Borat: the Comedy of Superiority

{quotes}Part Jackass, part Andy Kaufman, Sacha Baron Cohen is clearly a man who thrives on controversy, but to label him as a low-brow shock comedian is to miss the point.{/quotes} Yes, Borat is outrageous, tasteless and at times unbearably embarrassing to watch, but at the same time, intelligent and above all, pant-pissing, ‘tears-streaming-down your-cheeks’-class funny shit. Nothing is sacred, when Kazakhstan’s "number two reporter" is sent on a cultural fact-finding mission to the most superior nation of them all, the U.S and A.

On the surface level, Cohen’s comedy is based on blatant anti-semitism, misogyny and so on, but the punch line is delivered seemingly spontaneously by the unaware victims of Borat and the unashamed gut-laughter caused by the blatant breaking of convention. And that takes us back to superiority, something that Borat teaches the viewer quite a lot about.

{mosimage}Because of Borat’s bumbling social and physical clumsiness, people get a kick out of dismissing the Kazakhstani reporter as being mostly harmless and therefore must pay the price for their superiority, as Cohen mercilessly exploits all possible cracks their facades. The absurdity of the situations, and the way in which Cohen satirizes the patronizing attitudes which people have against a foreigner and his complete disregard of convention, makes for a type of comedy where the viewer can either writhe uncomfortably out of sympathy or laugh out loud while secretly enjoying a “I’m glad it’s not me” feeling of superiority for the poor victims of Borat’s bizarre deeds. The joke in Borat gets turned around so many times that the full title of the film turns from surface-funny bad English-joke to a very accurate description of the film: After all, the viewer does learn a lot about the American culture, and the nation of Kazakhstan has never in its history enjoyed such international fame – for, even though the Kazakhstani government got very upset, there is no such thing as bad publicity, as Matti Nykänen or Paris Hilton can confirm.

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