“Borat” on Politics and Embarrassment–Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast Discussion #67

Let’s stop obsess­ing about elec­tion mat­ters and con­sid­er instead a clown who brings out racism in rubes. Your hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, Bri­an Hirt, and our guest musician/actor Aaron David Glea­son con­sid­er the com­e­dy of Sacha Baron Cohen, in par­tic­u­lar the new Borat Sub­se­quent Moviefilm, which you should def­i­nite­ly go watch before lis­ten­ing, unless it’s the kind of thing that so repuls­es you that you’ll nev­er watch it, in which case this is the pod­cast to tell you what the fuss is about.

A few ques­tions we explore: Is it uneth­i­cal to use unwit­ting peo­ple who signed your release form as your sup­port­ing cast? Is it OK to use racism to expose racism? Are cam­eras now so ubiq­ui­tous that many peo­ple feel per­fect­ly com­fort­able let­ting their true col­ors show on film? How dehu­man­iz­ing is the nature of retail in Amer­i­ca that all these shop keep­ers would go along with Borat’s bizarre and/or racist requests? Cohen claims that this new film was about demon­strat­ing the human­i­ty of his sub­jects; how evi­dent was that pur­pose on screen? How does this film dif­fer from Cohen’s oth­er work? Was the film actu­al­ly fun­ny, or did it tran­scend (or fall short of) com­e­dy in its pol­i­tics and its king-size serv­ings of embar­rass­ment?

Watch Cohen and Maria Bakalo­va on Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca explain­ing the film. Look at the Wikipedia arti­cle for info on how and when sequences were shot. You can browse through the crit­i­cal reac­tions your­self.

After we record­ed this, Cohen pro­vid­ed finan­cial help to his very sym­pa­thet­ic vic­tim, Jeanise Jones (the babysit­ter). And to set­tle one issue that came up in our con­ver­sa­tion, Judith Dim Evans (the nice old lady in the tem­ple who sub­se­quent­ly passed away) did­n’t know the gag dur­ing film­ing, but Cohen revealed it right after­wards.

Hear Aaron’s music on Naked­ly Exam­ined Music #71. Lis­ten to Aaron, Eri­ca, Mark, and oth­ers includ­ing Lucy Law­less and Emi­ly Perkins on the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Play­ers’ read­ing of Lysis­tra­ta. Learn more about Aaron at aarondavidgleason.com, and you can fol­low him on Insta­gram @aarondavidgleason.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

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