen has only had his ass kicked once doing this stuff, then he’s gotten off lightly. He asks for it again and again. When smelly, unwashed Borat goes laying his lips uninvited on strange men in the subway, or going up to a guy in a bar wanting to buy his clothes and have sex with them, that’s really asking for it, isn’t it?

    Oh, but let me guess: This is proof of the great deep-seated violent homophobia of America, right?

  • Rodney Welch

    Well, actually, I don’t think the people on the subway were real. I think those were actors. I’m not saying people wouldn’t react violently to Borat on a New York subway, but these people sounded to me like they were barking memorized lines they might have heard from another movie. (It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the same were revealed of the guy who ran away from him on the street, and that scene with all the little kids being frightened by Borat’s bear was obviously staged. I think there are laws gainst carrying a bear around with you in an ice-cream truck.)

    Otherwise, though, Al, it seems as if you want it both ways: on the one hand you want to say (and did) that the movie makes America look good, then when presented with any evidence to the contrary and basically say so what.

  • Martin Lav

    I find it reprehensible that Cohen can attempt to bring out the true bigotry in people while he himself deviles another culture while portraying it under false pretenses.
    What would Cohen and his fellows of same persuasion say if a an Arab masqueraded as a Jew and did the very same thing, while using their own set of stereotypes. I wonder if it would be seen as comedic relief.

    And let’s face it Americans are one of the most beloved people the world over and it should be no surprise to any foreigners that we are very tolerant to a fault of other peoples freedoms.

  • Al Barger

    Rodney, I’m not sure what the two ways are that I’m trying to have it here. One way is that I say that the Americans in the Borat movie mostly come of pretty good. What is the other way that I’m holding which contradicts that?

    Now, I’m not saying that every American was completely blameless and above reproach. I never claimed that Americans just completely glow with the inner light of Jesus. To paraphrase Aunt Eller, I ain’t saying that we’re better than anybody else- but I’ll be danged if we ain’t just as good.”

    Still, good Americans can take a joke, and a laugh at our own foibles. Martin, I suggest that you need to lighten up. Still, I must agree that Sacha Baron Cohen certainly is a devious, tricky Jew.

  • STM

    What I can’t understand about Borat’s America is why most Americans caught unawares by Cohen couldn’t work out within 40 seconds that the whole thing is a gee-up and a giggle.

    This is a question you must ask of yourselves, America. (more handwringing in the home of the brave).

    We await the answer with anticipation. (for more fun, have a look on You Tube or Google video for clips of Cohen’s Ali G character (a London gangsta), the best being his interview with Buzz Aldrin (Buzz Lightyear) and former US surgeon-general C. Everett Koop. Neither had enough street smart to be in on the joke, which makes them an absolute hoot.

    That champion of the loony left, Noam Chomsky, makes an absolute dill of himself as well. Listen for the line on language – cunni-lingual

  • STM

    Martin Lav said: “And let’s face it Americans are one of the most beloved people the world over and it should be no surprise to any foreigners that we are very tolerant to a fault of other peoples freedoms.”


  • Al Barger

    STM- Martin’s certainly right to say that Americans are very tolerant of other people’s freedoms. Some hatas who resent the US just for being powerful might be motivated to demonize US. But look how patient the Americans were with Borat, and how restrained, and how much they tried to accept him- not that he made it easy.

    My guess is that some of these people did suspect a comedy routine – thus some of the laughter at the rodeo, for example. But if you’re not quite sure, you don’t want to be rude or look like an ass, do you?

    I could well imagine that some of these folks were not sure just what his game was, but figured that their best part would be to just indulge the guy for a few minutes rather than freak out or make a scene, or start lecturing the guy about bigotry or such.

    Again, what SHOULD these folks have done differently?

  • STM

    Al: Nothing mate, I’m just giving you all a gee-up. He winds everyone up, not just Americans … it’s all part of the gig.

    If people just went along with it all the time, he’d lose half the stuff that makes it all so much fun.

    Although having said that, some people who got sucked in by Cohen will be kicking themselves when they see it.

    I saw a show once where he did some interviews as Borat at the Actors’ Studio (New York?), and he also did a great interview as Al G with Victoria and David Beckham in London. He is, indeed, a very funny man.

  • Al Barger

    STM- Totally cool. Americans can take a joke- heck, look at our Congress. Borat’s quite funny- but I’ll take a dim view of those taking a haughty tone of judgment against the Americans in the film, such as, again, the Entertainment Weekly quote “the people Borat talks to become the symbolic heart of America – a place where intolerance is worn, increasingly, with pride.” Pinko, please.

  • STM

    I think you’d find the same kind of so-called intolerance in Britain and Australia, the difference being we’ve had Cohen bombarding our ear’oles for many years now, so if he were to walk up to me in the street, I’d know exactly what to expect.

    But when he started out in the UK as Ali G, he caught plenty of his own countrymen unawares, don’t worry about that.

  • Rodney Welch

    The Entertainment Weekly comment is closer to the truth than your headline, though.

  • theeskay

    Dumb, stupid post. Your political and social views are obvious: you seek to excuse blatant xenophobia and racism and then say that the worst behaviour is a dignified leaving by the feminists? Laughable. A stupid post from a stupid person.

  • Al Barger

    theeskay- I admit to being a dumb Kentuckian. I’m pretty slow witted, so perhaps you can break it down for an ignorant cracker such as your humble narrator. What was the blatant xenophobia and racism? Other than that you could get a couple of drunk frat boys to whine a little bit about affirmative action, what was the shocking racism of America that the showed? Is this our worst? If those frat boys are the bottom of the American barrel, then we’re doing pretty good.

    Again, they were not intolerant, but welcomed the stranger, and were very nice to him. His betrayal of their trust is FAR worse than any passing largely meaningless verbal grumbling the boys did, minor squabbles on the playground. Note that they weren’t mean to anyone, nor did they express any intention or desire of meanness. Some petty resentments, but that’s all in the family.

    Tell me where I’m wrong- but talk real slow, and don’t use any big words.

  • americana

    Al Barger, why are you anti-semitic?

    You seem to enjoy refrencing Cohen as “that clever Jew”, etc.

