November 1, 2006

Suing Borat, in Germany, on behalf of the gypsies.

Now there's this:
The state prosecutor's office in the northern city of Hamburg said the European Center for Antiziganism Research had brought the complaint accusing [Sacha Baron] Cohen of slander, inciting violence against the Sinti and Roma gypsy groups and violating Germany's anti-discrimination law.

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" premiered last week in London and is due to hit German cinemas Thursday.

Twentieth Century Fox of Germany, the film's distributor here, pulled television commercials and Internet advertising that featured tongue-in-cheek talks of running over "gypsies" with a Hummer military vehicle after complaints by the group.

The organization noted in a statement last month that violent crimes by right-wing extremists had risen this year by 20 percent and called it "irresponsible" to tolerate the racist jokes made in the film.

So the notion has to be: you can't lampoon racism with a racist comic character. Or is it just that the character can't be too funny and perversely lovable?


Mortimer Brezny said...

So the notion has to be: you can't lampoon racism with a racist comic character.

Yeah, I gotta say that's pretty dumb. Both conservatives and liberals have an overinclusive definition of racism that just mirrors their policy preferences to end affirmative action or promote political correctness.

Seven Machos said...

I think the underlying issue is that elites in Europe are scared out of their wits that the ordinary run of European humanity is secretly ready to kill or expel every last Jewish person, Roma person, Muslim person, etc. It's not an irrational fear given the history of gross nationalistic brutality there under various guises. But it's sad. And this explanation is the only one that is reasonable other than: European elites are really just a bunch of fascists posing as democrats. That's certainly possible, too, Or both.

Pogo said...

If Borat not be sued by gypsy peoples, Kazakhstan execute!

altoids1306 said...

Are they so uptight that they can't stand a British comedian, posing as a Central Asian buffoon, lampooning the US? The movie has nothing to do with Germany!

Oh, wait...Jews, Gypsies, Germany...never mind.

Social conservatives notwithstanding, the US establishment is far more willing to roll with the punches than their European counterparts.

George said...

I kinda think that if lovable Borat talked about running over black people with Hummers, he might have a problem in the United States.

Imagine if, say, Jeff Foxworthy told jokes in that vein.

Real funny stuff.

Too Many Jims said...

"I kinda think that if lovable Borat talked about running over black people with Hummers, he might have a problem in the United States."

I had similar thoughts, though I suspect (hope) the outrage wouldn't come from government entities here. Comedy is a lot tougher these days. Could Blazing Saddles be released today without controversy?

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

I think Borat has made similar comments about black people. For instance, calling Eddie Murphy "the actor with the um, chocolate face" or something like that at the Savana minor league baseballs game. If Gypsies, Jews or black people are offended by Borat, they are missing the point. He is not lampooning them. he is lampooning people that are racist towards them.

AJ Lynch said...

I thought one of the attractions of being a gypsy is you would never admit you were a gypsy or heaven forbid organize into a official or formal interest group. So if a "group" of gypsie claims they are being wronged, doesn't that automatically disqualify those in the group of their gypsy status?

Revenant said...

I kinda think that if lovable Borat talked about running over black people with Hummers, he might have a problem in the United States.

Er, you mean like the episode of South Park where all the white folks band together to drive out all the black residents by dressing up in white robes and burning "lower-case t's" on their lawns? The one that ends with a character saying "at least we got rid of all those damn ni[credits roll]"?

Hell, I *heard* about that episode from some black friends who thought it was the funniest thing they'd seen in years. There's a healthy comic tradition in America of mocking bigots.

Maureen said...

Well, Germans aren't exactly known for their senses of humor. Plus, from my experiences living there, most people are really uncomfortable with race.

I wouldn't agree they are "secretly read to kill or expel every last Jewish person, Roma person, Muslim person." Mostly, Germans simply don't seem to know how to talk about, come to terms with, or even grapple with race issues on a national level.

Daryl Herbert said...

"Borat" has done more to expose prejudices (racial, religious, and gender) in America and Europe than most other people.

People let down their guard around him because he's so innocent. Even when he talks about doing filthy, horrible things, he's innocent because he acts like he doesn't know they are bad--and that's true child-like innocence. Being uptight and never talking about dirty things is not innocence, it's propriety--but people don't let down their guard around proper people.

TW: Terrorist Word: hazamdy

George said...


Heck, I have no problem with mocking bigots, but certainly other people--black, white, and purple--probably thought the South Park bit was tasteless.

Our society has grown so coarse in the last 15 years you could use it to scrape off the hide of a rhinoceros.

Not necessarily a good thing, particularly when movies like 'Borat' and shows like 'South Park' are viewed by children.

Revenant said...

certainly other people--black, white, and purple--probably thought the South Park bit was tasteless

Sure. I haven't heard of anyone suing them for inciting racial hatred with that episode, though.

movies like 'Borat' and shows like 'South Park' are viewed by children.

