The Borat Backlash has begun. First, Ron Rosenbaum's interesting "two Borat" piece in Slate and now a predictable scolding from Richard Goldstein, in the house organ of the "That's Not Funny!" left, The Nation Magazine.
If anyone's wonderign why the left is losing the culture war -- not the abortion, gay marriage kind, but the one that finds most Americans under 40 opting for South Park over, say, Cornel West or The Onion over The Nation -- it's precisely because of this hyper PC sensibility that might as well write off fun and pleasure as nothing more than bourgeois fetishes.
But what of Jon Stewart, Colbert, Bill Maher, and the rest? Yes, yes. These guys lean left and they're indeed funny. However, they also routinely shit where they eat in the best sense of the term.
Maher has ripped on both milquetoast Dems and the academic left, among others, in recent years and that's part of what makes him credible on so many other issues: the Bush administration, Iraq, the environment. Both Stewart and Colbert mock liberal pieties all the time. Sure, they spend most of their energy, as the political moment dictates, ripping on those in power, but they're not puppets or parrots pushing a political line. Again, that's what makes them so credible. Well, that and the buckets of funny.
Read Goldstein's piece. This guy is clinging to the halcyon days of identity politics like his PhD depended on it. (I don't think he has a PhD, but you get the idea).
Sacha Baron Cohen, architect of Borat, Goldstein says, "denies his race and class" and therefore gives us permission to revel in our bigotry.
...Their humor also plays in a conservative era that cherishes the sadistic gratification of bashing the vulnerable and the oppressed. It's the perfect comedy for an ideologically ambivalent time...
The vulnerable and the oppressed? Like the frat boys who're suing Fox because they look like racist, sexist retards? Or the genteel, anachronistic southern dinner societies Borat terrorizes? That rodeo fascist?
Surely there's a few bigots who might find themselves mildly comforted by Borat, if they even comprehend him at all. However, the majority of Borat's humor is rooted in our near obsessive American civility, our fear of confronting anyone, especially an odd stranger.
Better to go along with an anti-Semitic ditty -- especially if it's catchy, Everybody Now - In my country there is problem... -- then make a big scene...
That's part of Borat's critique and it's valid, especially in places where he seems to get the most mileage; The South and The Suburbs.
Then there's the comedy 's based on the inherent absurdity of making sense of another culture through an outsider's lens. This has been done before, certainly, but for the record having a chicken in your suitcase is FUNNY. When it falls out in a subway car, it's funnier.
Unless, of course, you're Richard Goldstein or The Nation magazine who remain so blinded to actual humor they still think Calvin Trillin's deadline poetry is an absolute scream.
Their radar is so finely tuned to the most minute transgression of PC dictates that they not only miss the forest for the trees, but they also miss why Borat, despite its cringe/grossout humor, is not another Jackass. Not that there's anything wrong with Jackass!!!
And I'm guessing that they'll miss out on the fact that, should the Dems not blow it befoe 08, they can say goodbye to their circulation boost...
Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go out and work on my car. I have a pussy magnet to install.