Bland pop culture seems to be spread pretty thick at gringo cafes in South America, and among the muck of Red Hot Chili Peppers or Bob Marly that constantly seems to be violently asailing ones ears ( the true mantras of the wide eyed ,world traveller), the odd screening of pirated DVDs become a point of obvious attraction for those wearied by the road and in search of more gringo diversions.. ( from the actual country they are visiitng it can seem considering the number of these types of cafes or hostals and the frequency they are patronised). A popular movie in particular that travellers of all walks and countries seem to love and is perpetually on screen is Borat, and it is one movie in particular I loathe in contradiction it seems to popular opinion.
I remember working in England in a dreary grey winter of 99 and the pub hours were late but a particular ray of sunshine in my day was the finishing up in time for the Ali G show around 11. Ali G was a fantastic take on cynical comedic paraody and manged to get the best (or perhaps worst) out of people on their own accord. For the few uniniated, Ali G was a white jewish guy who dressed up like he was a black guy from the projects and had been given a youth focused program to help young people understand the issues of today. And the guests he interviewed went along with this tangential take on current affairs. They ignorantly took his stupidity, crassness and terrible ethnic stereotype for what was todays youth culture and became the joke themselves. It was funny because they so obviously couldnt see past this ridiculous parody and opened themselves up trying to bridge the gap of cross generations. IT was funny how ludicrulous out of touch politicians, PETA activists and academics were with "todays youth".
Then in the second season came Borat. And employing the same stratedgy, that of an alien host from a foreign culture, he managed to bring an even greater amount of horrifyingly honesty opinons and racism out of Englands gentry. Pretending to be Kazakstani and unaquanited with English customs he manged to get away with asking some horrifyingly funny questions and recieving even more disturbing answers. On one occasion he is talking to a participant on his horse about to partake in a fox hunt. WIthout a hint of sarcasm Borat tells the man how he likes to shoot animals because it makes him feel like he has "big balls". How it is fun to blow apart small animals. And the aristocratic hunter agrees, admitting quite confessionally how it makes him feel like a big man.
Once agin the joke was not on Borat, but on the interviewee who could not see through the thinly veiled bullshit or stereotype he presented. He exposed their racism and I took great delight in his episodical revelations of Englands willingness to accept what is presented to them.
TO me what made Borat genius was that he was not Borat. He was a white middle class jewish guy. Borat was a costume worn only for the interview to expose how pathetic it was that people could not see through his stereotype. Borat didnt exist outside of the interview. This is what disturbed me about the movie and made me hate it so.
No longer was Borat a jewish guy pretending to be a helplessly pathetic kazakstani, he was a full blown charcter with a back ground and life and took part in stupid skits without modern society on camera to witness. Suddenly he has a village, with a wife a (skanky ) girlfriend, prostitutes he visits and a poor backward village that become the butt of the jokes. He drinks out of the toilet . This in particular would be funny if it was to provoke shock from a person he was interviewing there in front of him who couldnt realise that everybody in the world has toilets and knows what they are for. Instead this is a cheap joke jabbing at how backwards Kazistanis are and done to appeal to college jock humour.
Putting Borat on screen with a story and background ruined the whole concept of Borat. the ignorance of the populace is no longer the joke but the character of Borat and his cheap pathetic costume which wears very thin when not involved in interviewing the so called powers that be. The whole idea of Borat as subversive has been turned into potty humoured drech. Its a great shame, because there was a time way back in my late teens when Borat made the sunine on the dreaiest of Winter days.