Oodles of print have been written about Sacha Baron Cohen’s film, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” And there’s perhaps not a great deal more to say about it, other than it’s remarkable how well the film has been received by America’s cultural establishment. Edgy, shock comedy that uses racial and gender stereotypes to subvert racial and gender stereotypes usually doesn’t go down so well with highbrow critics. But, in this case it did. The Washington Post called the film “a perfect combination of slapstick and satire, a Platonic ideal of high- and lowbrow that manages to appeal to our basest common denominators while brilliantly skewering racism, anti-Semitism, … [and] sexism.” (Platonic ideal? Borat?) Of the film, The New York Times said “The brilliance of ‘Borat’ is that its comedy is as pitiless as its social satire, and as brainy.” Then, we heard Terry Gross, of NPR’s Fresh Air, gush over the comic in her amusing interview with Baron Cohen. And lastly, the British comic has been nominated for an Oscar by Hollywood’s film elite.
If any further proof was needed that Baron Cohen has been embraced by the cultural vanguard, then let this video serve as final witness. In 2004, Harvard invited Baron Cohen to speak at “Class Day,” the big traditional event that takes place the day before commencement. And here you get him speaking to students and parents not as Baron Cohen, but as Ali G., all in a light-hearted way. (For more on this visit, see the article in the Harvard Gazette.)