November 1, 2006, - 5:41 am

“Borat”: The Joke’s on You, America

By Debbie Schlussel
Britain’s Daily Mail says that “Borat” makes fun of an entire country.
But that country isn’t Kazakhstan. It’s America. And it’s not funny.
If you watch TV, read a paper, or listen to talk radio, you’ve likely heard about “Borat,” the fictional anti-Semitic reporter from Kazakhstan, played by pretentious British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. The Borat movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” comes out this week. And it’s getting a lot of hype.
I was excited to go see this movie. Borat’s interviews with unwitting politicians and celebrities on his “Da Ali G Show” were funny. But his movie isn’t.
It’s a mean-spirited attack on America . . . Red State America. Yes, there are a few funny scenes. Borat comes to America and meets a group of aging Manhattan feminists. But even that was more mildly amusing than uproariously funny.

boratmovieposter.jpg

Definition of Over-Rated: Borat/Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat falls in love with Pamela Anderson, after seeing her on “Baywatch” in his hotel room. He spends most of the rest of the movie trying to get to California to meet and marry her. I thought I’d find it funny when he finally gets the chance to make fun of the buxom peroxide blonde. But the movie even managed to make me feel something I thought I never would: sympathy for Ms. Anderson.
The movie is full of set-ups in which unknowing Americans were duped by sneaky “Borat” producers and made fun of by Cohen. They all believe he’s a foreign journalist trying to learn about America.
Spoiler alert: If you want to see how Borat takes cheap shots at America, without a preview, stop reading here.
Borat meets with conservative former Congressman Bob Barr and serves him cheese, saying it’s a traditional gift in Kazakhstan. After Barr swallows it, Borat tells him it’s made from his wife’s breast milk. Is that funny? No, it’s just sick. Then, he chooses to describe a gay parade to another conservative, Alan Keyes, and describes how he and a gay from the parade had sex with a plastic fist in a shower. That’s supposed to be funny?
If it’s so funny, why didn’t Cohen & Company pick Ted Kennedy and John Kerry for the breastmilk cheese and graphic gay sex jokes? Well, that’s exactly the point. But for the brief Manhattan feminist club scene, the movie should really be called “Sacha’s Big Fart on Middle America.”
Midwesterners at a rodeo are depicted as anti-Muslim racists, bigots, and dummies. They’re supposed to be the bad ones for booing Borat when he purposely perverts the American National Anthem and says “We support your War OF Terror.”
A Southern Evangelical Church finds a down-and-out-on-his-luck Borat asleep in the sidewalk in front. They take him in and even give him a bus ride on his way to California. Despite their kindness, he ridicules them, showing them speaking in tongues and trying to make them look bad.
Equally disturbing was Borat’s sojourn to a Southern mansion where he is invited to dinner. First, he meets with an etiquette teacher. He shows her a picture of his alleged son. Most of the picture is of the son’s large penis. That’s funny? Maybe, if you’re five or a drunk at the frat house. When he goes to dinner, Borat tells one of the husbands at the dinner table that his wife is ugly. After using the bathroom, he brings a white bag filled with his feces to the dinner table. That’s funny? Where’s the humor?
Ditto for the arrival of the fat, Black prostitute (overflowing out of her skimpy sequined tube top), whom Cohen invites to the home while the dinner is going on. She’s, by the way, the major Black person in the movie (there are brief scene with Keyes and some inner city Black kids). So who’s the racist now, Sacha Cohen?
“Borat” hitches a ride in an RV with some Southern frat boys, who make indefensible anti-Semitic comments. But they’re hardly representative of America, where anti-Semitism is at one of the world’s lowest levels. In Cohen’s own native Britain, anti-Semitism is practically the national theology (second to Islamism). Cohen = Pot. Kettle. “Black.”
It’s no surprise that Daily Mail columnist Baz Bamigboye gives “Borat” a huge thumbs up, since Brits love to hate America. Says he:

I don’t think the film would have been as funny had it been set in Britain because part of the fun is watching gullible Americans being taken in by a daft man from Kazakhstan.
Although we have been taken in by a few Americans lately…just ask Tony Blair.

Much has been made of Borat’s attacks on Jews. But we laugh at those because it’s implicit that comedian Cohen is making fun of the anti-Semite he’s playing. That’s not the problem.
It’s that he celebrates attacking Americans.
The problem is that Cohen–who proudly proclaims that he’s a Jew–has no problem savaging American Christians, Southerners, rodeo fans, and others who are kind and generous to this odd foreigner they believe is truly in need of help.
If that causes anyone be anti-Semitic, I don’t blame them. I blame Sacha Baron Cohen.
And hope he returns to Britain very, very soon. The “Borat” joke’s on you, America.

