Sacha Baron Cohen, Guilty of Minstrelsy

My commenters below are right: the prejudices that Sacha Baron Cohen stokes in Borat are conventional ones, and the film is a form of Red-State blackface. All the juice in his journey happens between the coasts. When he’s on the coasts, the jokes feel forced. In the interior the ignorant peasantry are revealed.

It’s minstrelsy because Cohen has taken on the the guise of a minority he secretly loathes in order to put them down.

Why did I write my last post on Borat then? Well, I find SBC screamingly funny in this Lenny Bruceish way. And I fell for the message—pogroms in America—because it was so well coded, coated by humor; and I think I was vulnerable to its orthodoxy. I wonder if I see it again if I’ll feel the same. I think not; that I’m likely to see the prejudice plainly, and on behalf of fundamentalists, smalltowners and rodeo audiences, my fellow Americans, feel somewhat offended… (in the same way I’m appalled when Larry David and Jon Stewart talk about pogroms as a real possibility here). Thanks for the smart comments.

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