Saturday, November 25, 2006

Very nice?


Liberals start to turn against Borat.

It seems the Borat character, initially welcomed by US and UK liberals as he made them feel all superior to those pesky rednecks, are starting to get uncomfortable about their own laughter.

The film is on general release in Poland from this weekend. See 'Borat and the Polish connection' here.

21 comments:

sonia said...

Actually, the fact that Sacha Cohen decided to make Borat into a Kazakh is in itself proof of the growing influence of Poles in the West. Earlier, he would simply be a Polish country bumpkin, but since the popularity of 'Polack jokes' is on the decline, Cohen decided to move further east to Kazakhastan with his character... (but kept 'jak sie masz' as a souvenir...)...

opamp said...

sonia: fully agreed.

It should be also noted that the inhabitants of the Romanian (sic!) village shown in the film as Borat's native Kazakh village are now suing the film makers for defamation. See: http://www.overlawyered.com/2006/11/yet_another_borat_suit.html

Also, the film has been banned in Russia (!) as offensive: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6130918.stm

Michael Farris said...

I have to say I've never been a fan of Cohen (once more, ahead of the crowd!). His humor is the same lame joke with minor variations. All his characters (Ali G, Borat, Bruno) have funny accents, garbled grammar and behave boorishly to people who aren't in on the joke so the audience can laugh at their discomfort.

There's also the nasty spector of a product of elite British schools making fun of non-prestige dialects and foreigner talk.

Also, I've read that Borat is basically the latest in the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition of making fun of Slavs as being primitive, filthy, anti-semitic horn dogs (true, Slavs in general have done little to make Jewish people like them).

geez said...

Or Borat is playing with his audiences' perceptions of Slavs, and Jews, and whomever. It's hard to tell. I have to admit that so much of it is just so outrageous that I find myself laughing.

beatroot said...
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beatroot said...

I think you may be missing the point about Cohen. See Brendan O'Neill's take on him after reading a student thesis by Cohen on Jewish support of Black civil rights struggles in the 1960s:

Borat might disagree, but, in parts, the dissertation reads like the intellectual foundation of Baron Cohen's comic creations. He argues that Jews' own history of suffering "played a vital role in predisposing them to identify with oppressed Blacks."

See article here
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1121/p20s01-almo.html

Renegade Eye said...

I agree with Michael.

When I was a kid, I would telephone the leader of a local anti-Semitic group (Christian Resources Inc), and talk in an old Jewish lady, Yiddish sprinkled voice, to get her to say racist and anti-Semitic things. It was fun at the time.

geez said...

That sounds like easy pickins, Renegade Eye.

Cohen's motivation and method seems much more complex to me. I wonder like the rest of you, however, how much Cohen was interested in getting to "know the stranger vis-a-vis Eastern Europeans, Romanians, and Kazakhs.

This was interesting, to be sure, from the Christian Science Monitor article cited by BR:

Elsewhere in the dissertation, Baron Cohen muses that Jews may have taken up the black struggle because it is part of the Jewish ethic to "know the stranger," to defend those cast out. He quotes the Passover command "Know the stranger, for thou wert strangers in Egypt," and cites Jewish activists who believe you can judge a man by the way he treats those who are "strange."

Baron Cohen pretty much has turned this ancient Jewish ethic into a guerrilla comedy tactic designed to expose prejudice. His characters are archetypal "strangers": the weirdly foreign Borat, the self-ghettoized Ali G, the over-the-top-gay Bruno. And their aim is to provoke reactions to their strangeness. The "good guys" are generally tolerant (even as Borat is giving them sloppy kisses), and the bad guys get hot under the collar (like the pastor who storms out of a dinner party with Borat).

geez said...

Michael Farris wrote:

"Also, I've read that Borat is basically the latest in the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition of making fun of Slavs as being primitive, filthy, anti-semitic horn dogs"

I'd be interested in reading that article(s)? Can you provide some urls, Michael? I'm not familiar with this Ashkenazi Jewish tradition.

Thanks.

beatroot said...

Looks like Mike failed to find the url to the dastardly article!

Michael Farris said...

It wasn't an article (sloppy use of 'read', you're right) but references here and there to Polish jokes and the role borshtbelt comedians had in propogating them. Borat is nothing if not a full blown literal Polish joke (behind figleaf Kazakhstan cover).

I remember hearing (and yes, retelling) Polish jokes as a kid having no idea what a "Polack" was supposed to be, I had no idea and it took years to learn that it was a person from a specific country (no East European immigration where I grew up).

sample: Did you hear about the Polack who died raking leaves?
He fell out of the tree (thank you, I'll be here all week).

geez said...

I'm still not convinced this is Cohen's intent although it may be. He may well be playing off the phenonemon of (anti)Polish jokes but he did choose a Muslim country where they eat horse sausages and play polo with sheep heads (not that there's anything wrong with that!). And yes, his schtick can be interpreted as grounded in anti-Polonism (howz dat furin ism?) but that's the choice of the interpreter as well as the actor/comedian. Seems like lots of British folks have taken that route. I really don't think most Americans who will go to see the film see the character that way.

And I'm not sure how far back a Borschtbelt "tradition" reaches back. Could be though and it would make for an interesting paper.

Minor Fast Days said...

wait till his gay character "Bruno" becomes a movie...

should be fun to see how uncomfortable everybody gets.

Danusha said...

Hi, this thread is old, but I just came across it.

For what it's worth, here is a review of "Borat" that I posted on the web:

Sacha Baron Cohen's film "Borat" is being used as a litmus test. If you like the film, you are hip, cool, and part of the new in-crowd immune to the silly dictates of common decency and Political Correctness.

