August 9, 2018

"Does Sacha Baron Cohen Understand Israel?/The comedian’s new show makes a mockery of Israeli machismo. But he doesn’t know who we really are."

In the NYT, Shmuel Rosner critiques Cohen's character Morad — "an ultra-macho ex-Mossad agent who travels around the United States duping Israel-loving conservatives into embarrassing themselves."
We cannot escape the suspicion that there are still some Morads in our midst: Brave commandos who become political leaders or arms dealers or pundits; Israelis who are blunt, macho, crude, boisterous, pompous and trigger-happy; Israelis who forget to shed their uniformed mentality even when their services are no longer needed....

We still have dangerous enemies, so maybe keeping this stereotype going is useful. We seem tough after all, with our big muscles and love of guns. On the other hand, the Morad caricature makes us look bellicose and pigheaded, if not downright absurd. And it probably makes us seem hideous to many Americans, especially young ones, especially liberal ones — the Americans with whom Israel already has an image problem....

Israel’s most avid supporters in America might like us more as crude machos than as start-up entrepreneurs. They might even prefer our satirized fossils to our real selves....

When I was working on this article, I called a friend of mine, a former paratrooper, to get his thoughts. “Are there still a lot of Morad types in our country?” I asked him. And then he gave me the answer that made it all clear: Every Israeli who serves in the military knows that we still have Morads. But for every idiotic Morad, we also have two prankish Cohens. That’s why we can afford a laugh.
So there are idiots and pranksters in a 2 to 1 ratio. What's the ratio of idiot-or-prankster to those who are neither idiot nor prankster. Rosner doesn't say.

The word "macho" (or "machismo") is used 4 times in Rosner's column. "Masculine" is used once — in a phrase that stands in for "macho": "blustering, masculine image." So "masculine" is nothing but bad and retrograde — in Rosner's words, "bellicose and pigheaded."

Rosner says that Americans might prefer such awful people to "our real selves." But what are your real selves — "prankish Cohens"?

I can't watch Sacha Baron Cohen's show (and I used to like him) because he comes across as an aggressive jerk. Not just his characters. He seems clearly to hate the character he's invented, even as he gets into embodying the character and having the freedom to act out that guy's hatefulness. I find it sad and demoralizing.

Is there no way to be a good man — a good man? Rosner doesn't talk about that, and I wonder if Cohen believes in it at all.

59 comments:

Annie C said...

Is there no way to be a good man — a good man?

Not in the MeToo That's Not Funny world we are living in now.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"Is there no way to be a good man — a good man?"

Not according to most of the left.

gilbar said...

the REAL OUTRAGE is that he and Ilsa Fisher continue to be happily married.
HOW am i EVER going to stand a chance (however Small) of dating Ilsa if they continue to be happily married?

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Good stuff. Cohen may be coming around to the Sarah Jeong view of men--not necessarily white men, but men who are successful in their own countries, or their limited worlds. The more successful they are, it seems, the more preening and self-forgetful, lacking in empathy, showing off.

tim maguire said...

And it probably makes us seem hideous to many Americans, especially young ones, especially liberal ones — the Americans with whom Israel already has an image problem....

Israel’s most avid supporters in America might like us more as crude machos than as start-up entrepreneurs.


Nice, attack your friends while fretting that you are not kissing up enough to your enemies.

Henry said...

Israel’s most avid supporters in America might like us more as crude machos than as start-up entrepreneurs.

That's a weird pander to the left.

I don't think so. One of my old managers was an Israeli Intelligence Officer who became a start-up entrepreneur. Anti-Israel agitation doesn't happen in software engineering.

tim maguire said...

Annie C said...Is there no way to be a good man — a good man?

On the internet, maybe not. But in real life? Sure. I've never been berated for holding a door or giving up my seat. What seems the norm in cyberworld seems to me virtually unknown in the real one.

Hunter said...

Having not seen any of this show yet, Cohen's take on a hyper-militant Israeli sounds less fun than Adam Sandler in You Don't Mess with the Zohan. Sandler's take was affectionate rather than spiteful.

Adam Sandler also seems like a nicer person than Sacha Baron Cohen, so there's that.

Ralph L said...

I've started watching the Israeli series "Mossad 101", a sort of comedy about a training class of agents, on Netflix. Only one, a former F-16 pilot, stands out as macho, but not big or muscular.

sparrow said...