    What’s the deal?

  • S.T.M

    Americana …. Cohen is a jew who makes jokes about jews. There is no anti-semitism, although I do think you need to be in on the joke before commenting.

    Have you seen the film or viewed any interviews done by Cohen’s other alter-egos?

  • Al Barger

    Oh Americana, you can give the anti-Semitism stuff a big ol’ rest. Cohen isn’t just kinda Jewish, but making a HUGE thing of seeing (or putting) charges of anti-Semitism up everywhere. It gets kinda wrapped around by a comedy routine, but Cohen is implicitly an angry Jew protesting anti-Semitism, like, a LOT with Borat. I can appreciate a lot of that, but he don’t need to be carrying on about throwing the Jew down the well without expecting to hear a little of it echoed back, does he?

    I did finally see the video of the Tucson appearance singing “Throw the Jew Down the Well.” The visuals more than confirmed my thoughts that the audience was hip, and latched on quickly that it was a comedy routine, what with the girl in the audience putting up her fingers for the devil horns and such. These people clearly got the joke. Anyone wants to make anti-Semitism out of that needs to calm themselves down.

    There’s certainly a world of wicked anti-Semitism to be pissy about, but it ain’t in red state America. People like those evangelicals Cohen was mocking or that gun shop owner would likely be among the top pro-Israeli folk in the world.

  • Martin Lav

    This whole thing reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s dentist converted to Judaism, so he could tell Jewish jokes without being considered an anti-semite. Of course this episode was also written by a Jew.

  • cster

    “When he enters the genuinely dangerous Atlanta Ghetto he suddenly puts on the kid gloves and plays the buffoon. His elitism is curiously absent because he knows he could seriously get his ass kicked. Besides, no one wants to feel guilty about laughing at young black people (they might get angry) so he makes Borat the object of laughter at this point”

    This was not because he was afraid of getting his ass kicked, this was his “subtle reference” to Ali G in the movie. Remember, at the end of the film, he remembers the good times( and a scene with the guys in the ghetto is played again) – so that was the scene in which he got himself to be the object of the joke, to show Ali G’s “restecp” for the ghetto life.

  • Kyle

    I think Borat is a brilliant satire on Western Societies indifference to obviously racist and sexist remarks. After all, the path to the holocaust was not a result of Germans wholehearted endorsement of anti-Semitism, but rather their indifference to it. I thought the feminists handled Borat the best. They told him their opinions, but he continued making sexist remarks, so they walked out. The worst of the participates in the movie was the gun store owner, who after being asked what is the best gun to shot the Jew, recommended the 9mm. His reaction shows an absolute indifference to anti-Semitic remarks that I find sickening.

  • Kyle

    Further, the episode where Borat sang “in my country there is problem” is a perfect example of indifference to racism. One would have a hard time proving that the people at the bar who were singing along with the Anti-Semitic lyrics are Anti-Semitic. But it is clear they do not care if others are pushing anti-Semitism. Indifference to racism and sexism is just one of many negative aspect of society Borat exposes. Borat shows us how completely uninformed we are about foreign cultures. So much so that the people in the film are willing to justify/ believe such absurd things as; pubes as currency, drinking fermented horse urine and bringing feces to the diner table, as cultural.

  • Rodney Welch

    “The visuals more than confirmed my thoughts that the audience was hip, and latched on quickly that it was a comedy routine … These people clearly got the joke. Anyone wants to make anti-Semitism out of that needs to calm themselves down.”

    That’s what I’ve always said about the Nuremburg rally — as well as those good old boys who got a little carried away with that practical joke they played on Matthew Shepherd, and those people who took James Byrd Jr. out for a joyride in Jasper, Texas. Really, people need to lighten up. Fuck `em if they can’t take a joke.

  • Mark


    I am sorry mate, but some Americans definitely look bigotted in this film.

    The attitude of the old bloke at the rodeo was nothing less than deplorable… he tells Borat to try and look “less like a Muslim” – for goodness sake man, that’s disgraceful.

    The frat boys look like completely ignorant fools. They talk about women as sex slaves for frig sake.

    The evangelicals are shown up for what they really are, Christian fundamentalists, every bit as brainwashed as there Muslim equivalent. These religious fanatics are nothing short of freaks.

    On top of this the car salesman talking about the speed you would need to drive the hummer at to kill gypsies does nothing to impress.

    How can you say this behaviour is “acceptable”??

  • Al Barger

    Mr Welch, you’re being both self-righteous and palpably dishonest. Yeah, those people in the Arizona bar singing along with Borat are JUST LIKE people attending Nazi rallies or murdering Matthew Shepherd. I’m sure you can’t see any signficant difference, like that one is a dude drinking a beer and laughing at a comedian and the other is a murderer.

    I assume that you consider Baron Cohen a rabid anti-Semite as well for actually singing “Throw the Jew Down the Well.” Or is it ok for him to sing it because he means it ironically, but it’s NOT ok for other people to be in on the joke? What those people in the bar SHOULD have done would have been to have a collective fit of indignation and walk out like the feminists at the start of the move.

    Mark, you’re a little more reasonable in tone, but you’re still all wet. The frat boys talked a little trash, but so what? Should the whole US of A feel indicted cause this comedian got a couple of frat boys drunk and goaded them into talking some trash? They actually seemed like pretty good fellows. I’d find it highly unlikely that they would be much mean to people. They were just venting, not seriously wishing people harm.

    They look kinda foolish now, which they brought on themselves. But are the typical 20 year old men of other countries really superior, though?

    And the rodeo guy was ok. I didn’t see anything particularly “deplorable” in his comments, not that I necessarily agree. It may be unfortunate that the guy is suspicious of Muslims, but I see no “disgrace” in the perfectly natural tendency to be skeptical of the community that is producing people intent on KILLING US.

    Perhaps you think that everyone should be a complete angel, setting aside all normal mammalian biology and all critical capacities that might lead one to attitudes not 100% in keeping with your concept of total perfect enlightened acceptance and harmony. I’m sure other countries are way ahead of US in achieving perfect racial harmony and justice.

