[Marxism] Borat

DCQ deeseekyou at comcast.net
Sat Nov 25 18:49:44 MST 2006

I thought the discussion on Borat had died. So I never bothered 
finishing my review.

For what it's worth, Socialist Worker has a positive review at 
http://socialistworker.org/2006-2/610/610_13_Borat.shtml . Jones pretty 
much hits most of the points I would have.

Of course, there's no point in telling people they're wrong if they 
don't like a film, or book, or whatever. If Borat's not your cup-o-tea, 
then so be it. But I will comment when someone tries to dress up 
distaste as genuine criticism.

On Nov 25, 2006, at 9:11 AM, Walter Lippmann wrote:

> Well, curiosity led me to see BORAT last night and it was a thoroughly
> dreary, and dreadfully unfunny "comedy" where nary a laugh was to be
> found. I suppose if the viewer were stoned it might have been possible
> to find something humorous in this racist, sexist shit.

I don't know about you Walter, but getting stoned doesn't make me laugh 
at racist or sexist material. I still find it enraging no matter my 
state of inebriation. Furthermore, neither my wife nor I were stoned 
when we watched Borat and both of us laughed the hardest we had in a 
long while.

> I'm glad that
> I only wasted $5.00 to see it. I knew this was another picture like
> THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY after fifteen or twenty minutes. I wondered if
> it would be humorous in a way like ANIMAL HOUSE or other such movies,
> but it wasn't to be.

Interestingly, Borat was the first movie I had seen in a very long time 
where I didn't resent paying full price. Sure, I would have rather paid 
$5.00 instead of $9.50 (times two). But there is something to be said 
for seeing it with a packed house of people all laughing their asses 

> The movie doesn't make fun of its misanthropic protagonist,

Borat Sagdiyev is not a misanthrope. He is over-flowing with love for 
people despite his anti-semitism, sexism, and homophobia, which 
ironically works here. When that happens, you know an artist has hit on 
something. There was something similar going on in "Thank You for 

> nor of
> the boorish and reactionary public it portrays so graphically,

On the contrast, it is making fun of (most of) them mercilessly. The 
few exceptions are (interestingly) the black youths in Atlanta, the 
feminists, the jewish B&B owners, and the overweight prostitute.

> but
> it demeans everyone on screen and has contempt for the audience as
> well.

You can assert that, but I'd like to hear your arguments. The only 
audience members it might insult are those who sympathize with Cohen 
and David's victims: the NYC homophobes, the pro-war rodeo crowd and 
its homophobic manager, the sexist, racist frat boys, Bob Barr, the 
insurance brokers, the Confederate memorabilia store owners, and the 
upper-class racist southerners at the "society" dinner. So if you 
sympathize with them, then yes, the movie does insult you as an 
audience member as well.

> It's doing landoffice business at the box-office, a sign of
> something truly discouraging in this cultural moment here in these
> United States of Disneylandia.

Again, I had the polar opposite reaction and found it to be one of the 
few bright spots in American mass culture that I've seen lately.

> Filled with toilet "jokes" as the protagonist, for a single example,
> consults an etiquette couch and then, after taking a dump brings his
> fecal matter to the dining table, fortunately in a plastic bag, after
> evacuation.

The brilliance of this scene is not: "hee hee, he brought poo to the 
table." The movie makes a point of noting that this is a *Southern* 
high-society dinner at a plantation-style locale on "Secession Way." 
Furthermore, the humor is not merely in what Borat says to his 
condescending hosts, but in what they tolerate and what they don't. 
They tolerate: Borat insulting one of the women, calling one of the men 
a "retard" (a brilliant pun on the southern dialectal pronunciation of 
"retired"), and bringing feces to the table. They don't tolerate, and 
in fact threaten to call the police, when Borat introduces his guest: a 
working-class black woman (yes, the audience knows she's a prostitute, 
but the upper-crusty southerners reacted immediately on sight of her).

> There are also cheerful images of and references to incest,
> and much, much more.
> Thoroughly drearily dreadful. Don't go see it!

On the contrary, do go see it. Borat is not simple potty humor a la 
Johnny Knoxville, but highly skilled, well crafted, politically astute 
and biting satire a la Stephen Colbert and Archie Bunker. 

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