Red necks and Jews in a well together

As you may recall, I did a post on the way Sacha Cohen (as Borat), rather than exposing truly dangerous anti-Semitism, may be showing anti-Semites a way to get their feelings out into the open without fear of criticism or analysis.  Aside from agreeing with my post, many of my readers commented on Cohen’s attack on the rural south. You guys aren’t the only ones who noticed that little problem.  Robert VerBruggen, writing at The American Spectator, makes precisely the same point.  He goes one step further, though (or, at least, I think he does).  Instead of just taking Borat/Cohen to task for viewing rednecks as a soft target, he notes that, by doing so, Borat/Cohen carefully avoids raising the issue of anti-Semitism amongst politically effective groups that use anti-Semitism as part of their political profiles:

This disdain for rural areas pervades the comic’s work, and it’s complemented with a refusal to unearth urban issues. Take a look at the few scenes from Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan where Borat is in New York. He does bring to life the well known stereotype that working-class New Yorkers aren’t exactly cheery people — he kisses a few on both cheeks and watches them rupture blood vessels.

But for some reason the “Kazakh journalist’s” anti-Semitism seems restrained in these scenes. He evidently doesn’t want to know what these people think of Jews.

Then Borat heads to a black neighborhood in Atlanta to chat with a group of guys playing dice. They share a few fashion tips, but again Borat doesn’t bring up the whole Jewish thing.


14 Responses

  1. Clever title.

  2. Insult to proud people of Kazakh will not procede without reply unavenged. Kazakh Film Commission to produce film remake of movie by glorious deceased American Sam Peckinpah to be title Bring Me Head of Sacha Cohen. American actor Gary Busey in negotiations to star. Very popular with Turkic audiences Busey is.

  3. I think Sasha, or whatever identity he chooses to take on, is looking out for his career. After all, he may or may not be personally prejudiced against rural folks. Regardless, he knows that the people going to watch his movies will be coming from the big cities, that is where the bucks are. So naturally, he will find it sooth to cater to the prejudices of the inner city folks, while masquerading as a being that exposes the prejudices of others. It would not be funny after all, if you tell the Emperor he has no clothes on, and while you won’t get executed for being a comedian insensitive to your audience’s self-aggrandized vision of themselves in this day and age, you will not get as much popularity and success.

    After all, looking at the art of comedy, I already understood that it sought to manipulate the joke so that the audience automatically finds it to be true, and therefore funny. The breaking down of the technique into something more scientific, allows for people like me to predict why the Left would, for example, find Borat funny. They would find him funny because Borat caters to their prejudices of what Americans are really like in the interior. There is no equal opportunity offender, because comedians offend people that allows them to rake in the money. Obviously that is not going to be “equal” cause certain people pay more than others.

  4. VerBruggen’s attack, though tempered slightly at the end of his piece, is way off. See Sasha Cohen in Talladega Nights. There he plays an urban Frenchman. And everyone else in the film makes fun of rednecks, who are fair game–for crying out loud.
    There are only three short scenes in the Borat movie which deal with Jews. One is the gun shop (could be any gun shop in America), and the guy didn’t even blanch when asked about a good gun with which to shoot jews. It needed to be seen, it exposes the ease with which some people world wide spread the blood libel.
    Sencond, a Kasakstan “Jew Run” modeled on the a spanish “Bull Run.” Where or how it was filmed is not obvious from watching the movie, but it does show the blood libel in a form most of us are not used to thinking about it. Does this really happen somewhere? Let’s stop it if it does. In fact lets stop french channel 2, it’s just as bad.
    Third, Borat stays at a guest house owned by an older jewish couple. It is an opportunity for Borat to show his own extreme paranoia about jews. It says nothing about Americans. It acurately shows how paranoid some people from the former Soviet Union and the Middle East are about Jews.
    In a press release Borat says he hopes to win the Oscar for most anti-Jewish film but is afraid Mel Gibson might have beat him on that one. Nice swipe at the anti-jewish Oscars which so loved Michael “Blood Libal” Moore.

  5. Nothing worse than French 2, not even French w(h)ine.

    Nice swipe at Moore, because he said Gibson had more anti-Jewish films than Borat? What are you talking about.

