Borat is the Hero America Needs and Deserves

In the surprise “Borat” sequel, Sacha Baron Cohen’s unique style of confrontational cringe comedy brilliantly navigates a world in which fact and fiction have become all but interchangeable.
Borat is the Hero America Needs and Deserves
Film still via YouTube

Amongst the people who make up this country’s status quo, Sacha Baron Cohen is discussed with the kind of concern that most of us reserve for the coronavirus. “Has he caught you yet?” someone asks. “Did you hear? This or that person got caught,” another says. “He won’t get me,” a third exclaims, “I could see him coming from a mile away.” They must be a bit far-sighted, then, because they can hardly ever tell where Cohen is, especially when he’s sitting right in front of them. 

In the comedian’s latest cinematic effort, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, former New York City mayor and private presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani finds himself in a similar predicament as VP Mike “Michael” Pence, ex-Chief Justice Roy Moore, and Dick Cheney (the not Christian Bale-one) have found themselves in before him, as Cohen not only gets the guy to say some embarrassing things, but even take off his pants. It’s not just as bad as it sounds, though; it’s far worse. 

Before we get to that, however, some context might be in order. Back in August, some teenagers were cruising through Long Beach, California, only to be cut off by a mustachioed man in an oversized suit with a funny accent driving a piss-yellow pickup truck. When I first read about this, my first thought was that the bystanders had mistaken a guy who looks like the character for the real deal. Then I watched the video they posted on Twitter, and saw that said piss-yellow pickup truck was being pulled by a van carrying cameramen. 

Why did my subconscious instantly assume the scoop was fake? To be honest it’s because I, like what I presume to be a large amount of other individuals, wasn’t ever expecting a Borat sequel, because Cohen never struck me as someone who was willing to set aside his artistic integrity to do a quick, easy cash grab, and because such a project seemed as uninspired and lucrative a strategy as he was capable of formulating. It took the movie about ten minutes to show me how wrong I was.  

Borat Sequel Lives Up To Expectations

NPR’s Bob Mondello praised the deliberate plotting of Cohen’s script but bewailed the absence of shock value. Compared to the original picture, he thought, “the expressions of racism and misogyny the character elicits from the folks foolish enough to take him seriously,” no longer make us gasp as they once did. I fully agree, because that was the point: to show that the cartoonishly conservative, outdated, and totalitarian opinions which once made Borat a cringe-inducing outcast have become terrifyingly commonplace in Trump’s America. 

Much of that is implicit in the film’s title, whose complete version reads: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Initially, that bribe was meant to be a chimpanzee which also happened to be the country’s culture minister and most successful porn star. Unfortunately for Borat, his fifteen-year-old daughter Tutar (born while he was in the Gulag due to the failure of his previous film) somehow got inside the animal’s box before it was transported to America and ate him on the way there. 

Having to make do with what he got, Borat decides to gift his own daughter to the White House instead. The plan, he thinks, should work just fine considering that the president and his trustees, Jeffrey Epstein included, like them young. As father and daughter travel across the Deep South in preparation for their offering, Tutar dreams of living the rest of her life inside a cage as beautiful as she imagines Melania’s to be. Their road trip converges on an actual Republican rally, where Cohen interrupts Mike Pence’s speech “I got the girl!” After the actor has been promptly removed from the premises, that’s when Giuliani comes in. 

For reasons that aren’t important enough to get into now, Tutar disguises herself as a journalist and meets the president’s attorney inside a fancy hotel suite. When she asks him about COVID, Giuliani responds by saying it was manufactured by the Chinese, which is the least controversial thing he does in this film. After the interview is over, Tutar invites the seventy-six-year-old man to have a drink in her bedroom, where secret cameras record him asking for her contact info, remove the microphone from her body, and lay down on the mattress with his hands in his pants before Cohen storms in dressed as Borat dressed in lingerie. 

“The Borat video is a complete fabrication,” Giuliani Tweeted on Wednesday. “I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. …This is an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family.” So much for staying clear of the #Cohenvirus. 

In a time where fact and fiction have become virtually indistinguishable, Borat’s preferred method of making social satire is proving stupidly simple and effective: just get that shit on camera! As opposed to content creators like Saturday Night Live, who reconstruct current events in a safe, controlled environment, Cohen goes to the front lines, recording the actual behavior of the actual people so that they cannot go on to deny or alter the story as do with most news sources. Other cringe comedians like Eric Andre have invaded republican conventions with similar goals in mind while, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, people like Sam Hyde wonder through the streets of Williamsburg to find some its hipster residents to pick on. 

Many of these content creators were inspired by Kazakhstan’s #4 reporter in the first place, and now the master has returned to show them how it’s done.

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