I saw Borat a few weeks ago with my cousin, and I’ve been idling on a response to it cause I wanted to give myself a chance to really think about the movie before I threw out a harsh critique on it. I’ve been talking to friends about the movie, many of whom have varying opinions on the movie, from hysterical to flat out racist. And some of my even progressive friends who I’ve mentioned disliking the movie have criticised me as being “too sensitive,” so I wasn’t sure if I really was being too sensitive, or if the movie was straight up offensive.
So here’s what my beef is with the movie. Taking the arguments about the specific content of the movie aside, it seemed to me that Borat’s character is a total caricature of how the majority in this country views immigrants. He was portrayed as a “funny looking guy”, from a “backwards country” that no one’s ever heard of, with “weird” habits—although highly exaggerated, “weird” nonetheless. Those are all the things that any immigrant to this country has faced throughout their lives, be they Italians in New York in the late 1800s, or my parents over the past 30 years. Theatres have been packed with suburban kids blatantly laughing at the other, the outsider, stuff people like me and my family have been dealing with most of our lives. Some have tried to make the arguments that the joke is really on the movie-watcher who’s buying into the humor and laughing at it, cause they’re being made a joke of by laughing at such blatant racism. Sorry, but that’s a total cop-out. People don’t need a movie to show them what ugly racism in this country looks like, just watch the news, or walk down your local street with open eyes and ears. Damn, just watch television for about 10 minutes.
It’s on that basis that I thought the movie was offensive, and all the racist, homophobic remarks that white people make in the movie just adds to that. But Borat’s character, how he’s portrayed, and who he’s being portrayed to is fundamentally racist.