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Borat

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For the past week you couldn’t read the media section of any newspaper or magazine without stumbling over reviews and commentary on that Borat film. So they played their PR cards well at least.

Personally I can’t make up my mind whether I really want to expose myself to that film. First of all there’s the Ali G thing. My flatmate many years back just loved Ali G and watched pretty much every episode of it. And back then I started being unable to make up my mind. On the one hand I thought that Ali G as a concept is quite tasteless (keep in mind that I despise anything related to hip-hop and the ‘culture’ surrounding it). But on the other hand there were a few good laughs in there. In particular when using the rôle of the underclass hip-hop dude to get successful people to leave their usual frame of political correctness and agree to a bunch of stupid statements.

The Borat project with its Kazakh reporter seems to run along the same lines. It just takes everything even further. And while I didn’t mind Ali G possibly mis-representing the hip-hop scene (perhaps I should have), now Borat does the same for Kazakhstan. And in miming the clueless, horny, self-possessed reporter from Kazackstan, he manages to extract quality embarrassing statements from people.

Sure, this may be enlightening to a certain extent. Getting people to drop careless statements in such situations probably isn’t too hard. Particularly if the people are uneducated, not media trained an not understanding what the guy is babbling. It’s too easy to be fun. And it’s painful to watch. (And at the same time is the basis for a load of successful modern TV programming…)

So what’s the point of it? Just to make fun of the people ‘starring’ alongside Borat in the film? Sad! To highlight that our ‘culture’ these days focuses on headline snippets and impressions rather than on content? I doubt it! That may serve as an excuse but seeing all the show and mainstream appeal of the film, this seems rather unlikely.

And then there’s the topic of political correctness. I mean, I despise political correctness as it is mostly used to cover up the way people think in shiny words. We don’t need any of that. But what about the Kazakh people? Who’d make a film portraying a ‘Western’ country as one that is proud about being full of crooks, child abuse and prostitution? Would anybody consider that to be funny? (And what about the film’s poster having that ‘Cyrillic touch’ by being written BOR ДT? Isnt’ that excessively lame and stupid?)

I mean what do you know about Kazakhstan? Could you tell it apart from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on a map to begin with? Or is it just a vague mix of stereotypes of somewhere between the corrupt Russians and the terrorist Afghanis? And then you see this film which neatly ‘confirms’ those stereotypes. Won’t this change the way people think about Kazakhstan just because we hardly know and care about it in the West? Sure, one could say that any press is good press and that Kazakhstan is getting more than its usual share of that these days thanks to the film… but I find it hard to agree with that line of thinking.

And then Borat is said to freely curse many other groups of people as well, from Kazakhstan’s neighbouring countries to jews and gypsies. So it’s a blatant helping of political incorrectness that is being served. Of course the topic of damning jews remains a critical one in Germany so the reviewers are at pain to point out immediately that the actor himself is jewish – although I fail to see how that makes a difference.

The bottom line is that they managed to get a good deal of media coverage by crossing a few lines (I guess the word ‘controversial’ would be inappropriate here as they don’t seem to have a controversy to fight out) and I’m sure there will be a number of good laughs in the film as well, just as there were with Ali G. But I also think that the film may be too painful to actually watch because of all the blatant insults and going for all the cheap jokes.


All of the above comes from the extensive media coverage the film received as well as the trailers. Perhaps I’m wrong and the film is all subtle and clever. If you have seen it already, be sure to leave a comment!

November 4, 2006, 2:16

Tagged as ali g, borat, film.

Comments

Comment by Stefan: User icon

You do a great job in describing the inner conflict I was suffering until I found out, that the movie doesn’t hit the screens in my current domicile anyway. I can only laugh at Borat’s sketches if his “victims” are either extremely unappealing in terms of their opinions on the world in the first place or at least even matches that don’t make it too easy for Borat to make fun of them. This is pretty much exactly why I’ve always found Stefan Raab really dislikeable.

November 4, 2006, 21:15

Comment by Stefan: User icon

oh, btw —- the “remember me”-function doesn’t seem to work. at least for me.

November 4, 2006, 21:16

Comment by Jones: User icon

Try enabling cookies in your browser. That might work.

November 5, 2006, 19:40

Comment by Sebastian: User icon

Borat definitely is neither subtle nor clever. It’s funny in a rough and primitive way – nevertheless: funny as in “tears were running down my cheeks”.

If you decide to watch it, please don’t expect something like “Bowling for Columbine”. Expect nothing, and you might enjoy it.

November 6, 2006, 1:10

Comment by Stefan: User icon

@Jones: Yeah, I was thinking about that, but they are enabled and work perfectly well for all other websites. I have Safaris cookie policy set to “Accept only from websites I visit” though, maybe that’s the Problem ?

November 6, 2006, 3:43

Comment by Stefan: User icon

Okay, I gave it a try with Firefox and its glorious web developer extension. The cookies show up in the cookie information panel, but their content isn’t inserted into the corresponding form fields. The cookies are called “mtcmtauth”, “mtcmthome” and “mtcmtmail” and the host is defined as “earthlingsoft.net” for all of them, so not only should it work in Firefox but also in Safari. Oh, and yes — I did check the “Remember me”-box :-)

November 6, 2006, 3:53

Comment by Stefan: User icon

Okay, my last resort is Opera. If it doesn’t work either, I guess I’m pretty clueless.

November 6, 2006, 3:56

Comment by Stefan: User icon

Okay, a quick look in the html source revealed the bug. If I disable all css styles then the duplicate spam catching form displays my user data. Changing the name of the form in the javascript function to “actualcommentsform” should do the trick.

November 6, 2006, 4:08

Comment by ssp: User icon

Stefan: Never liked Stefan Raab either. (Sorry for the script / cookie problems and thanks for analyising them before I got round to doing it. With a bit of luck, things are fixed now.)

Sebastian: Thanks for the review.

November 6, 2006, 11:54

Comment by Stefan: User icon

Works like a treat!

November 6, 2006, 12:07

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