Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cultural Learnings

Doubtless, many people will object to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, not least the various official voices from Kazakhstan that have been raised in criticism over the last few weeks. We went on Friday (to the cinema, not to Kazakhstan) and watched it. And laughed a lot.

I think the Kazakh officials don't get the joke.

It isn't funny because Sacha Baron Cohen's character gives the impression that the country is full of sexist, racist, anti-Semitic homophobes. It's funny because most of the people he talks to are so profoundly ignorant of the rest of the world, and of other cultures, that they accept what he says and does at face value. We're not laughing at a bad parody of Kazakhstani life, we're laughing at people blindly and stupidly accepting that Borat provides an accurate representation of that country.

In places, the film is also chilling.

At one point, he was talking to one of the organisers of a rodeo. It was probably the most reactionary of his interviewees. Borat was rebuffed when he tried to kiss the interviewee on the cheeks, and the interviewee explained how "the only men who kissed other men in the US were men like this" (whereupon he did a fluttery-hand fairy thing).
When Borat explained that in Kazakhstan, such people were strung up by the neck, the interviewee laughed and said, "Well, that's what we're trying to do here." Frightening, but powerful. Oh, and when he said that, a women a couple of rows back from us applauded. My Lovely Husband™ turned around, glared at her, and told her to shut up.

Borat succeeds in encouraging the holders of the most vile opinions to express their prejudices in their most extreme form, and in a way which shows them up in the worst possible light. People laughed not because they agreed (with the possible exception of the clapping idiot), but because these vile opinions had been successfully held up to ridicule.

When he then went on to sing the national anthem of Kazakhstan to the tune of the US national anthem in front of the rodeo crowd, you had to hand it to him - he really took his life in his hands to make that movie.


Nick said...

She applauded?! Ugh turns my stomach that some people are so full of nastiness nad hate. Good on your Lovely Husband for giving her a ticking off, though I'm not sure I'd have been so brief or restrained. Depends how many other people were trying to watch the film.

BEAST said...

I havnt seen it yet , Frobisher made me go and see The Devil Wears Prada instead which should definetly have the rating of CF (chick Flick).
And now we have James Bond Yippee

frobisher said...

The Devil Wears Prada wasn't my choice! it was opening night and some sort of chav convention. anyhows we shall see Borat tonight

First Nations said...

NOW i will go see it.
and you GO, Lovely Husband!!!!!