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The cultural effects of Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 film Borat

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Style of comedy in Borat.
    1. Exploiting unsuspecting people-by making them look bad.
    2. Shock humor.
    3. The Anti-Defamation League.
  3. Critics of Borat.
    1. The nation of Kazakhstan.
    2. Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhstan as anti-Semitic.
    3. The purpose of his movie - expose bigotry.
  4. Cohen's stated goal.
  5. Conclusion.

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. [...]

[...] According to Cohen, was surprised because I always had faith in the audience that they would realize that this was a fictitious country and the mere purpose of it was to allow people to bring out their own prejudices and the age of consent has been raised to nine years (Strauss, p3). Baron Cohen put it, the joke is on the people who can believe that the Kazakhstan that I describe can of people that are different and encourage viewers to do likewise, there would be little justification in its merit. However, that is not what Cohen intended. [...]

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