[Marxism] Counterpunch critique of Borat
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 10 17:41:19 MST 2006
>Frankly, the entire thing strikes me as a kind of eastern European minstrel
>show. Of course, the minstrel shows were never simple vilifications of
>African-Americans and often provided a vehicle for some humor transcending
>race, some telling social criticisms and even cultural observations. On
>balance, though, I think the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Not just Eastern European, but Turkman.
Khazakstan is ethnically Turkish like Azerbaijan
and Uzbekistan. Apparently a Turk from Izmir has
plans to sue Sasha Cohen because he says that the
Borat character is based on his website which is
filled with malapropisms and macho posturing.
Cohen has scoffed at this claim and insists that
the character is based on a Russian doctor he
met. Although I was a fan of Cohen's HBO show, I
am feeling a bit wary because of my strong identification with things Turkish.
The real Borat
Guardian, Saturday October 28, 2006
Mahir Cagri's 'I Kiss You' website was one of the
internet's first word-of-mouth phenomena and
arguably a key influence on Borat. Johnny Dee
celebrates an unlikely online hero
Several weeks go, as a feeble back-passed ball
bobbled tantalisingly over the jelly like right
limb of England's goalkeeper Paul Robinson,
observant viewers may have noticed an advertising
hoarding in the background featuring a familiar
insanely grinning moustached man. It looked,
rather surreally, as if this giant, cut-out head
was mocking the hapless England football team
much as he had once done to Lady Chelsea when he
announced he had "a good shit" after returning
from the toilet during a lesson on etiquette.
Perhaps watching in some far away bar surrounded
by several toothless women and a flatulent donkey
was another man known for his insane grin, wild
enthusiasm and stallion moustache. Perhaps he
pondered as he watched Croatia win why the word
that followed the head in the advert was "Borat" rather than his own - Mahir.
Borat Sagdiyev is of course the comic creation of
Sacha Baron Cohen. Mahir Cagri meanwhile is a
Turkish gentleman in his 40s who lives in the
port of Izmir (population five million). Mahir
became a word-of-mouth legend after putting up a
homemade web page in 1999 featuring pictures of
himself engaged in a game of ping pong and
relaxing in some tight red Speedos alongside
simple but effective pieces of information such as "I like sex".
Both men bear an uncanny resemblance. Indeed, in
the opening titles of Borat's movie he is seen
playing table tennis and wearing fetching tight
red shorts just like Mahir. Both men are
journalists and favour suits quite possibly
stolen from the back of Frank Bough during
Nationwide in 1975. Both men struggle with the
English language and are wildly enthusiastic
about the prospect of meeting women and sexing
them. Despite claims that a Russian doctor Baron
Cohen once met inspired Borat and that a Moldovan
version of Borat existed as far back as 1996 the
similarities are too strong to be coincidental.
Yet, while Borat is set to become famous around
the world - well, apart from Kazakhstan, where
they are oddly offended by the possibly untrue
information that wives are kept in cages there
and throwing rocks at gypsies is a national sport
- the man who helped inspire him has been largely
forgotten. Time perhaps to remind us of the real
Borat and his role as the internet's first famous non-famous person.
Back in the last century, when offi ce employees
would huddle around their co-workerscomputer
terminals and marvel in wonderment at an
animation of some dancing hamsters, celebrity was
a far rarer commodity than it is today. Then, it
was unthoughtof that anyone could become famous
without appearing on TV, just by being
themselves, let alone someone from Turkey. But
one look at Mahir's rudimentary exclamation mark
packed page with its welcoming words "I kiss
you!!!" caused internet users to do several
things - laugh and pass the site on. He became a global in-joke.
Within weeks Mahir found himself an unlikely
online hero. Where others may have been upset by
parodies of his rudimentary grasp of web design
and the English language, he welcomed the fun and
embraced his fame. When people saw him and heard
him speak they loved him all the more. He toured
the US, appeared on chat shows, starred in TV
commercials, recorded a pop single and listened
to off ers of turning his life story into a movie.
Roseanne Barr, Bill Gates and Kenny G were among
his fans and his original wish, that the web page
attract available single women, allegedly came
true. The Turkish media claimed that he had been
besieged by marriage proposals. In a 2000
interview he explained that he was looking for a
wife who would stay at home with the children and
"keep the house nice for me." He continued that
it was also important that "She must be very
clean and always wash before and after sex."
Then fame dried up and people stopped responding
to his page's plea: "Who is want to come TURKEY I
can invitate ...... She can stay my home." As
success faded he did what any sensible person
would do. He wrote a new pop song with a simple
message: "Unimportant is colour, race, religion,
anything. We are all brothers and sisters. Yes,
we must do fun, we must sex, we must dance, but
we must teach other people, care of poor kids,
animals, environment, we can be same."
Despite his noble goal the song, much like his
unpublished biography and unfilmed biopic, was never recorded.
Today the websites Mahir funded after he became
famous no longer exist; instead they will take
you to strange search engines with adverts for
Viagra and debt consolidation. When the Guide
contacted him for his opinions on Borat and his
movie we received the enigmatic text reply "I on
holiday 35 days." A mirror of his original site
is still there though, frozen in time so one can forever marvel at its poetry.
"My tall 1.84 cm (6.2 feet) My weight 78 kg. My
eyes green .. I live alone !!!!!! I have car."
Unfortunately no mention of enjoying drinking fermented horse urine.
· Mahir Cagri's original site www.istanbul.tc/mahir/mahir/
· Additional research by Matt Weiner
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