After watching the new Borat film, I needed a nice, long shower – not because of Sacha Baron Cohen, his jokes were impeccably and brilliantly brutal, but because the goals he chose so wisely left me feeling filthy and disgusted.
Borat Risky Art is the following motion picture. It is dangerous because Cohen’s absurdist invention, Borat, has come to silence them after years in which the new right, the old right, the alt-right and the extreme right have become ever more dominant, ever more brazen, violent and loud-mouthed. Nothing like laughter is ruinous. This film is a major challenge to right-wing populism.
This is not the BBC panel’s trash comedy of comedians who think it’s chic to denigrate Donald Trump or Boris Johnson with the same hackneyed gags for the umpteenth time only because that’s what liberal viewers want and that makes cheap, hollow laughs.
What does a comedy of this type change? Oh, nothing. It’s as complicated and original to say “Trump is a lunatic” or “Boris is an idiot” as to say “I like wine.” Just because something is real doesn’t make it funny. Panel shows are Twitter’s comedy counterpart – where everyone is in their own bubble, laughing at the same jokes, criticizing the same stuff, signalling the same virtues, when no one else is listening, rendering useless the entire exercise.
The BBC panel shows have turned the mirror to the wall if humor is supposed to hold a mirror up to the world. Borat is holding the mirror up to your nose, so close that it’s threatening. For years, that is what I have been longing for. We are living in a time when satire is more relevant than it possibly ever was. When it comes to looking at the real world straight in the eye, where have all our rich comedians been hiding? Why have none of our court jesters been bold enough to do what Charlie Chaplin did in The Great Dictator in the 1930s for this horrible decade? Spitting Image’s return was a fleeting hope that went nowhere. Finally, Cohen and his grotesque Borat did what was required by culture: bring the powers-that-be to their knees and use satire to hold them there.
But Cohen’s film is not only a threat to the new right, but also to left-wing radicals. I find the word “woke” hideously dumb, but let’s embrace it as an abbreviation for the modern puritans who have turned leftist politics into a humorless wasteland. Without thinking about the straitjackets and dogmas requested by the modern Puritans, the Borat film is fearlessly politically incorrect, and its brilliance lies in the fact that it fights for politically correct causes.
Misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry – none of these horrors have been curbed on social media by the era of rubber stamps or years of shouting. One might even argue that the new Puritans’ excesses fed the fires that fuelled such hatred’s rise. Along with a “yakshemash” here and a “wa wa wee wa” there, Borat ripples, flattening the hate culture effortlessly.
However, this latest Borat movie is a different creature than the first movie. In accordance with the times, Borat 1 was lighter, less intense, less disturbing in 2006. Both films aim at bigotry in all its forms, but at the heart of Borat 2 there are some very upsetting things to tell about men and women, gender and sexism. Movie 1 skipped from goal to target – here a bigot, there an anti-Semite. Film 2 is similar, but tends to return to the topic of sexism as well. Although sexism doesn’t seem like the right word to explain Cohen’s objective, it’s more like he’s trying to illustrate the difference in the worlds in which men and women live. Shockingly, he is to the point.
The frame story of the film sees Borat fly to America to give Donald Trump as a gift to Johnny the Monkey, the number one monkey porn star in Kazakhstan. Unable to meet the president because in the last film, he used Trump Tower as an outhouse, Borat decides instead to visit Mike Pence. Warning Spoiler – Johnny the Monkey dies, and then Borat decides to give the Vice President his 15-year-old daughter Tutar instead.
In our society, the film skewers the horrific acceptance of sexism. Tutar – played by Maria Bakalova, as talented as Cohen as a comedian and improviser – is seen by most of the grotesque father-daughter team meetings in America as nothing more than a “thing” She’s just a sex object for others, and bear in mind that the 24-year-old actress in the movie plays a 15-year-old spi-girl