September 13, 2006

Kazakhstan is really mad about Borat.

And Bush is getting involved!

An interesting question is whether Borat has made Americans like Kazakhstan more. What is the effect of over-the-top vicious and hilarious satire on the reputation of a country? Few Americans thought much at all about Kazakhstan before Borat, so he had the opportunity to become the entire reputation of the country as far as we were concerned. But, strangely, that might be to the good, even though Kazakhstan is pissed. The reason is that we know Borat is a joke and we love him. Kazakhstan gets name recognition and reflected love. We hear all sorts of ridiculous lies, we know they are lies, and we kind of love Kazakhstan.

So I hope when Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev visits the U.S. and meets with President Bush he doesn't bungle the opportunity! Show some humor and now that you've got our attention, give us something good to displace the crazy Borat info that is currently filling your reputation space. And don't be grumpy about the wonderful Sacha Baron Cohen. There lies further mockery.

32 comments:

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goesh said...

A car being pulled by a horse - it doesn't get much better than that..

The Drill SGT said...

Anti-Borat hard-liners have pulled the plug on borat.kz, Borat's Kazakhstan-based Website after his frequent displays of anti-Semitism and his portrayal of Kazakh culture.

Baron Cohen is anti-semitic? strange behavior by a Cohen. Or is this one of the things where both parties call each other Hitler?

Jeremy said...

Sgt -
I'd say Cohen isn't anti-semitic but Borat definately is. There was one show where he was out a private hunting park in Arizona(?) where he makes a comment asking the guide if they ever hunt Jews in the park and the guide complains, "No, they don't let us do that in America but I don't know why not." Borat's blatant ignorance, tactlessness and anti-semitism is a perfect combination for luring bigots into outing themselves. It's genius.

Revenant said...

But the film, which has just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, has prompted a swift reaction from the Kazakhstan government, which is launching a PR blitz in the States.

The first step of which will be to inform Americans that, yes, Kazakhstan actually IS a real country, and Cohen didn't just make it up.

Jeremy said...

What irked me was this comment by the official at the Khazakhstan Embassy: "We understand that the film exposes the hypocrisy that exists both here in the USA and in the UK and understand that Mr Cohen has a right to freedom of speech."

What hypocrisy is he refering to?

MrBuddwing said...

I'm only slightly familiar with the character. I've seen the trailer for the movie. And all I can say is, it doesn't look promising.

I take it the character of Borat is someone who speaks English poorly and is innocently clueless about American culture and customs, but what I saw in the trailer was beyond the pale, IMHO.

Borat washing his hands in a toilet? Is the concept of a flush toilet so alien to Kazakhstan?

Borat nonchalantly declaring that two of the women at a dinner table would be considered hot in his country, but not the third? Is that something he would actually say in his native tongue?

I realize all this makes me sound like a humorless curmudgeon. I guess I'm one of those old-fashioned farts who demand that humor make sense at some level, however wild and uncoventional it may be.

Freeman Hunt said...

Cohen's in-character response as Borat made me laugh out loud.

"In response to Mr. Ashykbayev's comments, I'd like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my Government's decision to sue this Jew.

"Since the 2003 Tuleyakiv reforms, Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world.

"Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats, and age of consent has been raised to eight years old."


I agree that the Borat character probably promotes good feelings toward Kazakhstan. Surely no one actually takes Borat's jokes as sober observations. Then again, as someone from the South, I'm highly aware of just how tired locality-based jokes can become.

peter hoh said...

If the government of Kazakhstan asked for my advice, I'd tell them to hire a couple of Conan O'Brien's writers to help them craft a response to Borat.

Susan said...

Government bureaucrats always get stuff like this completely ass-backwards.

When I lived in South Florida in the early 80's, officials in Miami were angry that NBC was going to put on a new show called Miami Vice. Miami VICE! Oh my God, everyone will think Miami is full of crime and criminals and drug dealers! Of course, when it aired, that's exactly what they thought and they loved it! It was HOT! They wanted to go there.

Why do so many people want to go to Havana? Because it's a bright modern city? No, because of its image as a city where time has stood still since the 50's.

