When Borat was released in 2006, the ‘U.S and A’ was the greatest country in the world according to news reporter, Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen). Would Borat make it past U.S customs in 2017? Probably not. Sad!
Borat gets to the rotten core of a country on the path to electing Donald Trump as President. It’s prophetic and surreal to revisit a decade later. Borat even stops for a bowel movement at the entrance to Trump Tower in the first 10 minutes of the film – a gross-out joke that doubles as a warning.
Outsiders are always best placed to pass judgement on any claim of greatness, especially in a nation swept up in a patriotic fever like America. If you arrive dressed as a tourist though, you’re going to get fake smiles and a false impression, because the aim is to charm visitors. In New York City, the two primary sources of revenue for the town are Wall Street and tourism, and it’s where Borat begins his journey to discover the teachings of America’s greatness to take back to Kazakhstan.
In the beginning, you see Americans approaching Borat like he’s a harmless foreigner but the design of Cohen’s Borat is to agitate the locals so they reveal their true nature. The switch to hostility is instantaneous, and occasionally, Borat finds good honest folks like the driving instructor who lectures him on sexual consent. Sadly, these encounters become rare throughout.
By going undercover as a fake news reporter, Cohen satirises the contradictions of American culture. For every outrageous thing Borat says, it’s more shocking when people agree with him with sincerity. The rodeo sequence is where Borat finds many Americans in agreeance with his rhetoric. America is meant to be the land of the free and home of the brave, what happened?
The miraculous part of Borat is how Cohen manages to find humour in the ugly side of America. It’s cultural cringe at its finest And Borat is no saint. We’re constantly reminded of how grotesque he is with his anti-Semitic views and retrograde opinions about women. He’s not a character deserving of empathy, but rather, a conduit for absurdity and a mirror to bigotry.
Throughout Borat it’s hard not to feel like you’re witnessing America begin to rot. The strange thing about reflecting upon the state of any nation is the doubt around whether it was ever as pure as what it proclaims to be. Even Borat’s encounter with religious fanatics shows how faith can be bent toward giving people purpose for what they desire the most. In Borat’s case, Jesus will help him marry Pamela Anderson so he can make a love explosion on her chest – it’s insane.
Borat is a bizarre time capsule. It’s put together as a fake documentary that reveals the dark American heart but still manages to be hilarious. If only we heeded the warning of where America was heading.
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'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' screens on Saturday March 4 at 8.30pm on SBS Australia. Please note that the film will not be available for catch-up viewing at SBS On Demand.
Watch the trailer: