Fourteen years on, the writer's comments ring more true than ever
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:
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.