a temporary honor

I was an “honorary Eastern European” only for the 1 hour and 24 minutes it took Borat to run. Then I resumed my accustomed role ­čÖé as the earnest, pious, and self-righteous American who is mercilously mocked by Sacha Baron Cohen. This movie is funny, but only if you can step outside of the truly narrow frame in which most Americans live. Here we see ourselves – racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic (Jewish and Muslim) – in all our high-faluting hypocrisy. This Review covers many of the highlights.
The humor is overly-crass in a few places, and falls flat in others, but when Cohen’s ‘straight man‘ draws out the extent of white supremacist and classist hubris one cringes behind the laughter. Or ought to. The situation that personally disturbed me the most was with the three college students and their degradation of women. Yes, the desire for slavery was/is sick but in the scene it came across (to me) as a mechanism to operationalize pathological violence against women. I enjoy the young men I teach and can only hope they aren’t living such double lives.
I saw the film with two Romanians and a Hungarian, seated in front of a Russian and an Australian. I know at least two Brazilians were in the soldout audience as well. How many of the rest of the crowd were internationals, celebrating the publicization of discriminations they might themselves often experience? I don’t know. There were many young people there, and frequent, loud laughter.
One of the sweetest scenes occurs with a group of young African-American men, who are among the very few able to accept a foreigner with apparently weak English language skills as a fellow human being. Underneath and behind Cohen’s humor are some sharp lessons about how we could all get along. (See how earnest I am?!!)

One thought on “a temporary honor”

  1. Hi Steph….I really liked your piece on the movie…
    But there’s one thing I don’t see many people talk about…First, as a human being and a foreigner I hated the movie, and I’m not even from Kazakhstan…his racist and stereotyped depiction of those people is appalling. Now, if he’s using that to imply that that is the way usually perceive foreigners…maybe it would be worth looking into…I don’t know…but I’m sure most of the audience didn’t get that either.
    Anyway, after the movie ended I came out with the horrible feeling that I paid to see that jerk.
    A friend sent me a link to a piece written by one of the feminists who was in the movie: How I was duped by Ali G.

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