by Will Lloyd
Monday, 26
October 2020
Spotted
12:01

Christopher Hitchens is still right about Borat

Fourteen years on, the writer's comments ring more true than ever
by Will Lloyd
Sacha Baron Cohen’s fake Kazakh is making headlines once again

Borat is back. Rushed into production earlier this year, announced only a month ago, and streaming on Amazon Prime since Friday, Sacha Baron Cohen’s fake Kazakh is making headlines once again. Like the first Borat, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a mockumentary engineered to make real people expose themselves as ignoramuses and xenophobes.

Borat has a plastic surgeon explain what a “Jewish nose” looks like. He gets a tanning-salon attendant to explain what spray tan colour is best “for a racist family.” A dress shop owner laughs when Borat asks where the “Yes-Means-No” section is. And there are no issues when he ambles into a bakery and demands a cake with the words “Jews will not replace us” piped atop it in icing.

A reviewer for the BBC calls this “urgently satirical”, propelled by a “ripped from the headlines relevance.” But given how same-y Subsequent Moviefilm is to the first Borat, all I could think of was the review Christopher Hitchens gave the original in 2006. The only thing Baron Cohen exposed in America back then, Hitchens felt, was their extreme politeness:

Americans are almost pedantic in their hospitality and politesse. At a formal dinner in Birmingham, Ala., the guests discuss Borat while he’s out of the room… agree what a nice young American he might make. And this is after he has called one guest a retard and grossly insulted the wife of another… The arrival of a mountainous black hooker does admittedly put an end to the evening, but if a swarthy stranger had pulled any of the foregoing at a liberal dinner party in England, I wouldn’t give much for his chances.
- Christopher Hitchens, Slate

What was really revealed when Borat was invited to sing the “Kazakh” national anthem at a Texan rodeo, or calmly dealt with by the car salesman he demanded “pussy magnets” from? Not xenophobia, but an “attitude of painfully maintained open-mindedness and multiculturalism.”

The only people who were actually rude to Borat were “the stone-faced liberal Amazons of the Veteran Feminists of America”. Nothing much has changed with Subsequent Moviefilm, which reveals far more about the prejudices of paranoid liberals than it realises. That’s why Hitchens thought the joke was on the Cohen. Fourteen years later it still is.

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Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago

The whole thing is definitely xenophobic about kazakhstan.

cbarclay
cbarclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Sacha Baron Cohen has liberal credits in the bank. There is also no significant population of Kazakhs in either the UK or US. That’s why SBC can smear another people without any recriminations coming his way. Having said that, I like how he is allowed to point out that there are a lot of people in the world who want to finish off what Hitler started.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  cbarclay

Surely, even the most apparently anti-semitic sections are simply the reactions of people who are, perhaps excessively so, polite and tolerant. That is the mark of a liberal society – its citizens do not punch the strange foreigner on the nose. Though it is time one joke Borat was so dealt with.

I also wonder, in this age of everything being on camera, how many of his “victims” know they are being recorded.

Time for a new routine, Sacha

cbarclay
cbarclay
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I’m not talking about white Americans. Only a minute proportion of white Americans would wish to see the Jews exterminated. I’m talking about the people who sing ‘From the river to the sea’ on Al-Quds marches in London. I’m talking about significant proportions of the populations of countries who refuse to recognise Israel in any form and especially of those countries still at war with Israel. BTW I’m not Jewish nor do I have any allegiance to Israel.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago
Reply to  cbarclay

Except Borat isn’t going after any of that. He is going after the people most favourable to Israel on earth, though.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

The anti Semitic stuff is all editing. Get up on stage and sing a nonsense song about Jews and wells in front of a bemused audience and edit it so that the the toothless guy is grinning although he could have been listening to the previous song.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Have you deliberately spelt Kazakhstan with a lower case k?

If so, why?

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
1 year ago

Cohen has to be one of the most repulsive, arrogant hypocrites on the planet.

jonessimon850
jonessimon850
1 year ago

I never saw the Borat films but saw the series. Borat does not look or sound like a Kazakh (who have asiatic features and straight black hair). He looked and sounded like some Romainians I met in the 1990s in Romainia.

The ‘villages’ shown in the series looked like Romainian villages.

These Romainians said ‘Boraty’ things:

‘I am not a religious man but I must find priest’

(said to s friend when visiting Romainia when he started to put on a seatbelt in a car): ‘No! Seatbelts are for homosexuals.’

Romainia, of course, has a history of antisemitism : Codreanu and the Iron Guard.

