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Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Spoiler warning!





I went to see the Borat film last night, and one particular scene struck me as particularly interesting. Sacha Baron Cohen's character was going up to random men on the street in New York and trying to greet them by shaking their hands and then kissing them on both cheeks.

The reactions were fantastic. OK, I know they only showed that funny ones, but it was amusing all the same. Most of them acted in a very aggressive manor - they would say something like "Get the **** out of my face before I pop ya in the nuts" or "**** off you ****. Do ya wanna thump?".

I can't decide if this was a good or bad reaction. Of course aggression is often not a good thing, but their reactions had a strangely wonderful confidence about them. Here in Britain it would be completely different, and most people seem to react to embarrassing things by ignoring it or apologising (we say sorry for everything all the time for some reason).

A Briton would probably just look at the floor and keep walking, even if it meant walking so fast they were about to fall over - the key thing is to pretend everything is normal even if it clearly isn't. Either that or say something like "Sorry, but would you mind not doing that?".

Perhaps there is no difference, and the film crew edited the responses to only show those which the audience may think would match a stereotypical New Yorker, or perhaps there really is a difference. I'm not sure how I'd react really. I'd probably do the walking away fast thing.
[ November 10, 2006: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]

There will be glitches in my transition from being a saloon bar sage to a world statesman. - Tony Banks
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1379
A hundred years ago, during a time of heavy immigration to American cities from southern and eastern europe, and of blacks from rural areas down south, Vaudville (our music hall tradition) was dominated by ethnic humor featuring racial and ethnic stereotypes and foreign accents. That's where we get the blackface minstrel characters, Chico Marx' Italian character, etc.

After immigration was halted in the early 1920s (until the 1960s), this sort of humor gradually became seen as old-fashioned, and later politically-incorrect.

One reviewer has argued that "Borat" is bringing back this tradition. One difference, however, is that this movie simultaniously makes fun of ethnics and ethnic stereotyping. Is he making fun of Khazachistan, of eastern european backwardness and prejudice, or of Americans' utter ignorance of places like Khazachistan? Actually, he's doing all three, simultaneously! And he explores plenty of American stereotypes as well.

For example, in America we have the stereotype of New Yorkers being rude and in-your-face, and of "well-bred" southerners being ultra-polite (at least superficially). Thus, we have the segment in the NYC subway, and later the dinner with three wealthy couples in Atlanta (Georgia) struggling to contain their irritation and maintain their etiquette as their guest gradually increases the intensity of his feigned-unintentional disgusting offenses.

Yes, he probably films hundreds of encounters until he gets the ones he can use. But he does get footage to confirm the stereotypes because most stereotypes do contain an element of truth -- there _are_ people like that, just not everyone (or even most).

I'm sure if you go into the mean streets of London, you can find plenty of belligerant men (called YOBs?), but yes, there are many men who will do anything to avoid giving offense no matter how much one offends them. I remember a Monty Python sketch where a timid man and his beautiful wife visit a marriage counselor, who procedes to make love to the man's wife practically before his eyes, as the husband politely but ineffectually objects, unable to express anger. Then, an American cowboy appears and counsels the husband that "A Man's got to do what a man's got to do" -- but the husband doesn't. (Maybe this is why there is, I've heard, a Ned Flanders cult in England.)

Therefore, we see the drunken college frat-boys, the Pentacostal church, the Texas cowboys at the rodeo, the automobile dealer who uses the desire for sex-appeal to sell muscle-cars ("If I pay extra, will you install a p*ssy magnet?"), the gun shop ("What would be a good gun to defend myself from a Jew?"), the humorless feminists, ....
Joe Ess
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Joined: Oct 29, 2001
Posts: 8713
    
    6

Funniest. Movie. Ever.
I thought it was interesting that the humor coach told Borat that making fun of "retards" would not go over in America while the theater was rolling over Borat's discription of his brother's activities.
The Wikipedia article on Borat describes some of the destruction left in his wake.


"blabbing like a narcissistic fool with a superiority complex" ~ N.A.
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Jeroen T Wenting
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Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
I doubt he filmed hundreds of people to get a few shots.
Far more likely he used actors and extras to get it in just a few runs

Haven't seen the movie, except the fragments shown on TV in the runup to release.
From what he shows of Kazakhstan it's nothing like the place I visited 20 years ago (but countries can change).


42
John Smith
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Joined: Oct 08, 2001
Posts: 2937

One of the anthropological theories in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" postulates that Americans carried on a lot of American Indians traditions, such as concise manner of speaking, violence as a means to solve problems, and love of open spaces.

Actually, I think you're getting your Robert Pirsig books mixed up: that was [url=http://"http://www.amazon.com/Lila-Inquiry-Morals-Robert-Pirsig/dp/0553299611/sr=8-1/qid=1163516172/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-2271008-6336642?ie=UTF8&s=books"]Lila[/url], which wasn't fit to wipe ZAAMM's ass.


Damm my superpowers! Sorry John, I accidently modified your post instead of responding to it.

Sorry, sorry.
M
[ November 14, 2006: Message edited by: Max Habibi ]
David O'Meara
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Joined: Mar 06, 2001
Posts: 13459

It appears that your post degenerated into its own Borat-style random musings towards the end. Be careful of falacies
John Smith
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Posts: 2937
In my home town of London, we don't use words such as "falacies" when women are around.
David O'Meara
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Joined: Mar 06, 2001
Posts: 13459

and Basil Brush says "Boom Boom!"
Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
I'm sure if you go into the mean streets of London, you can find plenty of belligerant men (called YOBs?), but yes, there are many men who will do anything to avoid giving offense no matter how much one offends them. I remember a Monty Python sketch where a timid man and his beautiful wife visit a marriage counselor, who procedes to make love to the man's wife practically before his eyes, as the husband politely but ineffectually objects, unable to express anger. Then, an American cowboy appears and counsels the husband that "A Man's got to do what a man's got to do" -- but the husband doesn't.
A slightly funnier (and horrifyingly more likely) version of this idea is the biscuit eating scene in one of the Hitch Hiker's Guide books.
(Maybe this is why there is, I've heard, a Ned Flanders cult in England.)

