'Borat 2' misses the mark because it perpetuates cruel stereotypes and is a vehicle for mockery
Sacha Baron Cohen in "Borat Subsequent Movie Film". Amazon Studios
In an article, Southeast European political scientist Jasmin Mujanović writes that "Borat 2" misses the mark and is difficult to see.
In the film with the official title "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm", which is currently running on Amazon, the actor Sacha Baron Cohen portrays a fictional Kazakh journalist who wants to offer his daughter to US Vice President Mike Pence as a gift from his home country.
Mujanović writes that Baron Cohen "is clearly an extremely talented satirist and character actor," but says, "Whatever the franchise expresses on American ignorance and bigotry, its greatest impact lies in its gruesome depictions of Kazakhstan, Central Asia and even Eastern Europe."
Overall, he calls it "a film that will catch on".
"Those who consider these depictions to be satire may feel caught up in the joke, but a far larger segment of the audience laughs at Cohen's depictions of 'Kazakhstan'," he says.
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The sight of Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, who became President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and lies with his hands in his pants on a hotel bed in front of a (seemingly) teenage seductress, is certainly one of the greatest bizarre - and disturbing - Vignettes in recent American public life.
The scene is already the most famous piece of film material from the sequel "Borat" by actor and producer Sacha Baron Cohen. The film, officially titled "Borat Subsequent Movie Film: Amazing Bribe Delivered to the American Regime to Support the Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" is Baron Cohen's successor to his hit 2006 mockumentary about Borat Sagdiyev, a fictional Kazakh journalist played by Baron Cohen, who travels to "USA and A" to make a documentary about life in what he imagines to be the most spectacular place in the world.
In the new film, which has been on Amazon since Friday, Borat would like to offer his daughter to US Vice President Mike Pence as a gift from his home country.
While both films are driven by Borat's outrageous antics as a goofy, racist and sexist ignoramus trying to understand everything from plumbing to women's suffrage, fans argue that the comedy ultimately resides in Baron Cohen's skillful ability to deal with prejudice and bigotry uncover his (usually) ignorant interlocutor. Both films try to see Borat as a kind of mirror for American ignorance, in which the real villain is not the Kazakh provincial but his hosts, who reveal their own reactionary tendencies with only the slightest push.
'Borat 2' is hard to see as it still maintains stereotypes in its portrayal of Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe
A scene in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" streamed on Amazon. Amazon Studios
Baron Cohen is clearly an extremely talented satirist and character actor. And his recent acceptance speech on the growing threat of militant anti-Semitism and far-right sectarianism in the West at an Anti-Defamation League conference showed that he is a thoughtful and socially conscious artist.
But even if Baron Cohen grants broad artistic license, the "Borat" films are difficult to watch. Whatever the franchise expresses about American ignorance and bigotry, its greatest impact lies in its gruesome depictions of Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and even Eastern Europe - with Glod, Romania, a predominantly Romance village, serving as the location for Borat's fictionalized Kazakhstan. The films also help make these stereotypes known to its almost exclusively Western audience.
In short, "Borat" is a film that is catching on despite all the opposite charisma.
In an attempt to expose American prejudices about the "wild east" and the country's perceived tendency towards illiberalism, Baron Cohen has actually helped repopulate an orientalist view of what some still broadly refer to as "former communist states" . His work therefore fails because of the critical cinema it claims to be.
While the film is undoubtedly a satire of US politics, it is also a vehicle for ridicule of Kazakhstan and its people. Since the land that is (not actually) portrayed in the film is almost completely foreign to most Americans, Baron Cohen becomes the architect of his popular image in the West. And this picture is cast in brown face.
As the Kazakh scholar Aizada Arystanbek argued, if Baron Cohen was purposely trying to ridicule the Americans, why not use an imaginary land for borate?
"Choosing a real country must have been a strategic decision," she wrote of openDemocracy, adding that such a decision "is the product of an environment that exists in the western film industry and that allows its creators, especially whites, to enables them to be used. " and abuse other cultures for their own ends. "
It's actually Romania, depicted in "Borat 2", not Kazakhstan, and the film marginalizes an already marginalized group
A scene from "Borat Subsequent Movie Film". Amazon Studios
Borat's fictional "Kazakhstan" not only uses Romania as a background, but it is also the Roma and their culture - especially music - that are the main material for the franchise's characterization of Kazakhstan as a land of barbarism.
The Roma community in the US is small and well integrated. However, in most parts of Europe the Roma are a highly marginalized group. Although the Roma number in the millions, the vast majority of them, especially in Eastern Europe, live in crippling poverty, where they are often victims of state and vigilant violence. Anti-Roma pogroms have continued into the 21st century, and the community has been the target of known racial persecution even during the pandemic.
By trading in centuries-old anti-Roma tropes and images in his films, and by leaning generously on various anti-Muslim themes, Baron Cohen gives his audience permission to indulge in those feelings too - whether they fully understand who or what they are laughing at at or not. Those who consider these depictions to be satire may feel caught up in the joke, but no doubt a far greater proportion of the audience laughs at Baron Cohen's depictions of "Kazakhstan".
As comedian Hari Kondabolu noted in his 2017 documentary "The Problem with Apu", characters like Borat or, in Kondabolus' case, the "Simpsons" character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon are turned into clubs to strengthen racist power structures and power dynamics in the real world . Because who tells jokes and how they are told has always been a question of power. This is something that black, brown, and Jewish comedians like Baron Cohen have recognized (and played with) for decades.
Accordingly, the problem with Borat 2 isn't that it's "offensive" - comedy is almost always for someone, somewhere. Nor should it be the intention to "cancel" Baron Cohen. The whole thing is simpler: Baron Cohen clearly believes that comedy is a tool to weigh on the lazy. That is an enviable goal, but only if you do not further stigmatize those affected.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what "Borat 2" and Baron Cohen are doing.
Jasmin Mujanović is a political scientist and co-host of the podcast "Sarajevo Calling".
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