By Jessica Skelton
Many people might find two grown naked men wrestling in a hotel room together repulsive and unsettling, especially if they went to watch the Borat movie not expecting to see these hairy naked bodies smack together in full-sized movie screen glory. And that is to mention just one of the cringe-worthy, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen moments Borat assaults the audience with.
Offensive forms of humor are gaining more precedence and acceptance in the media today. Slowly audiences are beginning to embrace the naked men of the world who chose to broadcast their nude wrestling matches for all to see.
"Controversy seems to equal higher TV ratings and bigger box office bucks," said Sam Holton, a third-year film student at University of Loyola in New Orleans. "What makes [offensive humor] more socially acceptable is that what these [shows and films] are doing isn’t meant to single any one group out, but rather to be an equal opportunity offender."
The newest equal opportunity offender is British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, creator and star of "Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." The character of Borat is derived from one of Cohen’s three characters from Da Ali G Show. In the pseudo-documentary, Borat, a Kazakh journalist, travels across America in hopes of learning about the culture from a variety of wildly side-splitting interviews and encounters.
American audiences seem to embrace the politically incorrect and disgusting in film, but this offensive and critical humor dances a fine line for many people for whom the definitions of satire and pure gratuity are blurry.
Film and Digital Media professor Maggie Morse has not seen the film but said that, "Sometimes comedy is offensive in a productive way, but not always."
Films and television shows seem to revolve more and more around pushing the audience’s comfort level as far as possible. It can be seen anywhere from South Park’s anti-Semitic cracks or Jackass’s Steve-O stapling his scrotum to his thigh.
Borat debuted at number one in the U.S. box office, making $26,445 during its opening weekend. However, Cohen has received much criticism from equal rights groups and politicians alike, such as Jewish rights groups and the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.
Cohen, who is himself Jewish, portrays Borat as a homophobic, misogynistic, and racist, particularly against Jewish people and Gypsies. Throughout the documentary, Borat is constantly referring to his hatred for the Jews and lists Kazakhstan’s three main problems as: "economic, social, and Jew."
In the film, Borat and his producer Azamat Bagatov [Ken Davitian] decide to take an ice cream truck across the country instead of flying. Borat reasoned by saying, "We decided not to take the airplane should the Jews repeat their attack of 9-11."
The Anti-Defamation League, a U.S. Jewish rights group released a statement that said, "We are concerned, however, that one serious pitfall [of the film] is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry."
Fourth-year UC Santa Cruz student Steven Moss, who is part Jewish, saw Borat and said that he "didn’t feel like he was trying to be hateful. Every culture has its stereotypes and we should just be aware and tolerant."
"Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" has something to offend just about any person who goes to see it, arguably with white Anglo-Saxon Protestants from the South and Mid-West receiving the heaviest criticism. Although stereotypes of all sorts are rampant throughout the film, they serve more as punctuations to reinforce Cohen’s critique of American culture and values.
David Domingo, a fourth-year UCSC computer science major will not let the surrounding controversy affect his decision to go and see the Borat movie.
"I have seen [Da Ali G] show and I think that if people can’t see the bigger message behind [what Cohen is trying to do with] the stereotypes, then America has much bigger problems. It’s all in good fun."