The sad thing is that it is probably true! I'm sure we do a special brand of lunatic in this country - completely normal on the surface, but secretly harbouring a very strange hobby. How else can train spotting be explained?
[ November 14, 2006: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]
Jeroen T Wenting
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Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
Originally posted by John Smith:

It was not Kazakhstan. The village scenes were shot in Romania. But since both countries are Zionist, and zoophilia is legal, the difference is nominal.


Have you been to both countries that you can tell the differences?
They're QUITE different places, quite different people.
Hardly zionist, Romanians are largely orthodox Christians while most Kazakhs are Muslim (those who kept their faith through the communist era that is).
Zoophilia (the loving of animals) is state religion in most of the western world, up to and including attributing human rights to animals (and in some cases rights that go way beyond those of humans).

The Kazakh people and their country aren't the backwards barbarians Borat portrays them to be (though some such surely exist, as some such exist everywhere).

OTOH any movie which gets banned by the communist censors in Moscow must have something worthwhile in it
Jim Yingst
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Posts: 18671
[Max]: Damm my superpowers! Sorry John, I accidently modified your post instead of responding to it.

With great power comes great responsibility, Max...


"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24168
    
  30

Personally, I'm at a loss to understand the appeal here. Didn't Andy Kauffman do this already? Hell, didn't Bronson Pinchot do this already? When you take someone else's comedy, add enough NC-17 language and situations to make Redd Foxx blush, and pass it off as new -- well, whatever. They're not getting my nine bucks.


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John Smith
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Posts: 2937
JT: Zoophilia (the loving of animals) is state religion in most of the western world, up to and including attributing human rights to animals (and in some cases rights that go way beyond those of humans).

We the evangelical Christians use a dictionary definition:
´┐Żnoun 1. the state of being zoophilous.
2. Psychology. an abnormal fondness or preference for animals.

While it may be true that most Westerners have sex with animals, as you stipulated, we prefer to wait for the virgins that eagerly wait for us in the 7th Heaven.

Max: Actually, I think you're getting your Robert Pirsig books mixed up: that was Lila, which wasn't fit to wipe ZAAMM's ass.

That sounds right, I stand corrected. And I agree that ZAMM was superior.

Max: Damm my superpowers! Sorry John, I accidently modified your post instead of responding to it.

'Tis ok. I was blowing the smoke anyway.

Back on the topic, the IMDB.com rating of "Borat" movie is fast approaching that of "The Godfather" and "The Shawshank Redemption". So much for the cinematography (or rather the film critics).
[ November 14, 2006: Message edited by: John Smith ]
Jeroen T Wenting
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Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
Very interesting John, how you equate the word "love" with the word "sex".

There is no required link between the two concepts (indeed, most species do not seem to comprehend the concept of love while engaging in a lot of sex), certainly not enough of one to make them equivalent
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1379
Originally posted by ???:

One of the anthropological theories in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" postulates that Americans carried on a lot of American Indians traditions, such as concise manner of speaking, violence as a means to solve problems, and love of open spaces.
Early American pioneers could have learned these things from the Indians, but there are other possible sources.

The concise manner of speaking may have originated as a Puritan thing. (Don't waste time; don't waste money; don't waste words.)

As for the use of violence to solve problems, that was pretty common everywhere in Europe until, say, 150 years ago. Just look at any costume drama -- gentlemen wore swords and used them to fight duels. Even after Europeans began discouraging violence at the individual level, problem-solving via organized state-sanctioned violence (or mass, anti-state revolutionary violence) was glorified until only the most recent few decades.

It's rather perplexing to Americans to have our culture held in contempt by Europeans for aspects that were yet stronger among us six or seven decades ago -- yet elicited no criticisms until fairly recently.
Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
It's rather perplexing to Americans to have our culture held in contempt by Europeans for aspects that were yet stronger among us six or seven decades ago -- yet elicited no criticisms until fairly recently.


I don't think the majority of Europeans hold American culture in contempt. Sure there are a few nutcases who will froth at the mouth at the mention of anything American, but then there are people with irrational dislikes of various countries everywhere (as the Internet demonstrates!).

Europe may well have been more violent in the past, but its realisation that this isn't good, combined with the experience of the bad things which happen because of violence, puts it in a good position to offer advice. At the same time Europe must try not to sound condescending.

The Europe-US relationship is a bit like an uncle speaking to a nephew. The uncle had a bit of a wild youth, and now considers himself to have grown up and matured a bit. He wants to pass on advice to his nephew who he feels very close to, but thinks could learn from his experience a bit.

The nephew, on the other hand, thinks that the uncle is a bit old fashioned and out of touch, and should leave him to grow up and live his own way without interfering. After all, the uncle's time has passed and it is time for the younger generation to get on with things.

They both could probably do with a bit more patience when dealing with each other. The uncle should remember that the nephew is old enough to decide what to do by himself, but the nephew should also remember not to be too touchy about any advice which comes along. The uncle can be a bit grouchy sometimes in his old age, and sometimes isn't as sensitive as he could be when talking to the nephew. The nephew has inherited the family stubbornness.

They bicker and squabble, but at the end of the day they are close family and will support each other when they need it.
[ November 16, 2006: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]
 
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