    Then there’s the real world, and even an old cowboy with a good heart might still understandably feel a little suspicion and resentment towards cultural groups that sure seem to be murderously hostile to his country.

    Mark, your attack on the American evangelicals is absolutely nothing but bigotry. You’re real anxious to preach about the disgraceful American expressing a bit of suspicion towards the community that is trying to kill US, but your multicultural love and acceptance doesn’t apply to Red State Americans, apparently.

    The evangelicals were practicing their religion, not trying to get involved in politics, not being hateful to anyone- following their own path in totally peaceful praise and worship. There’s no legitimate reason based on anything in the movie to fault those Christians.

    Really, about 90% of the criticisms of the Americans in the film is that Borat said a bunch of offensive stuff, and the Americans didn’t all 100% jump up in his face with proper righteous denuncaitons. Be mad at Cohen for saying bad things, but it’s just dumb to be mad at other people just for hearing bad things.

  • Mark

    Al my friend,

    You say ‘I see no “disgrace” in the perfectly natural tendency to be skeptical of the community that is producing people intent on KILLING US’. Mate, I am Australian and we have also been the victim of several terrorist attacks in recent times but I am sorry, YES this is a DISGRACEFUL attitude.

    This mistrust of outsiders gets in the way of communities understanding one another and is the pure definition of racism. Just because one extreme sect of a community has violent tendancies does not mean that this is a generally held view within that community.

    If you think that other countries have not made better progress on racial attitudes then you really need to get out of the US. Granted there are probably less tolerant countries, but trust me there are a lot of countries with more progressive attitudes. George Bush would never have become leader of my nation with his attitudes.

    As for the evangelicals, at one point this dilluded man goes on and on about not evolving from monkeys and so on. It is exactly this close minded view that is stopping the free teaching of evolution to children in some of the states in the US. I have a Christian background, but those evangelicals are just simply extremists.

    The attitude displayed by the rodeo guy and the extrimism of the evangalicals has in no small way contributed to George Bush’s “holy war” in IRAQ. Several thousand muslim civilians are dying every day, thats one 9/11 per day. How do you think these Muslim people feel about Christians?

    One last thing, you ask in reference to the students “But are the typical 20 year old men of other countries really superior, though?”. I went to university and never had a conversation (drunken or otherwise) with anyone proposing that women should be sex slaves. So I guess I would have to say “yes” to that question.

    Just for the record, I am not mad at anyone, just an observer. How you can defend these people’s actions is beyond me.

  • Al Barger

    Mark, I appreciate your friendly goodwill, but I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you most particularly on this statement: “This mistrust of outsiders gets in the way of communities understanding one another and is the pure definition of racism.”

    For starters, Rodeo Guy (I think the gentleman’s name is Bobby Rowe) was not displaying a generalized mistrust of outsiders. He was certainly friendly to the weirdo foreign guy Borat. Plus, he was not expressing a broad mistrust of Others, but some general suspicion of Muslims- what with that corner of the whole world bearing most of the crazed murderous hate against us in the world. Similarly, it’s not like Israelis don’t understand Palestinians. It’s because they understand them all too well at this point that they would be mistrustful.

    You can simply label that “racism,” and therefore consider it bad and wrong- but you would be inappropriate to do so. Pretty much anyone in the free world has good reason to take a dim view of the Muslim community. RG’s skepticism did not appear to be determined blind hatred of Muslims, but a halfway reasonable and healthy suspicion of a community that has proven itself highly malicious and dangerous.

    It’s unfortunate that sometimes the actions of the lesser elements of the community unfairly tar those not associated- but that’s not RG’s fault.

    If it’s bad that an American takes a suspicious view of Muslims, perhaps you should be busting on the Muslims to reign in their own people so that folks like RG don’t have good rational reasons to take a dim view of that community.

    I don’t know the guy, obviously, so I’m just projecting here. But from what I can tell of him from the movie, the fellow seems friendly and reasonable. He’s not particularly hateful, nor determined to be full of resentment. He might be generally skeptical of Muslims, but I bet he’d give any particular person a fair shake.

    Now, you can stretch the word “racism” to make it apply to RG, but that would not be a true and meaningful use of the term. He does not appear to be determined to have a negative view of all Muslims, but a generalized suspicion which would likely be readily subject to revision based on experience. In other words, if some Muslims of goodwill moved in down the block, they could probably approach him and make friends. I suspect that this guy would readily substitute personal experience in the place of a general opinion about the group. That’s all you can reasonably ask.

    Finally, I’ll just say you’re completely off base in criticizing the evangelicals in the movie. You can reasonably criticize them on the one basic point of believing in their faith over science perhaps- but that’s a general criticism of pretty much EVERY religion.

    The charge of “extremism” however, is utterly unfounded- at least based on anything in the movie. “Extremism” would be if on learning that they had been duped by a comedian, they called a fatwa to have the guy killed- which is what he would likely have gotten for pranking Muslims like that.

    What was “extremist” about these Christians? All it appears to mean in this context is simply that they really believe their Jesus story, as opposed to a lot of perhaps more couth, polite Episcopalians or such that don’t really seem to believe it in their hearts.

    I would judge religious extremists by their actions. To paraphrase Forest Gump’s Mama, religious fanatics are as religious fanatics do. Thus, I’d define religious extremism based on anti-social behavior. If your church declares a death sentence against non-believers, then they are religious extremists. If your church likes to get together and talk in tongues amongst themselves and roll around the aisles, that’s totally cool.

    On what grounds would you consider the evangelicals in Borat “extremists”?

  • STM

    “If your church likes to get together and talk in tongues amongst themselves and roll around the aisles, that’s totally cool.”

    As long as they’re not using mood-altering chemicals to get them there … then the FBI or the ATF might not think so.

    But honestly Al, I do think a lot of people are missing the point here: Borat, like the rest of Baron Cohen’s alter-egos, is simply a theatrical device.

    Nothing more, nothing less. There is WAY too much hand-wringing going on here.

  • Mark

    On what grounds would you consider the evangelicals in Borat “extremists”?

    Point taken, perhaps you are correct, the word fundamentalist is probably more appropriate for the Evangelicals in the film. Having said that, such fundamental teaching is still not healthy. Fundamentalism leads to extremism because of its restriction of free thinking and information – eg Waco incident.

