I finally watched the movie Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 mockumentary. The plot line is basically set up so that Cohen portrays a man from Kazakhstan named Borat, who is traveling around the Southern United States (and California/New York) to learn about American culture and bring that culture back to his native country. Basically, what the film company did was they selected everyday, normal Americans and told them that they would be participating in a documentary about a foreign man who is basically trying to understand American culture and they had the participants sign a release form. So, the people had no idea that this was a joke, and a fake documentary designed to showcase the stereotypes, racism and prejudice that some people have.
Some of the responses that people gave during their “interviews,” were very telling and sad at the same time. In one scene, “Borat,” goes to a gun shop and asks the owner of the shop “what is the best gun to defend from a Jew?” Instead of correcting Borat’s bigotry, being shocked, appalled, or even caring, the gun shop owner simply replies “I would recommend a 9mm or a 45.” Very telling, that the gun shop owner pretty much accepted Borat’s bigoted views and would have allowed him to purchase the gun. In another scene, at a Rodeo, Borat speaks with the rodeo owner and when Borat goes to greet him by giving him a kiss, the owner tells him he’s not going to kiss him because that’s what gay people do. When Borat says that gays are imprisoned and killed in his country, the owner replies with “that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Later, Borat goes to a high society Southern Dinner party. He pretends to be completely ignorant and “uncivilized,” and the dinner guests pretty much just accept him and “humor” him. When Borat goes to use the bathroom, he pretends not to know how to use the toilet and brings a bag a poop to the dinner table. He claims that he doesn’t know what to do with the poop, so the hostess kindly takes him to the bathroom and explains how to use the restroom. One of the hostesses even says “I think the cultural differences are vast, but he’s a delightful,” and she felt he could easily become “Americanized,” in no time. However, when Borat brings a surprise guest to the dinner, all hell breaks loose. Borat brings a Black prostitute to dinner uninvited. Her name is Lunell, she is an overweight Black woman who is wearing a very short skirt, heels and a belly shirt. As soon as Lunell shows up, before she even sits down, the hostess says “is it getting very late…it’s time for us to be ending our dinner party,” one of the dinner guests immediately leaves and Borat and Lunell are rushed to the door. Before they are thrown out of the house, the owner threatens calls the police. I found it very telling that they were more accepting of the fact that Borat brought shit to dinner, but as soon as he brings a Black woman, the party’s over.
The message I got was…you can bring shit to dinner, but don’t bring shit to dinner…get it?
But even that scene cannot beat one outrageous scene where Borat interviews some drunken frat boys who tell him that “we should have slaves in this country and minorities have all the power.” I kid you not, these University of South Carolina frat boys really did say that “they wished they had slaves.”
Overall, I thought it was very interesting and telling to see some of the responses people gave. Disturbing, but telling…overall it wasn’t my type of movie, it was a bit too outlandish for my tastes and his character Borat was too unrealistic for me. I didn’t feel like even if someone came from the most remote area in the world and was completely unfamiliar with American culture, I just didn’t feel like they would be quite as crazy as Borat was. Like bringing shit to dinner…even in places where they don’t have toilets and don’t use plumbing, they would know not to bring their shit around food. You just dont’ do that universally, even if you don’t use toilets, most people know to go shit somewhere away from your food. So that was a bit too much for me, too unrealistic.
But the most realistic aspect of the film, people’s reactions and prejudice was probably more disturbing than anything else. That’s the sad part…as outrageous and crazy as Borat’s character was…the prejudice, antisemitism, homophobia and racism displayed by the people is far more absurd, yet it’s very common in American culture.
Yeah, there were some funny parts like when on the New York subway, where Borat asks a New Yorker “what’s your name,” and the man responds with “my name is mind your own f-cking business,” that was the funniest line to me, very stereotypical New Yorker attitude, but funny.
Overall, it as a bit too outlandish and depressing for me, but very telling at the same time.