Friday, November 10, 2006


I saw the Borat flick with some friends the other night. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. I thought the muscles in my face were going to seize permanently. It was a beautiful thing. I was also a little concerned. On the one hand it’s genuinely, disarmingly funny. On the other, it’s worryingly hard to pin down the difference between this and comedy performed in blackface.

It isn’t the flagrant, if tongue in cheek, misogyny and anti-Semitism that bothers me. Most of us know better than that. The toilet humour wears a little thin after a while, but its remarkably resilient (A weird guy holding a bag of his own shit in his host’s dining room is simply too jaw dropping not to laugh at). What gets me is that too much of the humour is predicated on our own cultural ignorance.

Central Asia is, of course, a little on the sexist side and perhaps a little anti-Semitic too. At street level it’s dirt poor, a bit backward, and it feels like the edge of the universe. On the other hand, they don’t drink from toilets, give trophies to prostitutes, or do laundry in public parks. Predicating 90 minutes of humour on cultural awkwardness most of us just don’t know much better than to buy into is, well, just a little but ugly.

On the other hand, I did laugh my ass off. Some of it just plain works—jokes about naked fat guys are universal, and some of the cultural commentary about the Bible Belt is plain brilliant. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain.

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