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34 Responses

Debbie,
Thank you telling me to skip Borat. I had a feeling that this would be the case in regards to a movie like this. I feel for the loss of your own prcious time for the sacrifice of others.
Thanks again, P. Aaron
P.S. Our Birmingham gig went well.

P. Aaron on November 1, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Borat the movie looks quite stupid from the trailer.
But I agree he is making a point about latent anti-Semitism, not truly being it. On one of his shows, he goes to a rural bar in Arizona and gets the whole bar to go along with his anti-Semitism. I agree with you that this is not nearly as rampant in America as in most other countries but it was still telling….

hairymon on November 1, 2006 at 5:02 pm

Debbie,
Thanks for saving me nine bucks. Whatever happened to the notion that comedy was supposed to be universal? I don’t mind political comedy so long as the comedians aren’t trying to foist their own views on me, but it seems these days that anything promoted as “funny” is just liberals whining. Boooooring.

mechmorph on November 1, 2006 at 5:25 pm

Debbie did you see his opening shtick on SNL last weekend? It wasn’t funny at all.

shleppy on November 1, 2006 at 7:52 pm

I cannot stand this guy and when HBO put on the Da Ali G Show, I wrote HBO telling them they had just lowered the bar for acceptable entertainment down another notch and canceled my subscription.
There is no way I am going to help support this pile of crap that masquerades as an Entertainer.
When they stopped running the show and the Sopranos returned, I activated my subscription again. I learned yesterday that they are going to air his series again.
I guess its time to write another letter and cancel HBO.
With so many talented people out there, why does Time Warner keep hiring morons and deviants for their entertainment division?

ScottyDog on November 2, 2006 at 2:51 pm

The whole point of the movie is to make fun of stereotypes. No one is safe. If you followed Sacha’s career at all, and possibly even did some, dare I say, research, you’d realize that he’s been praciticing this schtick for YEARS!!! in england, on BRITS!!!!!! That’s right, it was the british that were made to look like fools, LONG before americans were. The reason for the move to americans is because the buzz about the show and the skit was relatively small, so no one knew about it. Obviously, you can’t expect a sequel.
My point is, it’s not like he just came out attacking americans, the brits had their turn first.
YOU WROTE, “No one is safe.” WRONG. THE WHOLE POINT OF THE MOVIE WAS TO ATTACK CONSERVATIVES AND RED STATE AMERICA TYPES. BUT FOR THE SHORT SCENE WITH THE FEMINISTS, LIBERALS WERE VERY SAFE FROM SASCHA BARON COHEN.
DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL

FSM-FTW!(descent) on November 3, 2006 at 10:37 am

He is Michael Moore with over-the-top humor.
The good parts are very good and the bad very bad.

len613 on November 5, 2006 at 2:20 am

He is Michael Moore with over-the-top humor.
The good parts are very good and the bad very bad.

len613 on November 5, 2006 at 2:21 am

>If it’s so funny, why didn’t Cohen & Company pick >Ted Kennedy and John Kerry for the breastmilk >cheese and graphic gay sex jokes?
Because Kennedy would ask for more cheese and neither are as opposed to gays as Keyes is.
The scenes in NYC show people as very unfriendly and not in a good light.
>Midwesterners at a rodeo are depicted as >anti-Muslim racists, bigots, and dummies.
The guy at the rodeo plainly states that he would like to murder gays. Isn’t that kinda wrong, regardless of how you feel about the homosexual issue?
I laughed hard at this film.

gojiguy on November 5, 2006 at 12:35 pm

Sascha Cohen is a comedic genius. Don’t kid yourself.
Debbie, did you eat a lot of lead as a child? It is so manifestly clear that you do not understand the first thing about this film. It is also clear that you are uncomfortable with satire, or anything that might cause you any cognitive dissonance. Clearly it pains you to have to consider that a film might have multiple purposes at the same time.

Hello WASPS on November 6, 2006 at 1:31 am

While the movie had a couple of laughs, it was very far from genius. I honestly don’t get the rave reviews this movie is getting. It definitely takes more shots at conservative southern people than anyone else. It’s just not very clever. When it lacks ideas, it resorts to progressively gross humor. Cohen does have a lot of talent. He shows only a small amount in this one-joke, sophomoric comedy.

