20 March 2012
Borat, the Boundary Breaker
“A real comedian – that’s a daring man. He dares to see what his listeners shy away from, fear to express. And what he sees is a sort of truth about people, about their situation, about what hurts or terrifies them, about what’s hard, above all, about what they want ”, (Griffiths 20). No one better fits this description than the English stand up comedian, actor, and writer, Sasha Baron Cohen, most widely known for writing and acting as the fictional character, Borat. Borat is a film created by Cohen in which the main character interacts with unsuspecting people who do not realize that they are being set up for comic situations and self-revealing ridicule. Most of the movie contains impromptu interviews and interactions with Americans, who believe that Borat is a foreigner with little to no understanding of American customs. But why is this so funny? At first glance, we might find it easy to understand why humiliation of the naïve is humorous. It makes us feel good about ourselves, as if we are smarter or better. But on closer inspection, a large part of this type of humor reveals a side of us that we are not always willing to face. It's the little bit of naivety in us all as humans that make this movie so enticing. Though many critics of the comedy Borat are aware of the humorous effect that these embarrassing and uncomfortable situations have on society, most, if not all critics have allowed the film’s elements of superiority and ethnic humor to go unnoticed.
In one particular scene in the movie, Borat and his obese friend get into a furious session of nude wrestling in their hotel room. The sweaty wrestling session continues out into the halls and into the elevator, where innocent bystanders watch in complete awe and disgust. Ross Douthat, write of an article in the National Review titled “Here’s the Outrage,” examines our reactions to such situations. Douthat...