How Borat Became Such A Huge Cultural Force
Borat is back after 14 years and this time he’s taking on Trump.
The Borat character and franchise have become a cultural force, so much so that the release of the second movie has made headlines just like the first one.
So, what is it about Borat that people like so much?
Let’s Go Back To The Very Beginning
14 years ago, British actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen introduced the world to Borat; an outlandish journalist from Kazakhstan.
In the original movie Borat travels to the US where he wants to find Pamela Anderson to make her his wife.
What instantly set the film a part was its mockumentary style, which at the time was a relatively new film genre.
Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat blurred the lines between real life and fake by pranking everyday Americans who didn’t know what they were being filmed for until the release of the movie.
The movie earned 262 million dollars worldwide and Baron Cohen even received a Golden Globe for his performance.
Borat, with his lime green mankini and highly quotable lines soon became a pop culture favourite.
But Why Is Borat So Popular?
So, what actually is it about Borat that made the franchise such a cultural hit?
Jake Wilson: “He’s somebody who’s completely detached from all our sort of modern conventions of how to behave.”
That’s Jake Wilson, a film reviewer for The Age.
JW: “He’s a complete fish out of water so he’s a very classic comic character. And he’s incredibly misogynistic and racist and anti-Semitic and his attitudes are in no way acceptable. But as he journeys through America, he meets a surprising number of people who turn out to share more of his attitudes than you might expect.”
This sort of shock humour mixed with cultural commentary that Jake is talking about is really the standout feature of the film, and he argues that Baron Cohen was able to ridicule American society and politics so much, largely because Borat is a foreign character.
In one scene of the first movie, real-life crowds at a Rodeo cheer along to Borat chanting about George W. Bush drinking the blood of people from Iraq – who America was at war with, at the time.
As much as it appeals to comedy value, it’s also super uncomfortable to endure crude, racist or even sexist skits throughout an entire movie, and Jake thinks that’s part of the Borat franchise appeal.
JW: “To me it’s not just a political thing. Almost the politics of it is maybe a pretext ultimately for that sense that somebody is just being naughty, is being outrageous and stirring things up just for the sake of wanting chaos. There’s something in it.
The films wouldn’t have that success if they weren’t controversial. That’s kind of the point of them. Especially this new one which is different from the first one because it’s much more party political. It’s very much a response to Trump.”
Could ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ Impact The US Election?
Which leads us to the new Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
It’s 2020 and Borat is embarking on a second expedition to America to attract the attention of President Donald Trump.
The release of the film right before a U.S. presidential election is a dead giveaway to the social and political climate in America right now.
The film is unapologetically anti-Trump, pokes fun at influencers and conspiracy theorists, and refers to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus”.
Baron Cohen even manages to get a scene with Rudy Giuliani (Trump’s lawyer), which critics say takes a stab at creepy white men in powerful top jobs.
The film has been applauded for highlighting everything that’s going wrong in America right now, but whether it can impact on the upcoming election is another question.
Some people are hopeful the film could sway undecided voters, but other think its release is too late to make any real difference.
Regardless of the outcome, Jake argues that the real win here is how Sacha Baron Cohen has created a character that has remained relevant over more than a decade’s worth of politics.
And that even though he makes people extremely uncomfortable, Borat is a cultural force that we just can’t seem to get rid of.