Monday, November 13, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Sacha

By Cassandra D

I'll admit it: I laughed until I cried when I watched Borat. As an Oklahoman, though, I feel sorry for Kazakhstan--the kinship of the unfairly maligned. And as an American, I'm just a little embarrassed that this movie is getting wide-spread international release.

It's hard not to feel sorry for the boobs in the picture. I hope that the antique store owner was paid well for his destroyed items, and I do feel a tiny bit sorry for the frat boys who claim to have been plied with liquor before giving their "consent" and revealing their racist ways. On the whole, though, I haven't felt that the movie's unwitting stars were owed much of anything from Mr. Cohen and his crew.

And then I read about the citizens of Glod, Romania, who were paid a pittance to be in a movie that they claim to have been told would be a documentary that would shed light on their plight.

"When Sacha Baron Cohen wanted a village to represent the impoverished Kazakh home of his character Borat, he found the perfect place in Glod: a remote mountain outpost with no sewerage or running water and where locals eke out meagre livings peddling scrap iron or working patches of land.

"But now the villagers of this tiny, close-knit community have angrily accused the comedian of exploiting them, after discovering his new blockbuster film portrays them as a backward group of rapists, abortionists and prostitutes, who happily engage in casual incest.

"They claim film-makers lied to them about the true nature of the project, which they believed would be a documentary about their hardship, rather than a comedy mocking their poverty and isolation.

"Villagers say they were paid just £3 each for this humiliation, for a film that took around £27million at the worldwide box office in its first week of release.

"Now they are planning to scrape together whatever modest sums they can muster to sue Baron Cohen and fellow film-makers, claiming they never gave their consent to be so cruelly misrepresented."

A proper Southern lady can surely take offense at being handed a bag of feces, but none of the pranks played on Americans seemed to me cruel. Not so this:

"Mr Tudorache, a deeply religious grandfather who lost his arm in an accident, was one of those who feels most humiliated. For one scene, a rubber sex toy in the shape of a fist was attached to the stump of his missing arm - but he had no idea what it was.

Only when The Mail on Sunday visited him did he find out. He said he was ashamed, confessing that he only agreed to be filmed because he hoped to top up his £70-a-month salary - although in the end he was paid just £3.

He invited us into his humble home and brought out the best food and drink his family had. Visibly disturbed, he said shakily: 'Someone from the council said these Americans need a man with no arm for some scenes. I said yes but I never imagined the whole country, or even the whole world, will see me in the cinemas ridiculed in this way. This is disgusting."

I think that 20th Century Fox and Cohen should use their mega-profits to give this town running water and an apology.

But part of me wonders if that desire for their better compensation is in itself a sign of my American paternalism, ridiculed so well by Borat. Is it actually more respectful to think that those poor folk are, in a weird way, equal to us? Just as worthy to be ridiculed?

I guess the difference is that the American dupes jumped into the tar and rolled around in the feathers, while Cohen himself applied them to the villagers of Glod.


At 3:00 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Having not seen the movie, but having seen multiple previous "Borat" segments from the past, I have mixed feelings about his humor. A lot of it is gut-busting and hysterical. Much of it reveals latent racist attitudes or worse on the part of those he plays practical jokes on. But some of Borat's pranks seem to show something else: The desire by many Americans to be decent folks, even if the stranger in their midst happens to be a doofus. Case in point: The segment Borat did in Oklahoma City showed people willing to stand for 10 minutes of silence for an imaginary massacre he referenced, even though they knew nothing about this guy from a country they'd never heard of, other than the fact that he barged into their meeting. That's not the "ugly American" stereotype - far from it.

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

I understand what you're meaning, Reddirt, but at least those pranks on Borat's part - in which there is no real ugliness to emerge from the recipient - don't strike me as mean-spirited. I thought that OKC Traffic Commission bit was just funny, but not necessarily mean-spirited.

Granted, a lot of Borat's humor stems from holding up a mirror to humanity's ugliness. But the guy is also a comedic actor, and more than a fair share is also just about humor and pushing the envelope.

In all fairness, though, the OKC Traffic Commission more or less HAD to observe the 10 minutes of silence for the massacre. That's the unfortunate part about governmental agencies that invite public comment -- there really isn't much else to do once a lunatic takes the microphone but hear 'em out.

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous flamewhore said...

Borat seems downright philanthropic when you think of what the producers of "Girls Gone Wild" do. They get girls to show their boobies for beads and beer.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

RedDirt, I agree that not everything about this movie makes Americans look bad. In my original post, which I shortened (believe it or not; still rather long) I commented that it is inspiring that this movie has been #1 at the box office in the United States, despite the fact that the movie makes us look like a nation of idiots. I think that shows the world that we are able to laugh at ourselves.

And good point, Flamewhore. Maybe when Cohen makes his "Bruno" movie he can get a little more action for the cameras.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Actually, any film crew that gets girls to show boobies IS philanthropic in my book.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Chase, I was just gonna say ... and you beat me to it. Especially philanthropic when the boobies involve beads and beer. That's not just philanthropic; it's practically sainthood. Those guys are true humanitarians, but I'm a male pig, so maybe I'm a little biased.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous flamewhore said...

I meant Borat was philanthropic and you two little boys know it.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger LilRed said...

RedDirt - one does not have to be a male pig to enjoy a pair of funbags. I am a chick and even I appreciate a nice rack.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

LilRed -
Please let Reddirt and me know when you next enjoy a nice rack. We would like to bring along lounge chairs and cameras.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

And beads!

And beer!

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Retard said...

The Borat "Retard" from the Magnolia Fine Dining Society says "HI".


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