My positive review of Sacha Cohen’s Borat on Pajamas generated quite a discussion. A number of folks, many of whom evidently had not seen the movie, were angry with Cohen (and by extension me for praising him) for exploiting innocents from Romania to Texas. I see their point to some very minor extent. It’s nice to be nice, I suppose. Only art isn’t nice, particularly comic art. Aristophanes wasn’t nice. Rabelais wasn’t nice. And even Groucho wasn’t nice to poor Margaret. He was brutal, in fact.
And Cohen is deadly serious in his brutality. But what fascinates me is how many people completely misconstrue him. I heard the same thing on Larry Elder’s radio show the other night on my way home from work. Elder had seen the film and liked it, but some of listeners were registering the same PC objections I read on PJ. One woman was complaining that Borat was being anti-Semitic in his treatment of a kindly Jewish couple at a bed & breakfast, when it was Borat’s primitive anti-Semitism itself that was being lampooned, not the couple. (The film goes so far as to show a crazed and terrified Borat throwing dollar bills at cockroaches he thinks are the incarnation of the kindly couple.)
It’s almost as if these people didn’t realize Borat was a satirical character and identified him one for one with the actor. Scary. Anyway, the film’s popularity continues unabated. That’s reassuring.