Seven Machos said...

I have done a good amount of writing for a book about "the best colleges," and of the things that drives publicity for that book is a list of the "best party schools." (Wisconsin routinely ranks very highly, by the way, but that's neither here nor there.)

Every year, the "#1 party school" has to respond in some way. Most years, the administration pitches and fit and calls the book trash. Schools have even gone so far as to institute stricter rules after getting on this nefarious list.

One year, the president of a school said, "you know what, I think it's great that students can come here and get a great education and have a great time as well."

Now, who knows what went on behind the scenes. But that was great PR. Your public face need not be your private one. Also, I would note that university bureaucrats and government bureaucrats tend to be of the same lame ilk. The president of Khazakstan should laugh this one off and encourage people to visit the country and buy its stuff.

George said...

Tastes differ....I saw the trailer and thought the movie looked excruciatingly unfunny, cruel, and in bad taste—a perfect reflection of the modern Hollywood sensibility.

This morning on NPR two Muslim-American actors discussed the fact that when they were growing up in Egypt, they loved the image of America they saw in the movies. Today they thought part of our problem with the world is that we're exporting a loathsome image of ourselves to the world.

And it's true. Compare TV shows and movies from the 1960s to today, and it's clear there's no sense of self-restraint whatsoever. Gilligan may have been a fool, but he was lovable, and he wasn't Johnny Knoxville.

George said...

Tastes differ....I saw the trailer and thought the movie looked excruciatingly unfunny, cruel, and in bad taste—a perfect reflection of the modern Hollywood sensibility.

This morning on NPR two Muslim-American actors discussed the fact that when they were growing up in Egypt, they loved the image of America they saw in the movies. Today they thought part of our problem with the world is that we're exporting a loathsome image of ourselves to the world.

And it's true. Compare TV shows and movies from the 1960s to today, and it's clear there's no sense of self-restraint whatsoever. Gilligan may have been a fool, but he was lovable, and he wasn't Johnny Knoxville.

Michael Farris said...

Trivia you don't care about, in the Borat bits I've seen Cohen tends to drop in Polish (as opposed to Russian or Kazakh), especially 'jak się masz' (how are you?) and 'dziękuje' (thank you).

What I don't like about Cohen is that his shtick is so often about using people's kinder instincts so that he can ridicule them.

MadisonMan said...

....and Borat's mad about Me!

Sorry, that song just popped into my head when I read Ann's title.

When Wisconsin ranks high in party schools (I think UW was #3 this year, an "improvement" from last year's #1 ranking) there is typically lots of hand-wringing and kvetching about how students binge. And it is a problem -- each year, a student or two leaves before classes start with a serious head injury after falling, it seems. Somehow the UW Head Honchos never get around to criticizing the partying of the alums before football/hockey/basketball games, however.

Humor, as you say, would be more effective.

Balfegor said...

Cohen tends to drop in Polish (as opposed to Russian or Kazakh), especially 'jak się masz' (how are you?) and 'dziękuje' (thank you).

This is only a vague recollection from browsing a Uighur grammar, back in college, but I think one of the standard Uighur greetings was something like Yaksimusiz. Since Kazakh, like Uighur, is a Turkic language, there may be a cognate phrase in Kazakh sounding very like the Polish you give above.

Troy said...

Reminds me of the Two Wild and Crazy Guys -- Stave Martin and Dan Akroyd (weren't they Czechoslovakian? -- back when that was possible I realize). Even at that relatively young age I'm pretty sure I knew they were a joke and not all Czechs would be cheesy and obnoxious.

And aren't all Icelanders like Bjork? For years I thought all Freedonians were just like Rufus T. Firefly

Al Maviva said...

I'm just living in fear of the day that the Germans catch on that Mel Brooks' whole schtick is based around mocking Germans. And God help England if the French ever realize that Inspector Clouseau (not to mention the entire run of 'Allo 'Allo) was a complete mockout job.

And FWIW, I really laugh at Ali G, it's extremely funny stuff even though the material tends to be quite caustic. Yeah, sometimes he's just abusive, but more often than not he's puncturing the over-inflated, and doing so with a lot of style, mostly using a Holy Fool persona. It's quite wonderful, at times.

