The movie “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” is a Mockumentary about a Kazakhstan state television reporter named Borat brings his broken English and chauvinism to America to make a documentary about life in the “U.S. of A”. Upbeat and naive, Borat and his producer Azamat come to America to find out “what makes America great”. What he finds is a hodgepodge of gracious, bewildered, angry, and racist people. The movie gives us a unique view of an outsider looking in on our society.
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Borat’s journey starts out in New York as he interviews various people for his state television station and becomes a quest across the country to be with his “true love” Pamela Anderson in California. As he crosses across the country Borat’s travels are filled with hilarious interviews and crazy antics. For my paper, I am going to examine a specific scene in the film in which Borat makes a stop in Salem, Virginia for a rodeo during his quest to be with Pamela Anderson in California. I think this scene is definitely one of the funniest and politically incorrect scenes in the movie. The scene begins as the camera pans over a crowd full of people who seem to be conservative “WASPS’s” getting ready to see the rodeo. Borat, as he wears an American flag cowboy outfit, is conversing with Bobby Rowe, the general manager of the Imperial Rodeo. Rowe is telling Borat that he looks like a terrorist Muslim and that he should shave his mustache so that he will look like an Italian and not be so conspicuous. He tells Borat that he will never be accepted looking like a Muslim because everyone will look at him and wonder what kind of bomb he has strapped to him. Rowe continues to display his hatred of the Middle East saying he cannot wait until the US wins the war and have “all those damn son of the butts hangin’ from the gallows” and not until then will the American people accept Borat’s diversity. Rowe then begins to talk about gays and tells Borat to stay away from them; Borat explains to Rowe that they hang gays is his country and Rowe replies “that’s what we are trying to get done here” and then he gives Borat a high five. After his talk with Rowe, Borat is asked to sing the National Anthem to start off the rodeo. When he gets to the middle of the arena, he begins speaking to the crowd regarding the war on terror. He began by saying, “My name is Borat, I come from Kazakhstan. Can I say firstâ€¦ we support your war of terror!” The crowd cheers and applauds Borat as he praises American patriotism, he then goes on to say, “May George Bush drink the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq!” At this point, the crowd erupts in agreement. After his speech, Borat quickly tells the audience he is going to sing the Kazakhstan National Anthem to the tune of America’s national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.” At first, the crowd is reverently waiting to hear him sing, but as he begins to sing the Kazakhstan National Anthem the crowd begins to get in an uproar of disapproval. Because of the random lyrics in the song, the crowd did not know whether Borat was serious or joking by singing a song that was so degrading to the United States in their own country. The crowd was so shocked when they heard the lyrics, “Kazakhstan is the greatest country in the world!”, that a horse carrying a cowgirl with an American flag fell down as the arena exploded in boos.
This scene contained many principles that made it humorous. To begin, the main purpose of this movie was to make fun the arrogance of our nation and prove that while America thinks it is the best country in the world, we are still fallible. Disparaging humor was the probably one of the most prevalent types of humor used throughout the movie and especially in this scene. Ferguson and Ford describe disparaging humor as “remarks that are intended to elicit amusement through the denigration, derogation, or belittlement of a given audience (2008). What made this scene so funny was to see how racist and ignorant Bobby Rowe was as Borat roused him on during their conversation. The fact that someone would say that we should hang all the gays, or that we want to kill all the people in Iraq is so outrageous that it is very funny to laugh at and see how ignorant some people actually are. This humor is successful because, Rowe had the audacity to clearly belittle Borat, the people of Kazakhstan, and the rest of the Middle East while he knew he was being filmed because it gave him a sense of superiority. Critchley supports this point as he states that, “we laugh from feelings of superiority over other people” (2002). The crowd of spectators in the rodeo arena also displayed disparaging humor when the crowd begins to cheer as Borat talks about killing all the people in Iraq including women and children and drinking their blood. Under the psychoanalytic theory, Ferguson and Ford article explain that “It provides the humorist with a relatively benign means of expressing and satisfying unconscious, socially unacceptable impulses”(2008). Borat was able to egg on the crowd and Rowe to say and applaud views that are a racist and unacceptable to our society.
In addition, the Incongruity Theory of humor was also used throughout the scene. Critchley explains, “Humor is produced by the experience of a felt incongruity between what we know or expect to be the case, and what actually happens in the joke, gag, or jest” (2002). For example, one would not have expected to see Borat dressed as an American flag themed cowboy or give an outrageous speech about George Bush drinking the blood of every Iraqi. Additionally, his pronunciation and word use also made it humorous. For example, Borat announces to the rodeo fans, “we support your war of terror”, instead of the typical wording, “the war on terror”. Also when Borat was announced to sing the United States National Anthem, it was unexpected and humorous that he randomly decides to instead sing the Kazakhstan’s National Anthem to the music of the “Star Spangled Banner”.
Finally the Relief Theory of humor also was prevalent in this scene. The scene starts out showing the rodeo crowd, cowboys, bulls and a cowgirl on a horse holding an American flag. As Borat is sings Kazakhstan’s National Anthem to the music of the “Star Spangled Banner” and the stunned crowd begins to boo in outrage to what they are hearing and the cowgirl holding the American flag suddenly just falls down. Critchley tells us that, “â€¦laughter is explained as a release of pent-upâ€¦ energy… where the energy that is released and discharged in laughter provides pleasure” (2002). To make sure this movie was humorous to its viewers, Sacha Cohen, the creator of Borat, made sure to present this movie to an American audience who shares the same set of cultural symbols, norms, and expectations. This enabled moviegoers to relate to the outrageous antics that Borat does continuously throughout the movie.
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By exposing Americans to some of the reasons why other countries criticize or mock the United States, it eventually lets Americans realize their own ideological shortcomings. The movie also allows Americans to look at their culture from an outside foreigner perspective since Borat’s character was a person from a completely different country and culture. Cohen intentionally exposes America’s weaknesses as a political message to an American audience in hopes of influencing American society. By depicting how the United States has sense of superiority, Cohen does a superb job in showing how prevalent prejudice and racism is still alive in parts of the United States against other countries’ custom and cultures. This movie invites viewers to reconsider many issues regarding world politics by shedding light on popular controversial American ideology. By applying humor to serious subjects, it is easier for the viewer to digest. The movie accomplished its purpose by displaying how Americans are continually intolerant and racist towards other countries. By addressing these serious issues in a humorous way, the movie allows the viewer to digest more easily and remember the message that Cohen wanted to get across.
In conclusion, I found this movie to be extremely funny. However, I can understand how some people may have been affected by Cohen’s sense of humor and found the movie to be insulting. Borat was my favorite movie to watch and analyze for this class. Having seen the movie when it first came to the theaters, and then watching it again for a class assignment definitely gave me a different prospective of the movie. I was able to see the movie with a more critical eye and appreciate the different styles of humor that were utilized throughout the film.
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