…Some Thoughts on Borat

Last night, I was invited to a very chic movie night with my boyfriend. It was decided we would watch an epic classic of the past decade “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” due to the fact that some of us haven’t seen this masterpiece of cinematography (more specifically, the lovely host). I took this occasion to refresh my memories of this movie, because let’s just say I was too young to have watched all of it when it came out six years go. Today, this movie struck me, deeply struck. I also, lost all trust in Rotten Tomatoes, because as it appears, they have rated this movie *certified fresh* with 91 percent.

What is it that struck me so much? I guess the same reasons for which this movie was banned in the countries of the Arab world. It was banned under the excuse of being “vile, gross, and extremely ridiculous” as stated by a film censor for Dubai. I mean, sure the movie is humorous in parts… but I still can’t believe the fact that it deals with a real country – Kazakhstan. They could’ve invented any fictional country, but why mock and create false impressions of a real country? I realize that this movie was actually good for Kazakhstan in some ways… because it has awakened a sudden curiosity in people and they all rushed to Google whether it is actually inhabited by Borats and hookers. But I also realize that there are many ignorant people that were left with this permanent image of Kazakhstan, created by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

Almaty, former capital and largest city in Kazakhstan

As it should’ve been expected, the character of “Borat” was heavily criticized by the Kazakh Government, being a concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is incompatible with the ethics and civilized behavior of Kazakhstan’s people. Moreover, the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen. I mean wouldn’t you feel the same way if Borat was from your country? What if they were making fun and creating false stereotypes of your people?

Astana, capital of Kazakhstan

In the movie, Borat, a pathetic reporter from Kazakhstan travels to the USA with the purposes to study the American culture and somehow implement these learnings back in his home village. However, whilst changing channels in his New York hotel room, he stumbles upon a hottie from Baywatch, Pamela Anderson, or simply CJ Parker. He then sets out on a road trip to California… with intentions to marry and uncork his platonic love. The movie proceeds as he travels through small towns of the United States, conversing and getting to know Americans. “Hello, my name is Borat, I am from Kazakhstan” he says numerous times in a terrible Eastern European accent. The people around him seem to welcome him, and that is, in my opinion, what is most shocking.

Borat may be marked as a clownish, regressive foreigner, but as often as not in America he seems right at home. (Anton Bitel, Eye for Film)

Makes me wonder if this mockumentary makes more fun of Americans or Kazakhs? It is said that many of the scenes were improvised, and the subjects of the film were not aware that it was all a joke – in their eyes Borat was actually filming a documentary for Kazakhstan, that is how we get so many of the interesting reactions and humorous situations.

I have found the movie to be offensive in many ways. First of all, because it is obvious that “Borat” does not represent the average Khazakh person. Nor does his wife Oksana. Nor does his sister Natalia.

Natalia, Borat’s sister

Second of all, there are oceans of racist comments and jokes towards Gypsies, homosexuals, Jews, and Uzbeks. Haven’t those people had enough discrimination in their lives? Why make it worse with silly movies? No matter how you look at it, this movie is not acceptable. I decided to write this post, because Russia has always had a very close relationship with Kazakhstan, a former republic of the Soviet Union… so yeah, it’s practically Soviet Russia… In Soviet Russia, Kazakhstan makes fun of you! According to Sacha Cohen, the joke was not on Kazakhstan, but instead on people who can believe that the Kazakhstan that he describes can exist… so yeah… I guess this post is dedicated to those people, if it is that they actually exist.

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7 thoughts on “…Some Thoughts on Borat

  1. For Heaven’s sake, you have a President who boils people alive, which right there should bar the country from suing anyone for “slandering” the glorious nation of Kazakhstan.

  2. Just to remind you Sacha Cohen himself is a Jew (although he makes many anti-Semetic remarks). I love a good laugh, and tend not to take things seriously. So it did not struck me as offensive. But I can imagine people would disagree.

  3. Very good post – and stance. These days people love to pretend to be personally hurt when the so-called western ‘Freedom of Speech’ is apparently in danger. I had a Finnish person tell me he ”didn’t agree” with a Finnish politician saying on his Facebook page that a Finnish person who randomly killed an African man and a Turkish man in Oulu, Finland ”deserved a medal”, but he would die t defend his right to say it. That is not about freedom of speech in the slightest. If someone shouts ”Fire!” in the middle of a theatre performance I don’t applaud his freedom of expression.
    I hate the way Cohen just decided to falsely rubbish a nation. And when I explain to people that I can clearly see the scenes in ”Kazakhstan” were filmed in Romania, not one person believes me. They still actually think it was filmed there.
    I worked in Kazakhstan. If anyone doubts my feelings about the country they can refer to my post about it which I am not going to link (that action is too cheap). So I agree with you fully.

  4. I didn’t initially think about the impact this had on the perception of Kazakhstan. All *I* could think of at first was hoping I could make it to the end of the movie. (Not exactly a fan.) But this is a great post.

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