Borat's rated "R" and "South Park" airs late at night. If children are watching them, it is because their parents don't care.

Paul Zrimsek said...

We're not anti-Gypsy. We're merely critical of the policies of the Ziganist entity.

Hamsun56 said...

Should Swift not have published "A Modest Proposal" because of the danger that some might not have understood the irony? Actually many didn't, but I think the world is a better place because of Swift's irony.

Anonymous said...

Setting the Borat issue straight on Behalf of Kazakhstan
Like millions of Americans I have seen the Borat movie but unlike many I have been to Kazakhstan -- also spelled Kazakstan -- and I want to set the record straight. Kazakhstan is a wonderful country with customs that are both foreign and familiar to ours. In fact, there are many things I would take back to America. Borat (Sasha Cohen) has made this country look like it is populated with nothing but slovenly, unwashed, immoral, uneducated people – this is almost completely false in my experience. No, they don’t have an Ivy League educational system but these people for the most part are good-hearted and, if not well-read by our American standards, they do love storytelling. They ritually gather at village centers – usually this is where bartering and exchanges are conducted for food and services - and they share their knowledge by applying the oral tradition (please let’s not lower ourselves to the Boratian ‘oral’ jokes here). Yes, their technology is not at the state where ours is yet so they compensate with conversation, face to face. I’d actually like to see more of this in our world versus the faceless interchange of the internet. We might be a happier people. This helps their families stay close – and, again to refute Borat’s incest insinuations, this is not a national sport and I saw very little there to give one pause to consider it is more than a rare occurrence which is indeed not looked well upon even in the most rural stretches. These are a happy people with great values. No, Borat, they do not make their 8 year old children work by force. And women can vote in all elections. Legal age to wed is up to the families themselves. They are not a race of anti-Semites - they have a small Jewish population of over 170 who are situated by their own free will to live in a ghetto. But this is common: America and the world are replete with communities where people of similar backgrounds and mindsets gather and create neighborhoods – we have all been to Chinatown, Little Italy, Germantown. The food in Kazakhstan is some of the best tasting I have ever had in all my travels; always fresh. You cannot believe what they do with their vegetables and their goats (although Borat only highlights the sexual engagements – another exaggeration at their expense. I never saw anything like what the comedian speaks of. But let us not be so self righteous to forget about our own iconic cowboys who have gotten lonely on the trail -- and the stories about them and cattle – rumors as well, I’m sure.) The people of Kazakhstan are indeed passionate and excellent dancers – Borat showed us that and the men do generally dance with great fanfare with each other as he indicated but again this is not unlike many countries. Most of all, I would take home to America the laughter and kindness of these simple people – they tell jokes all day on all subjects especially special family events. If your daughter is married in Kazakhstan, she is not sold for a VCR with a remote control like Borat says – and, remember, in America many brides’ parents still offer dowries or at least pay for the wedding so we are not really so different. The bride, as is the custom of Kazakhstan, is always asked to work for both families – this brings everyone closer. During the days she might, for example, work at the dairy or farm and nights she might sew or cook or clean and it is not uncommon for the young bride to have a say in the family financials. One fact to consider is that women in Kazakhstan do not live as long as men. This is the opposite of the statistics in the United States. So I wouldn’t want to live there with my present wife and daughter. Other than that, Kazakhstan is a place we can learn from. In closing, please realize the difference between a false documentary or propaganda and pure fiction. While the Borat film is funny, it is not real in many ways – although the men, as he showed in his movie too graphically for many tastes, do not consider nudity offensive. They swim without bathing suits and walk after their swim back into town often with nothing but towels around their necks. Their innocence is something to be admired -- and if not, one can simply shield one’s eyes. There are a great many people in Kazakhstan who are offended by the publicity and news stories about Borat’s film though they will not see it due to the fact there are not many movie theatres there.

Seven Machos said...

It's ridiculous. Germany sure is big on taking the property of people they disagree with, huh?

Anonymous said...

Everyone is TOO uptight...accept the movie for what it is and nothing more. He wasn't making direct fun of any particular group of people. He was simply illustrating how easily people can become offended over the most benign things.

I would link these attacks against him (Cohen) as to someone saying, “I am going to sue the Eric Cartmen character from South Park because he has offended me & because he has portrayed Colorado in a sarcastic fashion, etc. It is simply a fictional character showing how opinionated people in the U.S. are, but for fear of prosecution they refuse to speak what they believe.

My favorite part in the movie is when the fraternity brothers pick him up and then start ranting about how they wished slavery was back and that women would become more subservient. All that showed is that their parents did a piss poor job in raising them, because as we all know…Fraternities never get into trouble unless they are provoked.

People need to suck it up and learn to take a joke...Even if that joke is made towards them.