Updated for the Third Time: Borat’s Cultural Learnings



On Saturday, I caught the matinee screening of Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” It’s well-worth seeing. The man is a great comedian.
I like the way Cohen only interviews in character, as Borat, never revealing who he is. Reviewers haven’t been hip to this tactic. Cohen’s transformation into the unattractive Borat (and equally awful Ali G and Bruno) is remarkable, considering he’s quite a dish.

This next “learning” is probably only available on Barely a Blog, but, for what it’s worth, when Borat and Azamat Bagatov (his Kazakh “producer”) talk, Borat rattles off in Hebrew. Azamat is speaking in tongues, for all I know. Cohen can speak Hebrew, but his accent is not the best.

Here’s a very funny Vanity-Fair interview with Borat Sagdiyev. In response to the question, “Who is your favorite American celebrity and why,” Borat writes:

“My favorites celebritys is dancing Negro Michael Jacksons, singing transvestite Madonna, and, of course, fearless anti-Jew warrior Mel Gibsons. We in Kazakhstan agrees with his statement that Jews started all wars and also have proof that they were responsible for Hurricane Katrina and also killed off the dinosaurs.”

Update: Those of you with a funny bone will find the following hard to believe. Around the Internet, the dour and dreary (that includes Abe Foxman) are decimating Borat for his high-wire antics, and accusing his creator, Baron Cohen:

* Of promoting anti-Semitism (“In one scene Borat insists on driving to California rather than flying, ‘in case the Jews repeat their attack of 9/11′”).
* Of libeling America as endemically anti-Semitic, even though Americans come off (as I pointed out in “Fun in Kazakhstan“) as kind, sweet, polite, and infinitely patient with “this delightful fellow,” as one of his gracious Southern hosts mischaracterizes the bumbling Borat.
* Of harboring an imperial mindset (this is by far the kookiest complaint) because he victimizes and patronizes Kazakhstan. (“In Kazakhstan we say, ‘God, man, horse, dog, then woman, then rat.'” Also according to Borat, the national sport in Kazakhstan is shooting a dog and then having a party. You can earn a living being a Gypsy catcher. Wine is made from fermented horse urine. Kazakh villages all have a Village Rapist.)

Sorry, I had to stop writing—cracked up remembering Borat’s reference to Bush as the “mighty warlord.” The guy’s a satirist—a funny, one-of-a-kind comedian. Only losers “analyze” Cohen, aka Borat, alias Ali G-cum-Bruno.

Updated Again: At last, Alvaro Vargas Llosa of The Independent Institute has a decent defense of Boart as “simply anarchic.” Here’s an excerpt:

“I have read that Borat is a left-winger in disguise. This doesn’t square with his mockery of feminists (“give me a smile, baby, why the angry face”) and of a black politician with whom he discusses homosexuality. I have also read that Borat is a right-wing fascist. It doesn’t quite square with the scene at the rodeo in where he persuades the organizers to let him sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” only to launch into an intentionally satirical tirade against Iraq (“I hope you kill every man, woman, and child in Iraq, down to the lizards”). No, Borat is simply anarchic—there is no institution, idea, cultural value or government he does not find worthy of being picked apart through humor. It’s always healthy to take a second look at the way we all live.”

Updated for the Third Time: Where did you first learn Borat was speaking Hebrew? On BAB, of course. Here’s the confirmation–in case you needed one.

6 thoughts on “Updated for the Third Time: Borat’s Cultural Learnings

  1. Pam Maltzman

    Ilana, I haven’t seen any of Sacha’s TV work yet, but I see that the Borat movie is out. I’ll try to get to see it. I did listen to the sing-a-long “Throw the Jew Down the Well.” That must have raised some eyebrows! 😉

  2. Stephen W. Browne

    I’ll have to take your word that Borat’s accent is not the best in Hebrew – but his Polish is pretty good.

  3. nic

    Thanks for the reference to the Vanity Fair article. I read it 15 minutes ago and I’m still laughing.

  4. Ssh-au-n002

    I haven’t seen his movie yet. I’ve seen his show a few times and laughed more than I have in a long time. I’ve heard nothing but great reviews from peers about the movie. Cohen is witty and hilarious.

  5. Kalmen Shiloh

    Funn satire is good….fraudualent inducement not so good..funny thing here in the US…gotta be upfront…

  6. Dan Maguire

    I haven’t seen the movie yet but want to see it soon. I have a soft spot for politically incorrect humor.

    I read a summary of an interview with Cohen where apparently he did step out of Borat character and, as far as I can tell, spoke as himself. He addressed the charges of anti-Semitism directed at him. He talked about a scene in the movie where he sang a viciously anti-Semitic song in a bar (I think that’s how it went). Cohen claimed that he’s trying to show the bigotry that exists when people do nothing. The Holocaust happened because, Cohen tells us, people remained silent.

    Well, OK. But please, cut the crap. It’s entirely possible that he sang an absurdly obnoxious song and no one did anything. I expect he would have received a much different reaction if he’d dressed up in a Nazi uniform and handed out Nazi literature. To dupe people into believing you’re a foreigner and behave obnoxiously is funny, no doubt. But to claim that it’s all for the lofty purpose of exposing bigotry is just a wee bit self-righteous. It strikes me as an after-the-fact rationalization. No need to explain, Cohen. Let the movie speak for itself.

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