I don’t know if it’s just how much 2020 has damaged and desensitized me or if I’ve just become a lot more chill with age, but I have become a Borat fan, which is something I don’t believe I would ever have said prior to this year. I have always thought of Sacha Baron Cohen as a genius, a truly hilarious performer, but it was always with the feeling that he was too over the top for me to truly appreciate him.
This is where I think 2020 comes in — having to endure the sheer idiocy, the completely asinine behavior, and the frankly dangerous situations that have occurred these last several months has left me without much of a way to gauge situations, normal or otherwise. Or, it could simply be that I am now more aware of how things are and am appalled and shocked by the real things happening in my own backyard than any stunt a comedian could pull.
I’ve also come to view Cohen’s work as his way of bringing attention to the atrocities people commit toward each other. This is his type of activism. His ability to bring to light the incredibly terrifying beliefs that people hold and the lengths to which they will go to preserve their sense of rightness has never been (and I venture to say, may never be) surpassed.
What struck me while watching Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is that the outlandish things he does and says are in no way as nefarious or disgusting as how people react. There were several moments that stood out to me as examples of utter indifference, or even completely revolting behavior that was deemed ‘appropriate’ or totally cool.
For those of us who were not raised in the South by a well-to-do white family, we have never had the opportunity to experience or learn about the Debutante Ball. In Borat’s film, he and his daughter visit such a ball and are introduced to the group, welcomed tentatively by the parents and children who are showcasing their etiquette and dance steps learned basically for this single occasion. One of the dads leans over to Borat and makes an inappropriate joke about how girls this age are ‘fun’, hinting that he, a man who is in attendance with his own daughter, vocalizes his inclination toward teenage girls. The camera finds his daughter and the look on her face as she denounces his comment as “f*****g disgusting” is all we need to realize what’s bubbling just under the surface.
There are also moments that chilled me to the bone: Borat attends a Trump Rally and leads the group in a sing-along about the violence they will visit on the heads of their so-called enemies (their fellow Americans); a doctor assures Borat it doesn’t matter if he slept with his daughter, what matters is that they keep the baby; and the salesman who allows Borat to purchase a cage for his daughter; and of course, the infamous Guliani fiasco.
These are real people. This is the way they behave when they feel free to be themselves. The only person in the entire film that spoke up and pushed up against Borat’s supposed beliefs was Jeanise Jones, who told Tutar (Borat’s “daughter”) that she was beautiful just the way she was and that she could use her brains and live the life she wants. It’s horrifying to see just how awful most of these human beings are, that we’ve allowed people like this to infiltrate every area of our lives, as friends, family members, politicians, religious officials, and neighbors.
If we want to actually make America a great country, we have to be willing to call out people who spout hate. We have to take a stand and demand better treatment for all, equality, healthcare, education, whatever it takes so that we are all able to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is an eye-opener for those who weren’t aware of how bad things have gotten, and a reminder to the rest of us that one act of kindness or one experience where someone speaks up and reminds us what is right can go a long way in turning things around.
If you want to see Borat’s escapades and interactions with Trump’s America or share it with your right-leaning acquaintances, you can find the film on Amazon Prime.
Also, please vote.