13 November 2006

Alls That

Sacha Baron Cohen's brilliant character Borat worked perfectly when translated to the big screen. I'm overjoyed to see this morning that it took first place at the box office for a second straight weekend. The satire is biting, hilarious, and completely relevant. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you must. Not only is it so funny you'll embarrass yourself by how loudly you're laughing, but is also at times haunting at how dangerously ignorant, bigoted, and gullible Americans can be. The film, in my view, points out not how backward Kazakhstan is (as the anti-defimation League & Kazakh government officials have claimed), rather it points out how backward the U.S. is.

Baron Cohen clearly has a political agenda in the film (a valid & well thought-out one, but still definitely there) in who he chooses to interview and how he treats them, but comparing scenes where he talks to young black men late at night deep in an inner-city ghetto to his scene riding along on an RV-road trip with a few white frat boys is truly telling.

After seeing the film, i'm amazed Baron Cohen is still alive and free. The number of times you think he must have been arrested or utterly torn apart by a mob is astounding. I suppose someone might make an argument that it demonstrates the exceptional civility of Americans, how they can take a verbal assault without resorting to violence, but i think it's more likely a product of the sheepish American tendency to bend over and take whatever is doled out to us.

I see a parallel with the stolen election of 2000. Pundits called it a credit to American democracy that we didn't take to the streets and shut down the world, but it was instead a credit to the American plutocracy. Borat's comic bullying is only possible, because of the incredible ignorance displayed by the Americans he finds that are willing to believe that the Borat character is a real, viable representative of a true Kazakhstani. The film is, at its core, a fairly accurate representation of how American's view people from other countries (or counties for that matter) as cardboard cutouts. They are statistics, news stories, and maybe causes, but surely not real flesh-and-blood humans. The film explores (and to an extent explains) how we can accept people dying of AIDS or hunger or poverty in other parts of the world... how we can care so much about 2000 some dead American soldiers and so little about tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

But seriously... it's really funny. Go see it.

No comments: