[Marxism] Finally, a reason to support Sacha Baron Cohen

Nick Fredman srcsra at scu.edu.au
Wed Nov 15 19:36:22 MST 2006

>From a generally very positive US Socialist Worker review of Borat:

> Many on the left are dismayed at the way he is making use of such awful
> stereotypes about foreigners, but miss the real spirit of the film.

Having seen some Borat segments on Ali G shows (the film opens in Australia
next week), I think portraying a moronic and ultra-offensive central Asian
is a lot more problematic than this reviewer allows. Yes Cohen as both Ali G
and Borat has often brilliantly poked fun at and exposed the smug and
privileged, exactly what satire should be about, but I fear some people will
also laugh simply at the funny towel-head. Similarly while Ali G is
apparently meant to be a silly middle class white wannabe, probably many
laughing at this character don't know or care about that. There's been
reports of Khazahkstanis taking Borat in good humour which is fine, but it
really should be up to them not someone from a much richer and more powerful
nation to satirise their culture.

There's a lot of problems in the recent trend of ironic, postmodern humour,
especially in regards to women. There's a trend of satirical pastishe of
sexist portrayals, e.g. on Ali G, the recent Starsky and Hutch movie, and an
episode of the generally funny hospital sitcom Scrubs this year that had an
80s sitcom fantasy segment. Sophisticated guys get to laugh knowingly at the
ironies, and also get to see boobies.

Spike Lee's film from a couple of years ago, Bamboozled, was about the
extremely problematic idea of putting on an ironic, postmodern black and
white minstrel show.

Apparently Cohen's next film will feature the Austrian super-model character
Bruno, from the very funny Funky Zeit Mit Bruno segments on Ali G, and I
look forward to this. Laughing at silly white people is, all other things
being equal, less problematic than laughing at people of colour, silly or
otherwise. But I wonder when Cohen will satirise middle class English Jews.  

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