NickOtani's picture
Submitted by NickOtani on Fri, 2007-07-13 17:28

I honestly don’t know what to make of Borat. It’s controversial. It’s definitely politically incorrect. It is over-the-top. There may be some legitimate satire, but there is also some unfairness. Where does one draw the line?

Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen, the British comedian, does a good job of portraying a culturally illiterate, of western culture anyway, foreigner from some isolated village in Kazakhstan. The movie has him visiting the United States and making a fool out of himself in several settings. It’s like a Marx brothers’ movie, where people are trying to be dignified and serious while a few out of place weirdoes run amok and do outrageous things. Some of the settings were not planned. Cohen actually came on a serious television interview and referred to testicles and prostitutes and inappropriate things, getting the program manager in trouble.

His characterization of Kazakhstanies is that they are radically anti-Semite. They have parades in the streets with people wearing demon costumes to look like Jews. Cohen, himself, is a Jew.

He makes the Kazakhstani people look backward, anti-Semitic, and sexist. He showed the inside of his home, where he kept a grown bull inside the living room. When he came to the states and was shown the inside of an elevator, he thought the elevator was his hotel room.

I would not like someone making fun of Japanese people the way Cohen makes fun of Kazakhistani people. Bruce Lee, a Chinese person, found it objectionable for Mickey Rooney to play a funny Asian character in Breakfast at Tiffiny's?

There is a culture shock for people from other parts of the world. When Vietnamese refugees came to California, some went under the Golden Gate Bridge, in park areas, to capture ducks and swans whose necks they wrung to prepare for cooking. They didn’t know that we don’t do those things here.

Still, there are some segments of American culture where folks like Borat would not be out of place. He found himself among other weirdoes at a gay rights parade, a religious revival meeting, and a group of drunk college boys on Spring-break. This must prove there is room for everybody in America. I’m still trying to find my niche.

There is much more to be said about this. Perhaps a good thing about the Borat phenomena is that it is making us think and talk about many things that perhaps need to be exposed.

Bis bald,


( categories: )

To Reed:

NickOtani's picture

Thanks for the personal response, Reed.

Yes, I know have my groups with whom I try to identify. However, I also try to be an individual who doesn’t necessarily live just to please others. If I don’t fit in somewhere, I’ll forge my own little cubby hole and accept or reject others as I see fit. This has gotten me into trouble more than once, but it also makes me feel that I am my own person. It makes me feel that I stand for some things.

I am an atheist, but I can laugh at certain jokes about atheists. (There was this atheist fishing in Loch Ness when the Loch Ness monster came up under his boat and flipped it up in the air. As the atheist was flying through the air, he said, “Oh, God, please help me!” Then, suddenly, everything stopped and a voice from the heavens said, “I thought you didn’t believe in me.” The atheist said, “Give me a break! A few seconds ago, I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either.”)

I have a problem, however, with certain mean spirited ethnic humor. After the Asian tsunami, where thousands of people were killed, there was an irreverent song about all those “Chinks” floating away and now their children will be sold into slavery. I thought any decent person should condemn that kind of humor. Someone on the “Objectivist Living” board refused to condemn it and told me to just turn the dial if I don’t like what I hear. Then, another member of that board made fun of me when I posted a serious piece on bigotry. I asked him politely not to do that and was promptly attacked by other members who told me I was making a fool out of myself. I was accused of calling everybody else bigots and banned from that board.

I am proud of my Japanese heritage, and I think far too many Americans don’t know much about what happened during WWII. They should. It’s an important civics lesson. It may mean more to me because I am only half Japanese, not accepted totally by either Japanese or white people.

However, I am also human and share this with other humans, regardless of race or ethnic background. I think we all have enough common ground to empathize with each other and communicate. I find great value in the literature of many different parts of the world. I don’t think, as Ayn Rand seemed to think, that people from African and Asia are savages. And, after watching Apocalypto, I can even empathize with savages. (Too bad Mel Gibson can’t empathize with Jews.)

Check out my next post here on American Pastime, and please comment on my series in the Dissent forum, after part ten of Alice in Objectivist Land. I value your opinion.

Bis bald,



Chris R's picture

This film reeked of contrivance to the extent it bored me. I am not berating the actor,but, this movie was reminiscent of the 1950/1960s "Carry On" movies....tacky and predictable! Obvious jokes/obvious guffaws!

A better idea is to read, yes read, for those of you capable, "Absurdistan" for a grasp of the preciousness of those hailing from the former Soviet Republics!

Chris R.

Interesting post Nick. When

reed's picture

Interesting post Nick.

When we think of ourselves as part of a group it is easy to take offense and when we group others it is easy to cause this offense.
I prefer/try not to think of myself as part of a group, I am a New Zealander but really that is just where I live and not who I am, I am a christian but I'm not responsible for the actions/beliefs of other christians and can laugh when christian/church stereotypes are used in comedy, I am of mixed descent and do not feel responsible for nor any need to defend my ancestors and have no feelings that I should be loyal to any particular group. *

I have an issue with comedy targeting fathers and making them out to be idiots. Not because I identify with this group (fathers not idiots) but because it undermines parental authority - causing children to disrespect their fathers. The programs themselves are ok, though usually lame, it's the repetition that I have the issue with. IMO these repeated messages shape our society in a negative way. I think the same would be true for Borat if his negative messages are aired repeatedly but as a passing fad should have little impact other than the amusement of sickos like Michael and maybe me.

When I read your post, Nick, I think it is about you (or your perspective), so I hope my opinions are not offensive...

When you joined I noticed in your profile...
I am a third generation Japanese American on my father's side
... it made me wonder why you would identify yourself like this...
... and this comment from above...
This must prove there is room for everybody in America. I’m still trying to find my niche.
... sounds like you are looking for a group to belong to.

Like the juror in "Alice in Objectivist Land" who exclaims “I am who I am” - you are who you are. And you are an individual, not a part of a group/collective. IMO Finding where you fit in is about being comfortable with who you are and then building relationships with individuals.



* Actual actions may vary. No guarantee or warrantee implied or intended (Lindsay).

I loved the 'Borat' movie

mvardoulis's picture

...and everything about it, for all the reasons you mention and more. But then, I've got a fucking SICK sense of humor. Smiling

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