Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

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swo17
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#76 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:00 pm

aox wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 12:43 pm
He is playing a citizen of Kazakhstan.
Well, he's playing a cartoon character based on a comedic stereotype of a nationality that most people today don't know that much about. Which was also true of Mickey Rooney 60 years ago

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Altair
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#77 Post by Altair » Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:09 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 7:53 am
(Although, that said, a lot of the original Borat material was filmed in the US, albeit intended for British consumption - I suspect SBC calculated that Americans would be more likely to be polite and accommodating towards even the most outrageous behaviour, provided it could be explained away as being "foreign". I'm not convinced that that formula would work quite as well in Britain.)
The original British TV series also played into a genre that is fairly popular in the UK - of personalities (either comedians or documentary filmmakers, i.e. Louis Theroux) going to America and 'discovering' how strange and weird it is.

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MichaelB
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#78 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:13 pm

It seems to me that the crucial distinction is that Mickey Rooney was sincerely trying to play a convincing Japanese character (even if he missed by miles, by his own subsequent admission), whereas Sacha Baron Cohen is deliberately playing a "generic foreigner" who very pointedly has pretty much nothing in common with a typical Kazakh. And there's no "cultural appropriation" because I don't think he's appropriated anything authentically Kazakh apart from the country's name - indeed, I suspect he's been very careful not to do so. (I gather his "Kazakh" is a combination of Polish and Hebrew, which of course sounds nothing like actual Kazakh.)

And there's also a question of motivation: at his most effective, Borat exposed racism - I'm thinking of him persuading people to join him in a rousing chorus of "Throw the Jew Down the Well". So trying to lump him together with someone in blackface seems ever so slightly wide of the mark - or rather, if you can fairly compare him to a blackface performance at all, it's with Robert Downey Jr's in Tropic Thunder, which was also used to make a specifically anti-racist point.
Altair wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:09 pm
The original British TV series also played into a genre that is fairly popular in the UK - of personalities (either comedians or documentary filmmakers, i.e. Louis Theroux) going to America and 'discovering' how strange and weird it is.
Yes, that's an excellent point.

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swo17
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#79 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:24 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:13 pm
Mickey Rooney was sincerely trying to play a convincing Japanese character
Really? I haven't read much on the subject but I always assumed he was going for comedy, and did just find this quote from a Google search:
Mickey Rooney wrote:Blake Edwards, who directed the picture, wanted me to do it because he was a comedy director. They hired me to do this overboard, and we had fun doing it.

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#80 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:41 pm

A part of Kazakhstan is considered to be in Europe.
Culturally it's tied to Russia; ethnically central Asian traditionally, but as noted, lots of Russians and others Europeans throughout the Soviet Empire were brought in. Borat is certainly not playing an Asian in the way you mean. He's just a euro-Kazakhstani, inasmuch as he's from there. It's more a generic poor country that's backward and prejudiced.

Otherwise, I think that if you support blacks and gays and other minorities, you can be much more easily forgiven a transgression, than if you commit the same while being racist and discriminatory. Context and intentions matter.

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Red Screamer
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#81 Post by Red Screamer » Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:18 pm

I don't know if the Europe/Asia distinction really matters as much as some of you think it does. See nearly every Arab or Persian role in Hollywood history.

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aox
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#82 Post by aox » Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:43 pm

swo17 wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:00 pm
aox wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 12:43 pm
He is playing a citizen of Kazakhstan.
Well, he's playing a cartoon character based on a comedic stereotype of a nationality that most people today don't know that much about.
I suppose I am not seeing the distinction here. Help me parse this out.

The stereotype seems to be of a Eastern European and not indigenous Kazakhstani people, which is why I used the term 'citizen' (approximately 30% of Kazakhstanis are not indigenous Kazakhstanis). I simply laid out how his "cartoon" character could work within the context of Kazakhstan, and isn't analogous to the Rooney example given in the original post I was responding to. It just struck me too that most (all?) of the people you see in his home village are not asiatic, but of Slavic descent. I think that aids the joke anyway because as you noted, westerners don't know anything about Kazakhstan, and anyone who does, knows that most Kazakhstanis don't look, act, or speak like Borat. Further, I think that in a way helps Cohen get around any perceived racism. He isn't doing "black face"(or Rooney) here.
Otherwise, I think that if you support blacks and gays and other minorities, you can be much more easily forgiven a transgression, than if you commit the same while being racist and discriminatory. Context and intentions matter.
Agreed. Intention and previous work/action is important in this analysis.


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mfunk9786
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#84 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:26 am

She's the film's standout - I barely remembered that anyone could be so decent.

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knives
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#85 Post by knives » Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:29 am

She really is just impressively good though it’s her normalcy that takes me back.

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whaleallright
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Re: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)

#86 Post by whaleallright » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:26 pm

You really have to be a bit special to pull something like this off, engaging in elaborate deceptions —with the marks being not only the obvious ghouls, but some decent people. That's not exactly a criticism, just an observation. I certainly wouldn't have it in me, whatever "it" is.

As for the Kazakh thing. The character (and the mythos SBC has developed around him) is an amalgam of stereotypes—including of people from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The actual nation of Kazakhstan has nothing to do with it, even less than Ruritarian fantasies have anything to do with a specific country from central Europe. Indeed, Borat's place of origin was chosen precisely because 99% of British and American folks know essentially nothing about it, or any other country in Central Asia for that matter (remember the late, lamented Herman Cain's dismissal of "Uzbekibekibekibekistanstan" in 2016?). Indeed, I imagine SBC knew little about Kazakhstan either—just that it was sort of a "blank slate" for his audience. Also, choosing it meant, as folks point out above, avoiding some of the minefields of ethnic and racial insensitivities prominent in Europe or America. (It would have been awkward to locate the character from a place, like Azerbaijan, recently embroiled in sectarian strife, or of an ethnicity, like Polish or Pakistani, prominently represented in the British Isles.) J. Hoberman has written extensively about how some of Borat's shtick derives from stereotypes of Jews, or even from actual Jewish and Israeli culture. Borat's spoken language, which is definitely neither Kazakh nor Russian, often incorporates Hebrew words and Hebrew-sounding phonemes.

The fact that there is a real country of Kazakhstan that might have something to say about any of this was probably not much on SBC's mind when he first came up with the character in the mid-'90s. To a great extent, that fact is inconvenient for the Borat mythos, and every time SBC tries to incorporate the actual country and its politics into it, the satire seems to become much more pedestrian and toothless, like Austin Powers or something.

To me, SBC's shtick is at its funniest when it tests the limits that people will go to remain hospitable and avoid confrontation—which is more a satire of civilization than of any particular political ideology. Occasionally he hits the motherlode, as with that Republican state legislator whom he goaded to run around screaming epithets with his pants down. That was good TV. But generally, American politics is so brazenly broken and malevolent that Borat's "exposure" of it has, for the last five years if not longer, seemed pretty redundant.

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