In my country there is problem

Anti-defamation league concerned over upcoming Borat film

Borat, the ignorant and virulently anti-semitic character played by Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen, has said that in his country of Kazakhstan, women are just above rats. He adds, "In America, women can vote but horse cannot. It is the other way around in my country." He has gone to honky-tonk clubs to perform his song, "In my country there is problem," with the chorus of "Throw the Jew down the well/So my country can be free."

If it sounds hateful and abhorrent, that's the point. Cohen, who is Jewish, is one of the great comic minds of our time and an incredibly sharp satirist. The ADL press release takes the time to say they don't believe Cohen means any harm, but that the movie could reinforce stereotypes.

Of course it could. Any idiot who sees the movie and thinks that Borat is really onto something with his ridiculous statements could be influenced by just about anything. This is another example of not giving adults the benefit of the doubt. In our country, there is problem. And this problem is cultural sensitivity at the expense of common sense.


Jeff H said...

While I agree that there is absolutely no problem with this movie being released, I think you're giving Americans too much credit. A recent study for National Geographic found that fewer than 4 in 10 people age 18-24 in this country could point out Iraq on an unlabelled map, and that's IRAQ for christ's sake. Sure, it's not precisely the same type of problem, but its certainly indicative of a widespread cultural ignorance amongst our youth. If it were me, I'd add at least a disclaimer. Then again, chances are most teen/college age kids who see this movie won't even realize that Kazakhstan actually exists, so no harm there I suppose.

Patrick Boyle said...

There is a world of difference between not being able to pick out Iraq on an unlabeled map (what does that show, anyway? You don't know about Iraq if you can't pick it out on a blank map?) and having enough of a brain to know that Borat is a character. It will be much, much fewer than four out of ten who don't get the joke. And we shouldn't accomodate those drooling idiots with a disclaimer, or any other insulting thing of the sort.

Michael Corcoran said...

It wont be long before writers, artists and journalists will need to fill out permission slips before they can go ahead on a project without fear of needless scorn and false accusations.

Jeff H said...

It seems like you're overreacting a bit, Michael. If a project involves the creation of a stereotype, no matter how humorous, then what's wrong with the idea of it having to proclaim that what its doing isn't meant to be taken seriously? Despite what you may think, people can actually be hurt by jokes (shocking, I know). What our good from Ali G is up to is akin to the portayal we see of American Blacks in early Warner Brothers cartoons. It's funny, but if it were about my race/nationality I might not be laughing.

Michael Corcoran said...

Jeff H,

Jokes can be offensive, indeed. The truth is so can entire topics, well-researched opinions and entire schools of thought.

What can you do? Self-censor?

And I am subjected to all sorts of scorn for being an atheist(see Pat's piece on this from last Spring) a lefty, whatever.

But for some reason no one walks on eggshells to keep from offending me (nor should they).

The point being that it is not good that many people I know are fearful of expressing fair-minded, honest opinions be they satire or otherwise.

And that, more than any controversial joke or unpopular opinion, is truly offensive.

Jeff h said...


I'm not talking about censorship, though. I'm talking about a disclaimer. There's a difference between changing your work so as not to offend people (which I don't think is proper or necessary in this case), and acknowledging that what you're doing may be taken the wrong way and responding with clarification accordingly.

Second off, and please do not take this the wrong way, but as a body who doesn't subscribe to any specific religious belief myself and has generally more socialistic views than mainstream America, I feel secure in saying that we are still protected within the comfort of the majority (white males). I've seen leftists ridiculed, sure, I've also seen atheists shunned. But I've also seen foreign nationals subjected to far worse due to American ignorance, and in general there is a heightened sensitivity that comes with being a member of a clearly distinguishable minority (One which is apparent by sight, not just difference of opinion).

Then again, it seems I've turned this into a much larger issue than this movie really merits. Even so, all I'm saying is devoting 20 seconds of text to ensuring that even the most ignorant members of the audience understand that Borat is actually a British white dude seems more than acceptable. If it were to go any futher than that, I would certainly take your and Pat's side.