Allen on November 6, 2006 at 10:47 am

Debbie,
I appreciate your review; from what you described, the movie sounds dreadful. However, I think you are living in a bubble if you think America is not comprised of anti-Semites. I have experienced anti-Semitism plenty in the U.S. and just because the climate for Jews is so much worse in the U.K. and the rest of the world, it doesn’t cancel out what is happening over here.
Furthermore, I do not see how Cohen’s anti-Semitic rants, jokes, etc., make Borat look foolish. What it does is give more fuel to those who hate Jews.
What I do not understand is why Conservative Jewish commentators like you and David Horowitz feel that you need to jump to the defense of Christians. There are plenty of people to defend Christians; how about not dismissing Cohen’s offense anti-Semitism and sticking up for your fellow Jews? Unless your goal is simply to broaden your audience, it just does not make sense.

babygreens on November 6, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Debbie,
It is clear that your review is without research or any type of sense of humor. As most fans of Ali G, Borat, and Mr. Cohen know he is about showing the ignorance and stupidity that is within people and he turns into a joke. Can you not take a joke?
IT IS CLEAR THAT YOUR COMMENT-NOT MY REVIEW-IS WITHOUT RESEARCH. I SAW THE MOVIE. THAT’S ALL THE RESEARCH I NEED. IF THE MOVIE IS ABOUT SHOWING THE IGNORANCE AND STUPIDITY THAT IS WITHIN PEOPLE, HE WAS SUCCESSFUL WITH AT LEAST ONE PERSON: YOU. I CAN TAKE A JOKE. AND THE JOKE IS YOU AND ANYONE ELSE WHO LIKED IT. IT’S AN IQ TEST FOR AMERICA. AND YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE THAT FAILED.
DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL

TakaChris on November 6, 2006 at 8:54 pm

Good work, Debbie.
You do a good job telling us about what crap Hollywood is producing these days so that we don’t have to waste our money on it/them.
“A Southern Evangelical Church finds a down-and-out-on-his-luck Borat asleep in the sidewalk in front. They take him in and even give him a bus ride on his way to California. Despite their kindness, he ridicules them, showing them speaking in tongues and trying to make them look bad.”
Anyone who takes advantage of kindness of others to make them look bad (like Howard Stern did to Kathie Lee Gifford on his divorce) is scum in my book. It is no worse than using kindness to rob someone. Only instead of taking their tangible property, he takes their dignity. He is a mamzer and has no moral qualities worth supporting.
You followed the above paragraph with more examples, showing how low he stoops. He could have used ideas to make his point, but he uses gross and sophomoric tactics because he has no ability to be either witty or profound.
His movie, then, like Howard Stern’s broadcast are unworthy of patronage, a complete waste of resources.

Loser on November 6, 2006 at 11:51 pm

The thing is, he’s making fun of the whole situation, it’s not like he’s saying “Fuck all americans, I hate black people and I am an anti-semitist”. Like most movies, it does not suit all tastes. Therefore, you and people with the same sense of humour as you should not see this movie. However, there’s many people out there that have the “Borat-sense-of-humour”. I for one just love making fun of stereotypes, it’s not like I mean any harm or that I even mean some of the things that I say, but it’s JOKES, that, apparently, you do not get.

AllegroAffettuoso on November 10, 2006 at 4:24 pm

Debbie;
You obviously have no sense of humor, Mr. Cohen has taken on Liberals as well as Conservatives in his Ali G. show. Have you seen the bit with Andy Rooney?
The new Borat movie takes aim at every one. He makes fun of Gay People, Conservatives, Liberals, and plain ordinary people.
The bit with the church people, well they only made them selves look silly. The cameras where just there to capture it.
DId you see the part with the Frat Boys, didn’t seem too conservative to me.
I think you need to chill out once and a while, relax and smell the roses.

dratsaB livE on November 13, 2006 at 12:32 am

Do you have to reply to comments with all caps? Oh wait, that’s the same way you talk on Howard Stern. Slow it down a little eh?

dratsaB livE on November 13, 2006 at 12:34 am

Box Office Sales show that you don’t “get it” Debbie but the rest of America does. The movie opened in just 1/10 of theaters nationwide that a typically movie does yet it’s garnered the top spot every week in ticket sales. As Borat would tell you “Don’t get all jewed up about it.”

DebbieSuperFan on November 13, 2006 at 12:49 pm

I can only too clearly remember my youth in England. I became aware of the “joker”. There seemed to emerge a person, who “could get away with murder”. This was a person who would take liberties with unsuspecting people. He would target women. Often he would make risque jokes in their presence. Somehow he could clown around and even “jokingly” fondle unwilling females. Fools that bought his “jokes”.These women would be chided. Do not be so narrow minded etc.
That man bore a charmed life. Such a man is Cohen. A characteristic of that type of man is that the joke is always on somebody else. His spiteful anti-social behaviour was simply off loaded as “fun”.
From a Dictionary of definitions.
Dissocial Personality Disorder
(1) Callous unconcern for feelings of others
(2) Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility. Disregard for social norms, rules and obligations.
Cohen is a spiteful misfit. Like certain deviates in society , he can indulge in his peccadillos.
He is cunning enough to use it and disguise it.

