Monday, October 30, 2006

Noel Murry, The Onion AV Club:
But since Cohen won’t appear out of character now—he’s like a magician safeguarding his tricks—it’s hard to know what’s really real in Borat. There have been a lot of articles about the ordinary citizens who appear in the movie, most of whom are annoyed not only at the way they were exploited, but that no one’s had the common courtesy to give them a little “thanks for being a good sport, we’ll send you a DVD” call. And they’re really not happy at how clueless they’ve been made to look, since a lot of them actually realized something odd was going on, but didn’t know quite what to do about it because they were being paid for their time. A few of them would’ve looked bad regardless, like the rodeo dude who goes along eagerly with Borat’s anti-gay remarks, and the RV full of drunken frat guys who run down minorities and women with undisguised malice. By and large though, what Borat proves is that southerners are unfailingly polite, and will put up with a lot more boorishness than they should, even if it makes them look guilty by association.

Perhaps that’s an insight in and of itself. But it’s not the one that so many people seem to be claiming on behalf of Borat. If the movie really wanted to make a point about bigotry, Borat would have to pepper its inadvertent subjects with follow-up questions, to make sure they’re really saying what they’ve sort-of been caught saying. But that wouldn’t be as funny, and Borat, to its credit, prizes comedy over truth. So let’s not underrate the former in a rush to overrate the latter.

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