Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Am Going To See Borat

Jane Galt is not going to see Borat. But the lonely libertarian is- I would have seen it already if not for a busy schedule.

I agree that the comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen does, at times, "expose the tension between politeness and responding to outrageously wrong sentiments." But I think these are the simpler jokes- Baron Cohen's character Borat is the funny one, whereas the unsuspecting individual plays the role of the straight man. Most comedy needs a good straight man, and in these cases the reactions can be funny whether they are too polite, too hostile, or somewhere in between.

Baron Cohen's more subtle sense of humor oftentimes reveals itself in his other characters from the Ali G Show- Ali G himself, and Bruno, the gay reporter from Austria. Rather than being the subject of the joke, Baron Cohen lets people make themselves look foolish. Borat also does this to some extent, but given that the character is so loud and boorish the distinctions between who's really the subject of the joke can become strained. This is really what Jane Galt misses when it comes to Borat. Many of these "unsuspecting individuals" affirmatively act in boorish, bigoted, and offensive ways upon the prodding of Baron Cohen. And they'll act this way having signed a release knowing they're going to be on film.

This is the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen- any number of comedians have wacky characters capable of drawing humorous reactions out of unsuspecting individuals. But Baron Cohen, through his characters gets people to reveal things about themselves and about our culture in general.

Case in point- I watched these sketches last night on You Tube. Rather than more Borat, this is Baron Cohen's other character Bruno.

First, at Spring Break.

And then in Alabama, "the gayest place in the United States."

When it comes to all of these bits, you're free to draw your own conclusions. Maybe this is outright bigotry or maybe this is more a reflection of society as a whole. We're free to debate just what these reactions mean, but they're honest in a sense that traditional media is not. Telling people you're from Austrian Gay TV is not outrageous, unless you feel there's something wrong with being gay or being seen on Gay TV.

Generally, I think the point of these bits is not to point out that, "look these people are bigots!" but to ask ourselves what these reactions say about our culture and society as a whole. Regardless, everyone is free to their opinions. I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedic genius and I am going to see Borat.


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