[Seth-Trips] Borat, this weekend

Aaron Swartz me at aaronsw.com
Sun Nov 12 22:29:25 GMT 2006

I have now seen the movie _Borat_. While I did not think it was
particularly great as entertainment, I would like to correct a common

A lot of people seem to think the movie is about making fun of
stereotypes. Borat is a sterotyped foreigner character; his "victims"
are stereotyped Americans. Both do stereotypical things and the
audience laughs. There are perhaps a couple short scenes where this is
the case, but this is a tiny part of the film.

The film is actually about the existence and enforcement of cultural
norms. In place after place, Borat goes somewhere and does exactly
what you're not supposed to do. In doing so, he points out the
absurdity of our cultural assumptions and then documents exactly the
punishments inflicted for violating them. For example, he provides a
brilliant critique of nationalism and nationalist rhetoric by
violating conventions at a rodeo. (My particular favorite is a scene
where he is interviewed on television and deconstructs their
interviewing illusions.)

Even though, as I said I did not think the film was particularly done
well, I think this kind of humor is incredibly important. It is very
difficult to try to question ingrained cultural assumptions; I'm glad
to see someone receive so much success for trying.

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