    The term extremist would probably apply more to groups such as the KKK which uses a perversion of Christianity to justify its message. If all Americans are right to be suspcious of Muslims because of an extremist minority, then presumably you could apply the same logic to say we should all be suspicious of Christians because the KKK? or have you some reason why this only applies to Muslims?

    Timothy McVeigh is white – so should all anglosaxons be encouraged to look less like a white person so that people will not look suspicious? If not, why not?

  • Al Barger

    “have you some reason why this only applies to Muslims?” Why yes- yes, I do have a reason why this generalized suspicion would reasonably apply to Muslims, but not American Christians. Several, actually.

    For starters, the KKK is dead. There are very few of them, and they certainly have no influence. The KKK is not flying planes into buildings, nor are they fomenting violence against blacks any time recently. More importantly, they are not supported by any part of the American religious community to speak of. Tim McVeigh was just one incident with one or two dumbasses, not any kind of movement with a national much less international network, or state sponsors. He was never in line to get WMDs.

    Whereas, rage and hatred against others is a HUGE influence in the Muslim community. Only a few are actually terrorists, but a lot more than a few are supportive of such things in various ways. Think of the Dutch cartoon riots, and all the killings just a year or two ago over a simple beauty pageant. What kind of pathologies are at work right now in Turkey, for example, where Islamic fools are ready to destroy the whole frickin’ country because Pope Benedict is visiting? Christians just aren’t doing that kind of stuff.

    I don’t necessarily 100% mean that against the entire religion forever and all time. Christians haven’t always been so nice historically, but seem to have become house trained enough in the last couple of centuries to be halfway fit for civilized company. I don’t even claim to understand Islam nearly enough to make much judgment. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and at this point the fruit of Islam is poisonous.

  • Mark


    Your assertion that “Whereas, rage and hatred against others is a HUGE influence in the Muslim community. Only a few are actually terrorists, but a lot more than a few are supportive of such things in various ways.” is just simply wrong.

    Last month I was in the bridal party for a Catholic friend of mine who was marrying a Turkish Muslim girl. I have many muslim friends and not one of them hates America. I think the biggest problem is that as close as a lot of American’s get to an Islamic person is by watching FOX news, which is the biggest dumbed down news organisation in the world.

    If we are specifically talking about the dislike of Americans by Muslims in the Middle East region this is not primarily driven by religion. Remember that it is less than 50 years since Israel was ethnically cleansed of all Muslims. During this process one million Palestinians were removed from Israel just because of their religion. The western world’s support for Israel (including turning a blind eye to the recent bombing of civilian targets in Southern Lebanon) is behind this most of the hatred disseminating from that region. It is not religion but our actions which is at the root of much of the hatred displayed in the Middle East.

    Ask yourself how your might feel towards the Jude/Christian world if you father or Grandfather was forcibly removed from their idylic life and force to live in ghettos surrounded by barbed wire.

    On top of this the Coalition of the Willing decides to create a complete disaster area in IRAQ and now that things are getting tough all the talk is about abandoning them. What will the result be of the abandonment – a heck of a lot more terrorists.

    So to think/assume/feel that the Muslim religion promotes violence and hatred is just simply incorrect. To think this is just simply racist stereotyping.

    Regarding the Pope’s visit to Turkey: Turkey is a country of 70 million people… and all fox news wants to show you is a protest by a few thousand freaks who do not like the pope??? Mate, you really need to take a broader view on these issues. It was Pope Benedict that a couple of months before this visit proclaimed in a speech at Regensburg University “show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. This is what the islamic people in Turkey are upset about my friend…. and how would you feel if you were Islamic?

    Here are a few articles you might like to read on the Pope’s visit which will give you a different perspective to the rubbish you see on CNN/FOX.
    Turkish Daily News

  • Al Barger

    Mark- Your outlook on Israelis and Palestinians appears to be significantly factually incorrect, and seems to be based on willful contortion and semantics rather than reality. You use words like “apartheid” for example, which is just ridiculous and inappropriate.

    Your explanation of the exodus of Palestinians does not jibe with my perhaps faulty understanding of history. As I understand it, the Jews did NOT drive the Palestinians from the newly re-created Israel at gunpoint, as you suggest. Rather, they voluntarily packed up and stepped aside, expecting their Arab brethren to step in and wipe out the Israelis for them.

    It was appropriate and indeed necessary to the survival of Israel not to let them back in. This isn’t a matter of wanting to “ethnically cleanse” Israel, but just not wanting to be massacred by Palestinians- which they would certainly do if they had the wherewithal.

    Best I can tell, this didn’t happen: “Ask yourself how your might feel towards the Jude/Christian world if you father or Grandfather was forcibly removed from their idylic life and force to live in ghettos surrounded by barbed wire.” First, there ain’t been any idyllic lives in that region pretty much ever. Besides that, I don’t recall seeing contemporary photos of Jews with guns to Palestinians backs, nor were they massacring Palestinians. Nor are the Israelis forcing them to live anywhere in particular. They CHOOSE, generation after generation now, to live in those ugly ghettos.

    I am certainly NOT factually wrong to say that there are a lot of Muslims hostile to the US and non-Muslims in general. 9-11 comes to mind. The new plots on our soil being busted every couple of months are evidence of that. How many examples of absolute terrorism perpetrated and many more thwarted here and in Europe do I need to see a pattern?

    Your reported personal experience might be a little re-assuring, though it sounds a bit fishy to me. On the other hand, many Muslims are good law-abiding American citizens. Some sects are more rabid, others much gentler and nicer. There are differences within communities and individuals in those communities. Sounds like you’ve found you some friendly ones to run with. I’m glad to hear that there are some.

    Finally, I can’t help but think that your quote of Pope Benedict was, frankly, dishonest. You surely must know that those were NOT the pope’s words, but a clearly attributed quote of ancient text with which the pope was taking issue.

    Goddamit, the behavior of the Muslim community in recent years is intolerable. If the first point of negotiations when the pope says something you don’t like is to go killing and rioting, that’s no good. We can’t work with that. And if your response to murder and mayhem is to even partway blame the pope over a scholarly speech, then I don’t know where to even start to try to reason with you.

