The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Borat Is Niiice!

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has been a European sensation ever since the first airing of “Da Ali G Show” in 2000. The series, which focused on the wannabe gangster character of Ali G, did not make its way to the states until 2003, where it picked up a large cult following and even a few Emmy nominations. The show featured Cohen dressing up as Ali G and two other supporting characters: Bruno, a stereotypically gay fashion guru, and Borat, a television reporter from Kazakhstan. Borat proved to be one of the most popular segments from “Da Ali G Show,” so it is no surprise that he is the star of Cohen’s latest foray into full-length films: Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

If you have ever seen “Da Ali G Show,” then you know what to expect from Borat: Cultural Learning of America for make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Cohen dresses up and acts as a misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic Kazakh reporter, antagonizing all those he encounters. This brand of humor is not new; former MTV shows like “Jackass” and “The Tom Green Show” used this same brand of comedy extensively.

But Borat proves to be a much more intriguing concept than anything Tom Green or the “Jackass” guys could ever come up with. While the latter comedians rely solely on dumb, low-brow humor, Borat successfully combines stupidity with witty social commentary, revealing the bigotry that still exists in America.
The plot of the movie is rather simple: Borat comes to America to learn about the culture. In the process, he falls in love with Pamela Anderson and goes on a cross-country journey to make her his bride. Along the way, Borat learns proper manners, talks with a feminist group, sings a wildly offensive rendition of the national anthem at a rodeo, travels with frat guys, and even stumbles into an evangelical Christian meeting.

The humor of Borat lies in that the people he interviews are not in on the joke – they have no idea that Cohen is simply portraying a made-up character. As a result, people are either greatly offended or amused by Borat’s remarks. For instance, his misogynistic musings during a discussion with feminists leads to many of them walking out on him. On the other hand, cowboys and various characters Borat meets in the south actually agree with his homophobic and anti-Semitic comments.

Many critics and moviegoers have found this movie offensive and downright crude. Without a doubt, there is some validity to these claims. But unlike the humor of something you’d see in Jackass II, Borat is actually a well-conceived and witty satire. The character of Borat himself is a parody of how Americans view foreigners, and his travels throughout the country reveal the “ugly side” of America – racism, sexism, and bigotry in all its forms.

Borat is definitely not for everyone; some scenes rely heavily on dumb, second-grade humor. But at other times, Borat provides a hilarious, satirical look at America, proving to be one of the most entertaining films to come out all year. And isn’t that what movies are all about?

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