Quote from Wikipedia:

According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry,
“Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are
reported in the press,” contrary to incorrect perceptions in popular
culture caused by the country’s portrayal in the 2006 film Borat as a “hot-bed of anti-Semitism.”[14]

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago
Reply to  jonessimon850

Yes. He’s really attacking Eastern Europeans in general, possibly Romania in particular. Also the American white southern type.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
1 year ago

He wouldnt get away with doing AliG now..cultural appropriation has put paid to that.
Also there’s something about featuring in ‘own productions’ that broadcasters deem that the maker be above criticism.
Jim’ll Fix It?

tiffeyekno
tiffeyekno
1 year ago

I wonder what Hitch is now saying about evangelicals in the White House. SBC is running low on work, Ali G has come and gone, his Austrian gay character Bruno disappeared with out trace and he didnt get the Freddy Mercury gig. Also his films are turkeys – Brothers Grimm was ridiculous and his accent in Chicago 7 has to be heard to be believed. He is a talented guy but a return to Borat is a sure sign of a desperate re-launch.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
1 year ago
Reply to  tiffeyekno

But what about the accent of the actor playing Mr Rubin? Surely that was the weird one!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  tiffeyekno

Hitch is not now saying anything about evangelicals in the White House, because he died in 2011.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Yes I knew that. I thought my meaning was clear with the use of the word ‘now’ but I get your point – that Hitch is nowhere and my comment would have been better phrased ‘if there was a heaven or a hell, which, of course, there isn’t ….’! But well spotted and thank you for pointing that out. He is sorely missed.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

Thanks for clarifying. Yes he most certainly is missed.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

Total spoofer. His brother is actually saner.

juliabaytree
juliabaytree
1 year ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Amazing pair of brothers, both original and brilliant thinkers.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  juliabaytree

The most formative day of their lives, was Thursday, the 4th August, 1960.

juliabaytree
juliabaytree
1 year ago

Christopher Hitchens……so sadly missed. So wonder what he would make of today’s world. He was rarely wrong.

A Bcd
A Bcd
1 year ago

In any population you can find haters, bigots, and fools. Borat may reveal a few of them — just as Candid Camera exposed our ordinary human foibles — but what he mostly does is humiliate people who are only trying to be agreeable. I thank you for sharing Hitch’s spot-on observation.

fvnorr2p
fvnorr2p
1 year ago

not sure how he got popular. never watched anything he has done. never missed it. don’t miss it now. kinda feel sorry for anyone who has wasted time watching ……

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
1 year ago
Reply to  fvnorr2p

I believe it was Cohen’s catchphrase: “Is it coz I is black?” that fixed him in the popular consciousness. Back in 2002 schoolboys the length and breadth of the land were straining to amuse thier pals with Ali G impressions.

Robin Williamson
Robin Williamson
1 year ago
Reply to  fvnorr2p

I beat you there. I watched one of his efforts for a full five minutes before deciding he was as unfunny as he was untalented. I’ve missed him since then. In fact, I miss him at every opportunity I get!

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
1 year ago

Ah come on, to hell with you all. Sasha Baron Cohen, with all his faults, is a courageous genius of comedy. That’s more than enough for me.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Poynton

Regardless, he runs a high risk of being beheaded before Easter.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

That Islamophobic anit-semitic Semite had it coming. Just as that famous freespeecher, President Kadyrov of Chechnya recently educated us: He’s “forcing people into terrorism – not leaving them any choice”.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago

Bilko 1955-59 , d**k Van d**e Show 1961-66 Bewitched 1965-73 Get Smart 1965-66 Classic USA comedies,.. ”Borat” was ok but to rehash is not good. ..He should have A ”Conversation about dementia,Agenda 21 & Antifa,being peaceful” with Senile Joe biden

Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright
1 year ago

Borat’s arrogance and cynicism is beyond belief. Purports to be exposing racism and jingoism, but clearly doesn’t care a fig about bringing Kazakhstan and its people into disrepute. Ghastly man.

F Wallace
F Wallace
1 year ago

Are you sure you watched and understood these movies? I don’t think it shows Americans in a good light at all. Yes, it tends to be low hanging fruit, but America has a lot of low hanging fruit who tend to be astonishingly willing to display ignorance, racism towards various groups, etc, at the drop of a hat. They only need the vessel, and Borat is that vessel. I certainly didn’t think “liberals” were the ones who look bad in these movies.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago
Reply to  F Wallace

Is it possible that your own prejudices are being exercised here? I watched some of “Borat” again recently, expecting to find it hilarious, and only concluded much the same as C Hitchens. Where does anyone in “Borat” “display ignorance, racism towards various groups, etc, at the drop of a hat”? Every instance of this looks like an attempt at agreeableness. If it were “at the drop of a hat” would they need SBC to prompt them so much?

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

I concur. I enjoyed the humor of it seeing it years ago. Hitchens’ criticism rings true, though.

Clever editing almost certainly also plays a role. I can’t be sure, but I’d bet it hides just how much he “prompts” some of these people.