  • Mark

    Al, at this point I am not entirely sure that are you for real, but I will continue anyway.

    In regards to Israel’s history you are either joking or truly uneducated.

    Many Palestinian citizens were in fact murdered by Israeli and other Allied solders when they refused to leave their homes during this phase of the creation of the Jewish nation of Israel. But it sounds like you do not really want to listen to reality.

    Read and learn about the eviction of the Palestinians from Israel: You have accused me of lying about a quote made by the pope which was front page news on virtually every newspaper in the world? This would seem to make you either quite funny or perhaps a bit foolish.

    Also not sure where I used the word “Apartheid”, but thanks for putting words in my mouth.

    You also find it “fishy” that I have muslim friends? Please explain why?

    There are One Billion or so Muslims in the world – of course a few of them are fruitcakes, just like with any other part of society. The unfortunate thing is that its people with ignorant attitudes that make the Western World so much easier to hate.

  • Al Barger

    First off, my bad. The word “apartheid” did not come from you. Thinking back, just before I wrote that, I was watching an interview with Jimmy Carter who has a book called Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.

    No, I would not consider it suspicious for you to have Muslim friends, but without making any imputations my first instinct is to think that it would seem unlikely to have numerous Muslim friends and NONE of them have ill temper toward US. That just seems really convenient towards supporting the fairly strong left wing views that you want to support.

    But then, what do I know? That might be exactly your experience, and that’s why you think as you do.

    That very careful editing to put across those words the pope was QUOTING as if they were his own strikes me as dishonest. Do you honestly not get this point?

    And no, it’s not just a few fruitcakes like in any society. Fruicakes from Ireland are not trying to get WMDs. There are not networks of tens or hundreds of thousands of Buddhists working night and day to kill US.

    Mark, have you ever heard Fiona Apple’s modern classic “Window”?

  • Sean

    Wow, I’m speechless. If you think Americans behaved admirably in this movie, you seriously need a gut check. From the man who wanted to kill homosexuals to the confederate flag selling bigots, America was exposed in this film…After reading a couple of your posts I realize that you are out of touch with reality. I am embarrassed to post on this discussion board.

  • STM

    Baron Cohen does this everywhere, including in his own country. It is not just about Americans. You find people like this everywhere. And Baron Cohen has a knack for getting under their guard.

    Get over it guys, Borat is just a theatrical device for Baron Chohen’s particular brand of comedy – which is to take the piss out of everyone.

    Really, who gives a bugger how Americans came out in this movie? It’s just a piss take.

    Stop all the hand-wringing for’s sake. You are heading towards analysis paralysis.

    Just enjoy the fun … and learn to laugh at yourselves.

  • Al Barger

    STM, I think I’m capable of taking a joke. Moreover, Cohen obviously does intend this to have some kind of social commentary- but what, exactly- and how much does the behavior of the Americans fit with the critiques that seem to have been intended or taken by some viewers?

    This ain’t ringing hands. As my hero Cedric the Entertainer would say, this ain’t nothin’ but healthy discussion.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Your knowledge of what has and hasn’t gone on in this country is pathetically marred by the Arab agitprop you read.

    For a few facts.

    There are a whole passel of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Beit Hanina, Jebel Mukabr, Abu Tur and Tsur Bakhr come to mind immediately. Arabs are found working in all parts of the city. They ride the city buses with everyone else, and assuming that they pay the fare, no driver ever seeks to keep them off the bus – except when he fears that one of them is carrying a bomb-belt.

    But because Arabs have chosen to wear bomb-belts along with their cell-phones, we pay a price. Thousands of army vets work as public security on the buses, giving everybody who boards the fish eye. In addition, there is a network of Arab buses that serve their communities. Rarely will a Jew board such a bus, but once my wife, lost in the French Hill district of town, did, so that she could get to her job.

    These Arab neighborhoods are in Jerusalem because this country was threatened by war in 1967 by its neighbors, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. We conquered and reunited our capital after asking the king of Jordan not to engage in hostilities agaist us. He refused the request and paid the consequences.

    Many Arabs fled this land upon the advice of their own military commanders in 1948-49, being promised that they would return in a matter of weeks after the Jews were swept into the sea. The Arabs’ brooms didn’t work so well, and those who fled from their homes paid thrice. First, they were turned into refugees, second they were stuck in camps and discriminated against there because their Arab brothers would not absorb them into Arab society. Thirdly, a dictatorship was erected over them in the former Jordanian provinces of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nablus, and in Gaza which has robbed them left and right, raped their young women left and right, and propagandized their children into becoming suicide bombers. This dictatorship is known as the ‘Palestinian Authority.”

    Let’s not hear any trash from you about ethnic cleansing or genocide. If you think that this is what has happened to the Arabs of who came here to find work in the early 1900’s, you obviously do not know the meaning of either.

    Finally, just so it is clear in your head. I know quite a number of Arabs personally. So I’m not talking about empty theories, like too many who write about this part of the world do.

  • S.T.M

    Al: Sorry, I wasn’t referring to you old boy … a few others. I have the read the piece and realise that you get the joke.

    Too many others don’t though mate …. including some you’ve been arguing with.

    Perhaps I need to change the way I write for Americans. I’ll quote Winston again: one people separated by the barrier of a common language.

  • Al Barger

    Ruvy- I’m always grateful to have your input, and particularly your local and historical knowledge.

    STM- Thanks for the clarification. I’m always happy to be the object of humor. Team America can take a joke. Our goofy drunken frat boys talking some trash is pretty funny. They’re probably basically real nice fellows, but they volunteered to look foolish here.

    Now, if they’re the good Americans that I’d still like to think they are, they’ll accept responsibility for the egg on their own faces and learn from the experience rather than staying mad and nursing feelings of supposed victimhood. Granted, the lawsuit doesn’t re-assure me on that count.

    However Sean (comment 55), I don’t particularly appreciate your hateful bigotry toward the owners of the antique shop. You have no legitimate grounds for calling them any kind of bad name based on anything in the movie. YOU might not appreciate Confederate culture or antiques, but you’re simply bigoted and prejudiced and don’t know what you’re talking about when you jump to such conclusions.

