Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's 2006 film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan has garnered much critical attention for its humor, both positive and negative. Cohen plays an extremely bigoted Kazakh journalist named Borat trying to understand American culture by interviewing Americans. However, by remaining in character, he is able to catch them off guard and as a result he is able to exploit their actions for comedic gain. While most scenes in the movie are relatively harmless, albeit embarrassing, other scenes rely on anti-Semitism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry at the hands of both Borat and the actual people being interviewed. It is these scenes that have generated widespread criticism from Jews, women, a university, and even an entire nation. Cohen states that his intention is to expose bigotry by pointing out its absurdity but many viewers are still offended by said scenes. The problem arises when the critics are offended just by the scenes that offend their personal beliefs but are okay when someone else's views are attacked. When viewing this movie, it is important not to create this ethical double standard among the types of scenes. That is, if one is repulsed by one scene, one should be repulsed by all of them, and vice-versa.
[...] Every group of people is fair game to be offended and this equal opportunity approach is why Cohen's comedy is ethically responsible. Among the most notable critics of Borat was the nation of Kazakhstan. Taking out an editorial in the newspaper The Guardian, Kazakh Ambassador Erlan Idrissov voiced his displeasure with Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhstan as a socially backwards, racist, and poverty-stricken country. Idrissov states that Cohen is inventive, in fact, that in creating Borat he has also created an imaginary country-a violent, primitive and oppressive place which he calls ‘Kazakhstan', but which bears no resemblance to the real Kazakhstan” (Idrissov). [...]
[...] Even without Cohen to tell them, the average viewer could watch the film and realize that the film is trying to depict the absurdity of holding prejudices due to the sheer outlandishness. first blush, it seems like Borat is making fun of Kazakhstan and foreigners you realize that the movie is making fun of people that are ignorant (Garver). For example, Borat shows us his coverage of the “Running of the in Kazakhstan, in which villagers try to escape two large caricatures endowed with typical Jewish stereotypes while the children try to smash a egg.” Only the most narrow-minded fool could possibly take this scene seriously and actually believe that such an event happens. [...]
[...] Borat displays his social backwardness, passing around pictures of his son's genitals and then handing the hostess a bag of his own feces. The other attendees are clearly awe-struck and amazed that someone could do this. However, they are patient with him and try to help him understand that his actions are not acceptable in American culture. Someone who laughs at this scene is most likely laughing because of the shock value—it is not normal to see someone hand over a bag of feces. [...]
[...] Sacha Baron Cohen's style of comedy in Borat has been hotly contested as a result of the ethical questions raised. In several scenes, Cohen, playing Borat, engages in a conversation with an unsuspecting person, usually coming across as extremely racist or sexist. While some of the people pay little attention to Borat's comments, some engage him and respond with their own racist or sexist remarks, to the dismay of some audience members. Whether or not this dismay is justified is dependent on how one sees the other scenes in the movie. [...]
[...] It is only natural that different viewers of Borat will have different reactions to Sacha Baron's Cohen style of humor. It is certainly okay to feel offended by the movie as a whole, but if one laughs at a majority of the scenes but then feels disgust when Borat makes some anti-Semitic comments, then they're on shaky grounds. This double standard is not okay and diminishes any claim that the movie is unethical. If one dislikes a movie simply because his/her own views are being mocked, but is fine with others being mocked, then there is no legitimate argument. [...]
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