El Presidente said...

It is unseemly to deliberately act ignorant of laws and customs. The Americans should not allow this movie to be shown.

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...

Did somebody say Conan and Borat

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFiSjiEb6Yg

Abraham said...

Today they thought part of our problem with the world is that we're exporting a loathsome image of ourselves to the world.

In that case, isn't it relevant that Cohen is, in fact, British?

Tibore said...

Well, Cohen does have it in him to be funny at times. I really liked his Julien character in Madagascar.

Aside: Occasionally I like to break out into that "I like to Move It! Move It!" song in public places. Just to see who joins in. No, I haven't been arrested yet...

Anyway, back to Cohen: He's got a decently funny schtick in small doses, but I don't think I can handle the "foreign ignoramus" play for too long. I liked limited doses of Andy Kaufman's Latka, Mark McKinney's cab driver (although that character was certainly no "ignoramus"), etc., but only limited. Any more than a half or or so has me screaming "SHUT UP ALREADY!!"

About the only "foreign ignoramus" character I could stand for long periods was Peter Seller's Inspector Clouseau. That was a great character.


Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!

Hotel Clerk: That is not my dog.

Bruce Hayden said...

What is weird is that Borat is the brother of Simon Baron-Cohen, who wrote "The Essential Difference" that we discussed here awhile back, and is the Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge (UK).

jpe said...

You dumb blondes, always trying to act all smart.

See? My joke actually reflected the warmth and "reflected love" I feel for blondes. (You should see all the reflected love I have for Polocks. Tons of love) Now get back in the kitchen, Jiggles.

Jim H said...

I didn't know who the charactor Borat was before the Kazakhstan government's complaints about him. If the officials had let it blow over would anyone have actually watched the movie?

Troy:
Good comparison to Two Wild and Crazy Guys. As a child I thought they were funny, but it didn't lead me to assume that Czechs were really idiots.

George said...

After posting above, I scrolled down the blog and read the talkback for the Cat Stevens' post. I wonder how many of the posters who justly condemned Stevens' for supporting the murder of Rushdie would also condemn Borat.

Of course, he's not demanding that Kazakhs be beheaded, but his film says that, as a group, they're virulent anti-Semites who're so ignorant they wash their hands in toilets. (Gee, wasn't that a Bob Hope routine, or was it Jack Benny?)

If an Egyptian comedian's schtick consisted of acting like an Israeli (or American who was Jewish) and washing his hands in a toilet and laughing about having the flu on 9/11 so he didn't have to go to work at the World Trade Center, would that be funny?

Doug said...

While the Borat character does poke a good amount of fun at Kazakhstan, Cohen mostly uses the American south as a backdrop and often times, a punchline. So this isn't just a matter of the evil West (a Brit in this case) making fun of the third world.

I think all of the characters on Ali G are great in their own way and he widely jokes about all kinds of people from tough guy football players, over important fashion gurus, attention whoring minor media figures all the way up to the highest profile figures in world goverment. Of course the title character mocks idiotic, young gangsta poseurs, who are in desperate need of more ridicule.

pr9000 (paul) said...

George --

if it's done well ... maybe. yeah, i could see it being funny.

some people laugh at what others think is offense. it doesn't necessarily imply that the laugher believes what's at the heart of the "offensive" joke ... each joke has a lot of unspoken baggage around it -- some good, some bad. sometimes, it's OK to laugh because of that baggage.

i spent a semester in college studying "the philosophy of humor" and i can say that this thread is just about the same as that class. only far, far less expensive.

Revenant said...

If an Egyptian comedian's schtick consisted of acting like an Israeli (or American who was Jewish) and washing his hands in a toilet and laughing about having the flu on 9/11 so he didn't have to go to work at the World Trade Center, would that be funny?

The Egyptians would probably think it was. :)

picklepie544 said...

I absolutely love the movie. And I most certainly do not believe any of that is true about the country. I actually didn't even think it was a real country before I watched it. And now I am in computer class and I'm doing an odyssey project on the country and from my research so far it is amazing.

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