  • Mark


    Agree that this movie is not a social commentary on the US, what I did find hard to take was Al’s defence of specific behaviours in the movie.


    You question my sources but when an Israeli person (presumably of Jewish descent) gives you an opinion you do not take it with a grain of salt???

    Here is a link detailing the demographic of Sydney, the city in which I live.

    About 1 in 30 of us are Muslim and I come from a suburb there which has greater cultural diversity than average. Out of about 40 friends or so good friends I have 3 good muslim friends.


    You are a product of the Israeli propaganda machine my friend. Here is an interesting article for you to read.

  • S.T.M

    Mark: I bet you live in south-western Sydney … and go for the Doggies.

  • STM

    The use of the term “my friend” is a dead giveaway … it’s a very middle-eastern form of address. Yes, in the Bankstown-to-Liverpool area there is great cultural diversity, but the truth is, only a tiny percentage of the Australian population is muslim. More than 90 per cent of the Australian population is still of anglo/celtic or european decent.

    But none of it changes what this is all about.

    It also saddens me that people come to this country, where they are given a genuine second chance at a great life in a democracy that allows them by law to express their old hatreds, and they then decide to do so.

    And therein lies the problem. It would be nice if that stuff could be left at the doorstep.

  • Mark


    FYI: I happen live in the inner west (Five Dock) and support St George. I am not Muslim and consider the term “My Friend” pretty bloody standard.

    Your use of the term “old boy” makes you sound like an Eastern Suburns/North Sure fossil, but who’s keeping score?? :)

  • S.T.M

    I never thought you were a muslim (not that I’m bothered by that anyway). But I would guarantee, by some of the stuff you are throwing up on the posts, that you’re of middle-eastern background. I thought maronite, with a name like Mark. At least you go for a decent bloody footy team. You picked it too, mate … I’m a north shore boy, but not all rah-rah as I played RL at Norths. So I don’t even have a team to support any more as I refuse to have anything to do with those arseholes at Manly.

    That was Norths’ problem … when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. Now, back to the real issue: get the love flowing old boy and let’s all try to get along. Ruvy’s a good fella, as I’m sure you are.

  • Mark


    The term “My Friend” is also commonly used by people of Greek and Italian descent. I am Anglo but grew up in the suburb of Earlwood which had a majority Greek (background)population and still has a large Greek population today.

    Perhaps this explains why I use that phrase?

    I agree with you in regards to there being some issues with various ethnic groups bringing their “hatreds” (as you call it) with them.

    This does tend to only be a generational thing though. When I was young all the kids of Greek descent used to say that “Aussies Sucked” and so forth and if I am honest for the first 20 years of my life I really resented Greeks (although a lot of my mates were Greek – not sure how that works).

    But then as the next generation grows up and questions their parent’s (sometimes small-minded)teaching they turn around and realise that this country is their home. Most of the current Muslim population is 1st or “early 2nd” Generation at the moment, but in 20-30 years they will most likely be integrated into our society as well as Greeks and Italians are these days.

    PS: Go you Dragons!!!

    PPS: The comment about the Doggies was pretty funny – a lot of my mates go for them and they do really suck :)

  • S.T.M

    Yes, Earlwood IS Greek. Good stuff too. Believe it or not, I have grown up with heaps of people of Italian and Greek background, as I lived on the lower north shore, not the upper. I always liked Greeks because they always seemed a bit wild (but not dangerous).

    I have to go and do some work, Mark. All good.

  • 313

    Borat at the rodeo quote: “I support your war OF terror.”

  • Sese

    I thought the purpose of the dinner table where he presented his poop in a bag was to show that American are TOO tolerance where they dont need to.
    Too afraid to just be plain human and be rude about something that SHOULD be rude about.
    I thought those people are too pretentious. They think they are above anger and basic human reaction. I really dont factor in that they are polite.
    They are so fake and inhuman cause they think they are above everyone else.

  • Al Barger

    For crying in a bucket there Sese, the Americans can’t win for losing, can they? If that preacher had slapped Borat upside the head for disrespecting his wife, he’d have been an asshole. That they bent over backwards to be polite, well that just means that they were jerks cause they think they’re nice.

  • heh just me

    THE booing of the Kazakh’s National Anthem was added in post production (I think I saw it referenced also), if you pay attention you can SEE PEOPLE LAUGHING in the out of focus foreground… that said I have to assume the so called thunderous applause was added in post also…

    You clearly see peoples solemness and demeanor go from cheering at the very beginning harmless general remarks to quiet stillness and realizing they were being messed with towards the thirsting for childrens blood stuff…

    Also don’t say I don’t get the movie, I do and it was entertaining and I get what its trying to be, I even tried watching the dvd in some of the other languages and lol’d at the “jew alert” for hebrew language which I actually was looking forward too but it was a neat gag 😉

    this post was in retrospect of these posts below:

    “Ty, I’ll have to see it again to gauge the reactions at the rodeo, but I suspect that you’re seeing what you wanted to see rather than what was on the screen. It took a few seconds for parts of the crowd to catch on, but by the time he got to killing the lizards, there was pretty nearly zero applause.

    He might have gotten some applause in the middle to marginally bad stuff before people caught on, but they simply were not trying to cheer a bunch of bloodthirsty stuff. Clearly, audience reaction shifted rapidly as they picked up on where he was going.”

    someones response-Funny you say that, because I think YOU are seeing what you wanted to see rather than what was on the screen.-

  • quercus

    Manipulating and deceiving people so that you can ridicule them on film is a completely unfunny concept to me, or at least in this case it was. I ejected the DVD at the end of the rodeo scene. I’m surprised however to find apologists on this site for the rodeo guy who expresses enthusiastic support for executing gays. Those words came very willingly out of his own mouth. And plenty of folks at that rodeo cheered for a series of horrific curses against the entire populace of Iraq. This is not an uncommon attitude in this country — as a woman waiting in line at an airport security check said to me the other day, “why don’t we just bomb all of them and then we can live normally again?”. I don’t like the way in which “Borat” exposes American bigotry and jingoism, but what it’s exposing is very real.

