While I find Borat pretty funny - especially when he is 'disco dancing' - some, especially Kazakhs, aren't laughing. However, as Gauhar Abdygaliyeva writes this week in the Washington Post, any publicity is often good publicity:
The "moviefilm" by Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," is playing well in American theaters. One can only applaud the humorist's talent, but the movie is entertaining only because the world is so unfamiliar with reality.
Perhaps that will change. The movie has already created unprecedented interest in Kazakhstan. Not only has Borat promoted our name and flag, he has also indirectly fueled a great wave of patriotism among my fellow citizens.
I think Estonians are breathing a sigh of relief that Cohen didn't decide to make his character from Estonia. But for all his pokes at post-Communist stereotypes a few things can be said.
1) Borat is funny because he's accurate.
I had a Russian cab driver in San Francisco this year that resembled Cohen's Borat character. And he spoke like him. And he listened to bad 1980s-style pop music. And his whole outfit was made of denim. I also have seen plenty of European men who prefer the lime green speedo to American-style swimming shorts. In other words, the
Borat character is an exaggeration, but he's grounded in reality. If he wasn't grounded in reality, he wouldn't be as funny.
2. Borat is funny because we're ignorant.
I am not sure why, but few have raised the idea that Borat is funny because we are laughing at our own ignorant vision of what the world is like. Borat not only makes fun of Kazakhs and post-communist countries, but he makes fun of our ideas about what Kazakhstan is like. He indulges us in our own perverted version of the world, where there are prostitution contests and women are forced to ride on the outside of buses. Of course we know that's not true, and by exaggerating our ideas about this country, we are quietly making fun of our own ignorance.
I think the latter is the most important. Our country - the US - is the kind of place where people will go see a film like Terminator 3 just to see Arnold Schwarzeneger blow something up. They don't care about plots or acting ability. They just want to be entertained. And that's my final point.
3. Borat is funny ... because he's funny.
How often do you get to see a guy bring a chicken on the subway in a suitcase?!