Pete the lad on November 13, 2006 at 11:18 pm

Sascha is a genius. You are an idiot.

maarmie on November 14, 2006 at 12:42 pm

Obscenity and the use of sexual molestation on naive persons appears to be much in use by Cohen-Borat. His utter contempt for human beings tells us a great deal about his twisted mind.
On the opening of the concentration camps in 1945, a careful documentation was made of two persons. They were Ilse Koch and Irma Griese. Two female camp guards.
They had subjected helpless weakened prisoners to every kind of sexual abuse. They had attempted to degrade and dehumanise these poor people. The two women were photographed and one could take a good look.
An psychiatric evaluation was made of WHAT THEY HAD BECOME.
We were told at that time, that anyone who degrades and humiliates helpless people do indeed
BECOME DEGRADED THEMSELVES. They become as animals
devoid of human pity,
Alas, people do not learn.

Pete the lad on November 14, 2006 at 7:33 pm

I agree with you that “the joke’s on America”, but that’s mostly the fault of Americans. People aren’t merely DEPICTED as racists and bigots, they SAY racist, bigoted things, all by themselves. He doesn’t ask them to speak in tongues– if that’s ridiculous, well that’s not Cohen’s fault for showing it. If you’re disgusted by this movie, then you should be combating the kinds of attitudes it documents.
Finally, to correct a pretty key fact you misstate here, when Borat says “We support your War OF Terror.” the people at the rodeo CHEER– they don’t boo until he starts singing to the tune of the US national anthem.

dowcet on November 24, 2006 at 10:28 pm

Hi Debbie,
I agree with you completely, it is a mean spirited attack on the United States, the only one’s racist are the British themselves and some of the posts on this blog confirm this ó perhaps it’s time to take a tour of UK and go to Plymouth, Blackpool, Hastings, Wigan, Holyhead, Belfast to take the mick out of the United Kingdom? To fInd and exploit the ignorance and stupidity that is with them. That’s what I plan on doing when I finish film school.
Another film I want to do is “Super Size Britain/Europe”
75% of men and 60% of women could be overweight by 2010.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,,1858845,00.html
Unfortunately English culture has been degraded to getting a laugh at the expense of others (Borat, Dirty Sanchez, etcÖ) the only way is to fight fire with fire.
We can start filming this summer when everyone is out in their flabby white arse proudly waving their St George Cross flag and move up the country then cross over to N.I. We can show the the reporter going to Belfast saying he supports their war! Or show the fan going to a Wrestle-mania show in Birmingham
We can shoot everything on DV and send it to every film festival!
You are the true genius. Sascha is an idiot!

ciaccino on November 29, 2006 at 11:59 am

any updates coming ??

Malina on November 8, 2009 at 9:00 am

If anything Sacha is instigating more anti-semitism because he fits all the stereotypes thats for sure.

Obzer on December 17, 2009 at 10:43 am

urgh, this report sucks. Learn to take a joke u dumb american x

Nick on July 14, 2010 at 12:05 am

I fell you have lost it debbie, because i & majority in my family & relative or even in my community find Borat to be “A hell of a movie” and please stop making these bizarre conspiracy theories of yours because you are bad in judging.

Borat Rules.

Diagoh on March 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Try to avoid how you are! Nice! I think world would be a better place without USA. Abroad, we see you like a country that wastes four times plus a European. You’re materialist, even justifing a war because you think petrol is your around over the world. Reading your blog, I realice you are just like Sacha Baron Coen tries to show. hahaha, you’re capable even to feel that your God it’s un iphone. Common…insulting a British comedian…

pepeeldebetanzos on September 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm

“Midwesterners at a rodeo are depicted as anti-Muslim racists, bigots, and dummies”. Well if the shoe fits…
You can’t claim he made people out to be like that, it was ACTUAL, REAL footage, so that is an honest portrayal of how those people reacted. He didn’t make them act in anyway, they had free choice and they cheered him on, they could of stayed quiet or booed. They can clearly Boo, as seen when he sings the national anthem (Booing as he is saying another place is the greatest country), but they don’t when he makes comments on the war. Basically at some points in this film it makes your country look bad and you want to be ignorant to that and think everyone in the USA is perfect, you don’t like it.
You also hear that guy say gay people should be killed and basically that all middle Easton people look the same … Again, no-one forced him to say that.
This film highlights there are still issues in ‘the land of the free’.
Deal with these issues instead of writing an article moaning about how a film apparently ‘mad you look bad’.
And if you really want proof of Racism in the US look at your 2013 Miss America and then look at the horrible Racist tweets people have been sending.
You can’t blame the film for that one

Rachel on September 16, 2013 at 7:28 pm

This movie was hilarious you people just don’t have sense of humor AT all idk what’s funnier this movie or how much of america is stuck up and point fingers at people…its a joke everyone…if you keep taking life to serious what’s the point in that…everyone’s going to die someday whether your stuck.up or if you can just be happy

Nico Cassata on December 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm

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