  • Kristina

    I agree with everything you wrote! Everyone in here that has contradicting opinions of what you are saying are just bashing you really for no reason, just because they don’t like your opinion I’m not sure how that gives them the right to call you an ‘anti-intellectual’. Ironic perhaps, considering any intellectual would be able to grasp and understand both sides of the story and both points of view, as you stated in the end that perhaps you are just some ‘right-wing nut job’, lol. In my opinion what you said was dead on, I’m currently writing a paper on Borat for an English essay, my teacher’s opinion matches some of the other’s in this forum – and I was debating on weather I should contradict what I know she wants our thesis to be, but your paper has inspired me to go with my gut feeling.

  • Al Barger

    Kristina- I hope my arguments are of some use to you in making your point. If your teacher is any kind of cool, she’ll appreciate you thinking critically for yourself.

    You might want to ask this teacher or others who would take the view that Borat’s Americans looked bad what response exactly should, say, the gun shop owner have made.

  • Maahtha

    I know you will likely delete this due to its duration but I appreciate this opportunity to express my uneasiness with the hysteria of self righteousness surrounding this film, from Cohen too….

    I realize I am a bit late having having seen the movie a year after its release, but I have to say that the idea that this movie warrants the label of social commentary of any sort- but on the prejudices of america? Hilarious…and creepy.

    Not to mention that people say that and then cite 2 or 3 obvious instances while leaving the other 20 non-offensive ones out. This is quite desperate, no?

    If a hasidic jew came in to that same gun store acting like a clown and with a film crew saying he wants to defend himself against the aryans or the kkk, the guy would have showed him a gun. Case closed.

    One prejudice not yet mentioned is that there are a lot of people who go completely irrational when they hear a southern accent, or see words like ‘Texas,’ and ‘Alabama.’ Case reopened: Who is the bigot when one assumes that the gun store owner didn’t ‘get it’ just as the viewer of the movie ‘got it?’ Even gun dealers can catch subtle humor ya know?

    There was obvious cheap editing in the ‘southern gentry’ piece. She is drippingly polite at the table and then is immediately at the door angry as hell and a guy is saying he called the police. If Luenell (love her) showed up white but in that same outfit the reaction would have been no different. Why so desperate people?

    If you think that the car salesmen wasn’t returning the same humor that ‘Borat’ was then that is your prejudice. To me it was obvious, just as the gun store owner was. As far as the rodeo guy, I mean, it’s a rodeo and his unforgivable comments could be also be heard at dogfights, bullfights, cockfights, also from people in any country in this world. This was not ‘american’ behavior.

    Everyone keeps talking about how cool the young black guys were, and I agree, they were wonderful, but by the same standards that people are quick to criticize the others filmed, the first thing these guys said was “Man, you gotta speak english around here.” They all said it and were quite adamant. I took no offense just as I didn’t with 90% of the people shown. But white people with southern accents don’t frighten me because I don’t succumb to superstition as easy as most.

    I appreciate the initial review in that there is indifference to the blatant misogyny and that they consider the feminists the worst offenders. Actually, I thought it was great when they got up and left. That’s just tactical saying women are rude or whatever if they don’t stick around and listen to the same lines over and over for 50 years. He made a point to say cliche lines, which I thought was funny simply because he was making fun of these kinds of guys and I don’t want to sound like an a$$ but by calling them rude is one of those cliche lines.

    The reason that I appreciate the author’s view, including the omission that the frat boy said he wanted women to be slaves, is because at least there is no hypocrisy. All of these people coming out and suddenly caring about women being degraded simply because it happens with a southern accent makes me sick. C’mon, you know you don’t care.

    And since when did the word ‘minorities’ become a racial slur? Did these boys seem threatened? Well look at the irrational response to this film and that many times they are referred to as racist yet they said nothing racist. And when that guy was about to say something about the jews, hmm, considered what the other guy was saying, I wonder if it would have been about how jews can say and do anything to someone but no one can return it, or that the jewish ADL officially says that there is a very high chance someone is or will become anti-semitic if they say things like the economy is bad and that they are not making enough money or if they believe people have the right to take up arms against government infringement on their freedom. Really, the ADL says that. They also say you might be anti-semitic if you believe a small group of businessmen and politicians really run this country. I wonder why Cohen didn’t let him ‘hang himself’ on this one. It’s odd that he interrupted him here and just left the word ‘jews’ hanging. I think because Cohen is intelligent enough to know that the conversation wasn’t really about hating jews but that this guy was about to actually explain his thoughts on something all too clearly.

    Sacha traveled the deep south with a thick black mustache and a thick accent and was embraced and helped along whenever he asked. It was horrible what he did in that man’s antique store, who by the way, also had Southern Cherokee Confederation paraphanelia too, not so simple? Ahh, just don’t think about it then.

    Although I can’t agree with everything about the review I have to say that the real dark underbelly is the desperate response by so many to feel better about themselves at the expense of all of the good-hearted people in this film, New Yorkers, Frat Boys, and Rodeo Crowd not included, but everyone else is…remember them? Watch it again.

  • Al Barger

    Maahtha- Thank you for taking the time to write. Those are just the kind of thoughtful comments that we like, and we wouldn’t dream of deleting them.

    Most of these Americans – especially the Southerners – were entirely nice and said little if anything of any kind of a bigoted nature. And pretty much all of the few negative comments weren’t serious. A couple of drunk frat boys bitching about women or about minorities getting the breaks is really just nothing at all.

  • Maahtha

    Thanks! One more long-wind (promise) to concur that Cohen certainly intends to “teach” people about their evils and not necessarily make them laugh…..

    Cohen: “I know it’s not very funny being a comedian talking about the Holocaust, but I think it’s an interesting idea that not everyone in Germany had to be a raving anti-Semite. They just had to be apathetic.”

