1 Nov 2006

Ecosocialist argues Borat 'it is not offensive big-time'

Borat - Paradoy or Prejudice?

London – 1 November 2006

“Is Borat parodying prejudice or pandering to it?” asks gay human
rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

He was commenting on Sacha Baron-Cohen's new film, Borat: Cultural
Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,
which opened at cinemas this week.

The comedy revolves around the US adventures of Kazakh
documentary-maker, Borat. It has been accused of being racist,
homophobic, anti-Semitic and misogynist.

“This is a seriously funny film – one of the best and most original
comedies for a long time – providing you understand parody and
satire,” said Mr Tatchell.

“I laughed a lot, but sometimes nervously. Many of the gags sailed
very close to extremely bad taste. Borat treads a fine line between
ridiculing prejudice and reinforcing it.

“Borat is often doing a parody of prejudice which, because it is so
over-the-top, arguably ridicules, undermines and discredits bigotry.
However, I worry that certain underclass types might take Borat
seriously. They could see him as reinforcing and validating their
lumpen mentality.

“Taken at face value, the film seems very offensive to women and
minorities. But the sub-text is quite complex, ambiguous and often

“Many of the victims of his scurrilous send-ups are small-town Middle
Americans. Borat gives them the rope to hang themselves. He’s baiting
them. They express real ignorance and prejudice, whereas Borat is only

“The scenes at the evangelical church show the mass hysteria of the
Christian right; revealing a protestant fundamentalism that is truly

“He elicits from the frat boys in the camper van a wicked banter of
bare-faced racism that they would not normally dare express. Borat has
done a public service by showing that there are sections of US society
who have not truly accepted their black brothers and sisters.

“The scenes at the rodeo are a sensational poke-in-the-eye for gung-ho
US patriotism and a hilarious satire of the war on terror.

“In the past, it is true that some of Sacha’s Ali G sketches had more
than a whiff of homophobia, but I don’t find Borat anti-gay. If
anything, his attempts to greet American men with a French-style kiss
on the cheek often provoke negative reactions that expose homophobia.

“The Running of the Jews sketch made me feel uncomfortable. I know it
was parody but it pandered to anti-Semitic stereotypes.

“Sacha’s satire obviously has its limits. He self-censors. Although he
regards Christians and Jews as fair game, he never gives Muslims the
same doing over. I am not suggesting that Muslims should be lampooned;
only that Sacha is rather selective in his comedic targets.

“I appreciate that some Kazakh people are worried about the impression
the movie gives of Kazakhstan to the outside world. They are
understandably anxious about being stereotyped. However, given that
everyone knows this film is a comedy, not a documentary, I don’t think
it is likely to lead viewers to think that Kazakhstan is really the
way Borat portrays it.

“This is not a film to get outraged about. Even if some people find it
offensive, it is not offensive big-time,” said Mr Tatchell.


Jim Jay said...

I'm seeing this tomorrow - I am very, very excited...

I don't think he gives Christians and Jews a hard time. I've never heard him mention Christians and Jews are only ever brought up in a context to expose how anti-semitic some people are - which is truly shocking as I have a completely incorrect idea in my head that anti-semitism hardly exisits.

He has mentioned Muslims at least once as he told a huge crowd of americans (in a rodeo i think) that he supported their "war of terror"

basically i think the critics of borat don't understand what is actually happening - just as those who attacked ali g as racist couldn't see what was in front of their face - that ali g was a white boy from staines. doh!

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

You ask a very good question, and the distinction between parroting and pandering prejudice may indeed be a fine one.

That being said, I think Cohen is a true genius, and cannot wait to see his new film. He can make fun of himself, and show others how unfunny it really can be.

Jim Jay said...

god it was great - go see it!

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this one? Borat at a country bar singing

Anonymous said...

Depressing to see how banal and uncritical you are of this tired rycling of Ali G in different guise. And do you not think that the offensive stereotyping of East European - whatever it's supposed postmodern irony (yawn) - may just add to the climate of racism against East Europeans in the country? No, of course you don't because not much thinking goes on in this blog really, which basically just an outlet for propanda and a forum for rather complacent mutual backslapping.

Vote No Heathrow

Just had this via Roger Hallam of Vote No Heathrow, please spread the word. Things are rapidly taking off for the campaign now the hung...