If you don't like "Borat," you are an old fuddy-duddy or spinster schoolmarm.

I laugh at dead baby jokes. I was a nurse's aid and then a Peace Corps volunteer, and I learned to laugh at death, bodily fluids, pus-filled sores, and intestinal parasites.

I cannot tell you how much I hated "Borat." I would have walked out, but I had to keep watching because of my field of study.

Based on reviews, I expected a penetrating, edgy critique of Political Correctness that would make me laugh out loud. I did not laugh once. (Full disclosure: others in the theater did.) I'd like to offer you samples of what passes for humor in "Borat," but if I did so, this site would not run my review. That's because just about every joke - - not just some of them but just about every one - - is made at the intrusively graphic expense of women or homosexuals, and/or it involves bodily excretions.

An example. Baron Cohen is a guest at the home of a genuinely charming woman. After defecating, he hands her his fecal matter. That's a big joke. If you are laughing now, this movie is for you.

In another scene, Baron Cohen, without any clothing on at all, wrestles with another undressed man who is grotesquely obese. During this wrestling match, they assume poses for activities I can't name; if I did, this site would not run this review. If jokes at the expense of fat homosexual men are your cup of tea, this movie is for you.

I've never seen such a hateful movie in a mainstream theater. Again, I know full well that I sound like a schoolmarm when I say that. Sacha Baron Cohen, I would have to guess, based on this movie, hates the human race, including you, the ticket buyer. He is willing to exploit everyone he encounters, to humiliate them on camera, to get you, the ticket buyer, someone he also hates, to laugh at others' suffering. Once you do that, he can laugh at you. If watching decent people doing their best to deal with an obnoxious creep is your cup of tea, then this movie is for you.

I feel like repeating over and over: I laughed at Todd Solondz's "Happiness." I laugh at politically incorrect humor. And I hated this movie.

There's more going on here, and I know I'm risking a lot by pointing this out.

Borat speaks Polish. Only speakers of Polish will get that. He says "Dzien Dobry," "jak sie masz," "dziekuje" and other Polish phrases. The film's opening and closing scenes were shot in a real Eastern European village. Real Eastern European folk music is played on the soundtrack.

With "Ali G," Baron Cohen exploited vicious stereotypes of Blacks. With "Borat" Baron Cohen is not targeting Kazaks. He's exploiting a centuries-old, contemptuous and hateful stereotype of Eastern European peasants that can be found in various Western cultures - witness the American "Polak joke" - - and is common in one thread of Jewish culture. In this stereotype, Poles, and, by extension, Eastern European Christian peasants, are, like Borat, ignorant, bestial, and disgusting. A good précis of the stereotype can be found in a famous passage in Isaac Bashevis Singer's "The Slave." It can be found in the "Golem" article on my website.

In fact, "Borat" has a lot in common with Marian Marzynski's controversial film "Shtetl." In both, cameras invade an impoverished Eastern European peasant village. Villagers who are not sophisticated or worldly are conned into appearing on camera to perform for us as if they were trained monkeys. We laugh at them, or feel disgust at them, because they are dirty, because they are poor, and because they keep pigs. In any case, gazing at these lesser peasants, we know that we are superior. Perhaps Baron Cohen will try this technique next in a Darfur refugee camp or a homeless shelter. Poor, unsophisticated people can be so amusing.

Baron Cohen speaks of women as if they were less than dirt. Don't misunderstand him. He's not mocking misogyny. He's milking misogyny. The things Baron Cohen says about women in this movie are grotesque; they are brutal. He makes fun of mentally retarded people. He makes fun of white, Christian Southerners, a group everyone feels safe mocking.

Reviews, and no doubt many viewers, are telling you that "Borat" is a fearless laugh riot that punctures political correctness and makes you laugh till you cry. It's that very description that made me want to see it. I thought I'd be getting something like the Colbert Report.

I've gotta think I'm not the only one, though, who found looking at Baron Cohen's hatred for an hour and a half to be an icky, profoundly unfunny experience.

Danusha Goska

Danusha said...

Here is a link to the other article you were talking about, above:

http://www.isteve.com/Film_Borat.htm

Filip said...

just watched that film
first I found an opinion of Cohen, that "jaksiemash" is as well Polish as Kazah

well, then I found that Kazah comes form turkish family, so probably it is not simmilar to Polish :)

finally I found the proper words (10 minutes in net)

jaksiemash?(Salamatsys, ba?)
diekuje(rrrak-mit)

I'm impressed how Cohen does his professional work!

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Anonymous said...

to Michael Farris
Slavs have done very little to make Jews like them?

Polish people saved Ashkenazi Jews from extinction.
That is why Poland had a high Jewish population.

While Primitive WEstern Europeans were burning jews alive blaming them for the plague.

Poland accepted those Jewish refugees& Gave Jews freedom of religion.
Poland accepted Refugees from almost every persecution of Jews.

Many Poles died trying to save Jews in the HOlocaust.

But, the Re thanks Jews have given Poles is the Jewish Media promote the Polak Jokes.

Also Jews were largely behind the Soviet Union with Lenin & Leon Trotsky both having Jewish Roots & Hating on Slavs.

There is a reason alot of Slavs don't like Jews.
Thee is a reason jews are hated everywhere they go.

Steve Sailer said...

Let's see:

Ali G is a Muslim.

Borat is a Slav.

Bruno is a Teuton.

Who could possibly want to make fun of Muslims, Slavs, and Teutons? What's the connection between the three? Who doesn't like all three? I'm utterly baffled.

Steve Sailer said...

And, now, The Dictator is an Arab.

I'm just not seeing a pattern here ...

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