    This is in reference to those Texans in that bar singing “….throw the Jew down the well….” in which he accuses them of the same indifference that caused the Holocaust. WOW! Not to mention that he had been doing comedy on the stage for over an hour and everyone knew he was a comedian and many things were thrown down the well before Jews and the owner was Jewish and singing along. Is Cohen saying that if you are not Jewish but laugh at the ‘running of the Jews’ that you are indifferent to the mass murder of Jews? Conveniently, whether you get the joke, play along, you are ‘apathetic,’ or, if you don’t get the joke, you are just a humorless idiot. So you basically have to be either Jewish or Sacha Baron Cohen himself to justifiably enjoy Borat.

    Cohen: “…The joke is not on Kazakhstan. I think the joke is on people who can believe that the Kazakhstan that I describe can exist….[where] the women live in cages and they drink fermented horse urine and the age of consent has been raised to nine years old.”

    This is what people refer to when the obvious point is made about the actual lack of bigotry in the movie….the condescension and ignorance. But everyone of these things do exist in the world, women in cages (some tribe in Africa locks a woman in a cage and feeds her for weeks until she is plump enough to be desirable to the king….or you could just say women are in cages everywhere and they are called prostitues.)The drinking of urine happens on pretty much every continent and Gypsies from the same general area of that village in the film had discovered cow urine could be used as medicine, fermented urine is also used in some places. Also, the idea that girls even younger than 9 are NOT being forced to marry is…well, I wouldn’t know where to even start with that one.

    “I think part of the movie shows the absurdity of holding any form of racial prejudice, whether it’s hatred of African-Americans or of Jews,” Baron Cohen says.

    Considering neither of these prejudices occurred in the film, it makes me wonder exactly WHAT he is trying to accomplish here. Again, if you laugh you are wrong, if you don’t, well, you are still wrong.

    I have nothing more to say about Borat, except what if those were Israeli flags in that antique store? A flag that MANY millions of people consider a symbol of genocide against the Palestinians? I don’t think that but I am sure that things would not be going as smoothly for Cohen. That guy’s wife looked so pitiful while he was being a real demon destroying that stuff. Besides, he destroyed items that, if they sold, would furnish some of the taxes that keeps his vacation spot in Israel secure.

    Thanks again, no more essays.

  • Al Barger


    I think you’re being a bit hard on Cohen. I’m mostly taking the movie on its own, judging the art strictly by what’s on the screen. In the moviefilm itself, he doesn’t particularly overly seem to be judging folks. Here’s how people reacted to Borat, and make of it what you will.

    I haven’t read that many interviews with Borat/Cohen. It makes more sense to judge the art mostly by itself. I might tend to suspect that the liberal Cohen might have been thinking that he was indicting people. But what possible reaction could any of these people have had to Borat that would NOT prove that they were racist homophobes?

    In short, I’m content to enjoy the moviefilm and make my judgments of the participants without worrying too much about what I might think Cohen intended.

    “Throw the Jew Down the Well” is a big favorite here on the farm. I’ve trained my Boo Kitty to sing along, ie meow on cue – at least when she’s wanting fed. Just hearing the audio of the song, it’s 100% clear that the audience is in on the joke. So what’s the complaint? Going along with the comedian makes them racist? Does this apply to all us fans of Eric Cartman as well?

    And you keep writting them long-winded explanations.

  • Maahtha

    In my first post I was attempting to make the point about the MANY responses to this film that I was hearing that could have cared less if something actually did happen in the movie but they were going to say that it did, why? That is what I pondered.

    I suppose it’s so much of the “we” should feel this about Borat and what Borat exposed about “us” that gave me the creeps. I have been hearing more and more of this in the past years…It makes me wish people would go back to being indifferent about things like they were about Kosovo and every other catastrophe in the 90’s and only spoke of OJ and Lewinsky. All this so called ‘social awareness’ has just added to the chaos. People refer to the US as a single human entity far too much for me to be comfortable and it really bloomed with the response to this film.

    So I guess I was hoping the creator of this film was just laughing and saying, “Naaah, it’s just a dumb funny movie,” but it was the opposite, he too was making things up that didn’t happen and claiming at the same time to be teaching people about “themselves.” Even the interviewer was like, “huh?”

    I am not sure if I am misunderstanding your comment: “So what’s the complaint? Going along with the comedian makes them racist?” but my point was that COHEN SAID that by those people singing along that they were practicing the same “apathy” that Germans did when the Holocaust ensued. I found the indictment bizarre and realized that there was nothing that audience could have done that would have made Cohen see them as anything but ignorant, just like so many of the responders to the film.

    I won’t go on about Cohen anymore because it is not that he is SO significant but I suppose I am forlorn about so many artists going the missionary and social issues route instead of blowing my mind with their music, art, and comedy. Bring back self-absorbed art! T. Amos and Bjork sing about Bush now and Chappelle cares about what offends the “Black Community” and Borat is just a symbol of what is “ugly in us.” Jeeeez I am so dramatic eh? Well, damnit I am!

  • Al Barger

    Yeah, I understand how you can get frustrated with left wingers of various countries and stripes looking for every form of how to denigrate Americans (or at least white male conservative Americans) as the source of most of the world’s evils.

    But screw ’em. Idiots can think whatever they want. That nonsense mostly really only becomes significant when the pale penis Americans accept such foolishness and grant it the sanction of the victim. Such nonsense mostly only effects you if you choose to let it.

    Cohen might wish to indict the audience going along with his performance of “Throw the Jew Down the Well,” but that’s just 100% dumb and the charges won’t stick.

    All in all, I’m happy to present what the Americans did in the moviefilm and let the world say what they will about US based on that. We looked pretty good.

  • Jonny the Monkey


    My name a Jonny the Monkey, Kazakh animal actor and number one most famous celebrity in all of Kazakhstan. Good friend Borat still only number four most famous in my country, even after great success moviefilm.

    I writes to say if you enjoy Borat movie, then should go buy hims touristic guidings book too. It have many informations for travel to glorious Kazakhstan and also minor nation of US and A.

    Plus if you turn to page 49, can see movieposter for mine blockbluster pornofilm ‘King Khram’…

    But be WARN – poster picture show mine phenis in all of its glory whole.

    And why not? It is niice!


    NOTE: This comment was ‘hand signed’ by Jonny the Monkey to his gypsy assistant Batyr, who then translated and posted those words here.