After posting so many times about Borat, I thought I’d get around to writing a short review having finally seen the film.
In a nutshell: it’s funny, go see it.
I don’t want to focus on the cinematic aspects of the film–that’s not the aim of this website. I do, however, want to discuss some of the more controversial aspects that relate to travel and stereotypes.
As many of you recall, the Kazakh government has been irate over comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s bumbling depiction of a reporter from Kazakhstan. His fictional Borat character encompasses all the backward stereotypes a person might have about far-flung lands they know nothing about.
The character, however, is so over the top that the Kazakh government really shouldn’t worry that people who saw the film will immediately think all Kazakhs are as demented as poor Borat. Only a complete idiot would think this.
I’m one of the very small minority of people who have seen the movie and been to Kazakhstan and I have to say, other than the suit he wears, and a brilliant fake accent with all the proper grammatical mistakes, Borat is no more a Kazakh than I am. In fact, the village featured in the movie wasn’t even in Kazakhstan, but was actually a small gypsy town in Romania by the name of Glod. If anyone should be angry, it should be the country of Romania, a place that people will now think is nothing more than a depressed backwater of gypsy villages. Sadly, even the gypsies are ashamed of this portrayal and are suing Cohen (check out their feelings about the film here).
But the reality is that Cohen isn’t really making fun of the gypsies just as he isn’t really making fun of the Kazakhs. The people that Borat is truly mocking are the Americans. Somehow, his bumbling Kazakh caricature, for whatever reason, has a knack of getting the Americans he comes across in the film to open up and reveal the ugly underbelly of American culture. Along the way we encounter bigots, sexists, homophobics, racists, religious zealots, and numerous other small-brained reprobates far more real than the absurdist Kazakh journalist actually interviewing these people.
Yes folks, I’m ashamed to admit it, but the Americans are the ones being mocked here, not the Kazakhs.