British Invasion

‘Borat' & ‘The Queen'

“Smile,” Alan Funt used to say on his TV show, “you’re on Candid Camera.”

“Gotcha!” Sacha Baron Cohen might say, “you’re in my movie, Borat, and you’ve signed the release forms, and so you will continue to make an ass of yourself from here to digital eternity.” For what is Borat if not a Candid Camera for our bumptious times? Well...isn’t it a satire of racist, homophobic America? Doesn’t Borat, Cohen’s pseudo-Kazakhstanian concoction, tour America to make a documentary (a mission soon superceded by the much nobler quest to meet and woo the voluptuous actress Pamela Anderson), along the way encountering several real, presumably uncoached Americans and, through his inimitable interviewing (“Will you have sex with me?” “May I make filth in your sink?”), doesn’t he puncture our pretensions, reveal our hypocrisies, and chastise our bigotries?

Certainly, Borat does elicit some homophobic, racist, and sexist reactions from the likes of drunken frat boys and leathery rodeo managers, but please tell me the satiric intent of the following episode. Our hero, indicating that he needs to use the bathroom, excuses himself from a dinner party given by well-heeled Southerners and, moments later, returns to ask his alarmed hostess where he should deposit a bundle improvised out of toilet paper supposedly containing his fresh excrement. Cut to the bathroom where the lady...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.