Borat 2, or Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, is a recently released mockumentary that takes viewers into the heart and truth of American culture and society. Within this comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen plays the fictional character of the Kazakh journalist Borat, and Maria Bakalova plays his daughter Tutar, who is to be offered as a bride to Vice President Michael Pence. The movie includes real Americans and their emotions and opinions on controversial topics, but the movie itself has faced controversy for its use of discriminatory stereotypes.
I never watched the first Borat movie. Before last week, when my dad announced we needed to see this movie, I had never heard of the first Borat or the second Borat. And then I watched it... I was completely dumbfounded. Borat 2 goes through racism, homophobia, political divisions, the role of women, and anti-semitism within the United States, and brings up all these topics through conversation and humor.
In Borat, anti-semitism is shown in many ways, including how Kazakh (Borat’s fictional homeland) is proud of its involvement with the Holocaust and history of sending soldiers to concentration camps where millions died. He makes comments about Jews stealing other people's jobs and does not view them as human beings. Cohen is playing the character of an anti-semitic man, but what was most distressing for me was the reactions of the people who he made anti-semitic comments in front of. For instance, a woman who worked at the business Borat walked into, heard him make anti-semitic comments, and she saw no issues with him degrading the Jewish people; in fact, she seemed to carry a similar opinion.
The amount of anti-semitic jokes and scenes in the movie is high. All of the rude and offending jokes included in the movie brought forth a mix of feelings. While watching I thought: 'this is humorous', 'oh God this is terrible', and, mostly, 'am I allowed or able to laugh at this?' Cohen himself is Jewish, but even so, as I watched Borat for the first time I felt bad for laughing at any of the anti-semitic jokes and scenes.
For obvious reasons, these scenes in the movie are absolutely terrible as they discriminate against a minority. But the way Cohen is able to portray these stereotypes and anti-semitism is meant to show the audience how apparent and normalized discrimination has become. While Borat’s words and anti-semitic actions were offending, it was something I could find humor in because I was able to laugh at how wrong he was. He shows up in a temple wearing a devil costume and a fake nose, which is horrible, but humorous as two elderly Jewish women look him over, and decide to treat him as a friend instead of an enemy (and feed him soup). These women debunked some of his fears and offered kindness in the face of hate, something that is at the core of Judaism and an important value for us all to keep.
I understand that some people definitely see these movies and can not find humor to laugh at. After all, the jokes can be seen as making light of serious topics. Personally, however, I can find reasons to laugh at the ridiculousness of the way Cohen presents Borat. In a world of discrimination against the Jewish people and against many other minorities and groups, Borat 2 was able to portray the issues in a way that emphasizes equality, showcases the horrors of each (though I spoke of anti-semitism in particular), and reveals the foolishness of discrimination embedded in our country.
Sarah Eisenberg is a BBG from Masada BBG #1519 in New York; she swims on a year round-team and loves watermelon.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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