  6. Haven’t seen any movies with Sasha/Borat in them, and know his work only from a few minutes’ worth of excerpts. But I’m not a fan, and it’s because I see a contrast that has so far been un- or under-remarked: When Russian comedian Yakoff Smirnoff was touring the U.S. with his “what a country!” schtick, it was obvious that he had a real affection for America and American foibles. Borat seems to have disdain for his American fans rather than affection. Sooner or later, that act is going to wear very thin.

    Granted, I’m not a big fan of the clownish Roberto Begnini, either, but that Italian doesn’t do the scatalogical humor that seems to be part of Borat’s favorite material, so I have more respect for Begnini than for Borat.

  7. That’s exactly right, Patrick. Mean, scatalogical “humor” is the last refuge of the insecure 14 year old. It’s hollow.

  8. Check out the Christopher Hitchens review at
    Hitch says that what Borat actually does is show what great manners Americans have. So stop talking about what you don’t know.
    Yes too much potty humor, but that is the character–and anyone who has ever been to India will relate to it (I really wish I didn’t have all that experience with public poo.) None of Cohen’s other characters do that.
    By the way if you search youtube there is a video of Borat singing “throw the jew down the well” at a Hebrew sunday school with all the kids clapping along. The guy is utterly brilliant. As my dead grandmother would have said, “How does that not make you think?”

  9. Cohen gave his first out-of-character interview to Rolling Stone:

    From Reuters:

    In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine released on Wednesday, Baron Cohen, 35, said he was surprised the film had caused such offense in Kazakhstan or that its humor had been so misinterpreted.

    “The joke is not on Kazakhstan,” he said. “I think the joke is on people who can believe that the Kazakhstan that I describe can exist — who believe that there’s a country where homosexuals wear blue hats and the women live in cages and they drink fermented horse urine.”

    He said he always had faith in the audience to realize this was a fictitious country and the mere purpose of it was to allow people to bring out their own prejudices.

    “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,” said Baron Cohen, a devout Jew who keeps kosher and the Sabbath when he can.”

    The outcry over this movie reminds me of the outcry over the Last Temptation of Christ, which I found to be very faith-affirming, even though others thought lept directly from the pen of Satan.

    Cohen is fighting against prejudice by showing how ridiculous it is. Maybe he’s so smart and funny he thinks others are smart and funny, too?

  10. I have no doubt Cohen is sincere in that effort, even though he may be putting a high gloss on it. I doubt the Romanian villagers he passed off as Khazakhs will get the joke or comprehend the nuance; they only know they’ve been poked fun at by affluent hipsters from London and Hollywood. Watching this movie, which was hilarious, I had the thought only a Jew would be so obsessed with anti-semitism. Genuine anti-semites (excepting unregenerate Nazis and raving Wahabi mullahs) don’t obsess. The gun range owner Borat interviewed (in a scene not incl in the movie) talks about the Final Solution as casually as one might discuss the weather.

  11. Watching ‘Borat’ in excerpts and on Leno, I found my funnybone untickled. Then read about his soliciting a New Yorker for purposes of humor and being knocked down.

    Now, THAT was funny!

  12. […] I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion on the new film, Borat. (See here, for example.) […]

  13. Having gone this far in a curmudgeonly direction, I may as well add that any act that depends too much on the scatological is in some kind of trouble. Borat—and Borat—rely on excremental humor from the very first frames. This isn’t unfunny just because it’s infantile and repetitive and doesn’t know when to stop; it’s unfunny because the revulsion produced by feces is universal and automatic and thus much too easy to exploit. This is especially true when, in a cheap knockoff of Luis Buñuel, our hero decides to introduce the unmentionable topic at the dinner table. (To be honest, I am still reeling at the relative composure of that Birmingham society lady. If I wasn’t trying to change the subject, I would say that I admired her phlegm.)

    Chris did a very nice review of Borat here.


    First saw it on Dean’s World, which I tend to notice didn’t cover the Obsession or Poison exposed shows, yet. Even though they have like 5 bloggers last time I checked, minimum.

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