Excellent question and of course there is a way to be a good masculine man: it's just challenging like every other worthwhile effort. Further you cannot, as a man, expect to be appreciated for your effort and should anticipate receiving abuse for doing the right thing. That's because masculine men are perceived as a threat to the elite; the much prefer weak and easily controlled feminized boys.

Eleanor said...

Lately, people, especially women, have been accused of losing our sense of humor. "That's not funny". But what if that just really isn't funny? I find a lot of things in life make me laugh and smile. It's just not professional comedians these days. It's their job to make people laugh. It's not our responsibility to make them successful.

rhhardin said...

You can be a good man by doing man stuff.

anti-de Sitter space said...

Some bigots say that they love sinners, but hate sin. Althouse needs to feel that Sacha loves the haters, but hates the hate.

Vortex reciprocity.

bagoh20 said...

As bad as his characters are, Cohen doesn't seem to notice that his own persona is worse and that he continues to reinforce that image with every prank. Pranking people as he does is just lame. It's very easy to do becuase of most peoples' trusting nature. It punishes people just becuase they are trusting and open, or sometimes trying to be friendly and fun. He does it just to make money. He's an ugly bully. It's a foul way to make a living, dude. You are the one who should be embarrassed.

Michael K said...

If you want a fair picture of Israelis, read "The LIon's Gate" It is all quotes from interviews of the men and women who fought the Six Day War, when Israel was really fighting for its life.

Everybody in Israel is a soldier at one time.

Mike said...

I can't watch Sacha Baron Cohen's show (and I used to like him) because he comes across as an aggressive jerk. Not just his characters. He seems clearly to hate the character he's invented, even as he gets into embodying the character and having the freedom to act out that guy's hatefulness.

Yes. This was epitomized in the movie Talledega Nights, believe it or not. Despicable character, reveling in being the "bad guy" in the NASCAR world. Like a foil in wrestling (although TBH I never watched wrestling). But the weird aggressive hatefulness is off-putting. A few minutes of his Morad character were enough for me to laugh (there's a lot of guys like him in greater LA area!) but also to get the visceral reaction Althouse describes above.

Mike said...

I don't understand why Rosner and the two thirds guy limit Israelis to those two caricatures. There are the same range of humans in Israel as other places on earth, with a wide variety of personalities and pathologies. Rosner's weird assumptions about why Americans like or approve of Israelis at all only provide insight into his opinions of Americans. Maybe he gets too much of his "news" from the paper that published his drivel. "They" certainly don't understand why conservatives admire Israel. "They" certainly can speak for why progressives aren't fond of Israel, but that's all they understand. They are essentially advertising how clueless they are about how Americans think.

Tina Trent said...

"Prankster" my ass. Cohen weaponized the threat of being labeled anti-semitic to bully people out of walking away or objecting to his increasingly inappropriate behavior as he secretly taped them. Once the trap amped up, he also used actors posing as police officers to deter at least one victim from leaving, so he is going to be in a lot of trouble.

This isn't about how virtue signaling Israeli leftists feel about their country: it is about humiliating public and private American citizens on a national scale for leftist laughs. The Israeli identity was reduced to a prop in Cohen's game, degrading that too.

Sebastian said...

"I find it sad and demoralizing."

I appreciate this as a sign of #Resistance, but -- why? The shtick is a move in the culture war, targets the right people, and uses hate for a good cause.

Demoralizing the middle ("See? This is the culture now. This is what passes for humor. These are the right-wing yahoos you need to stay away from.") is progs' way of getting moderates to surrender. They are just scorching the earth.

Judging it as a piece of entertainment, or having any feelings at all about it, is beside the point.

Hagar said...

Rosner apparently is not a great admirer of Ariel "the Bulldozer" Sharon.

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

Ask an Israeli right after a rocket slams into their neighborhood which kind of Israeli man they want. The discussion seems so removed from reality that it’s impossible to take it seriously. Which is kind of the default position these days.

tim maguire said...

@bagoh--exactly. Cohen's humor is all about using people's basic decency against them to make them look stupid.

chuck said...

I've heard Israelis described as "red neck Jews", which I think is funny.

MayBee said...

I find it interesting that Americans seem to like to invite Brits to come over and show us what oafish buffoons we are. I'm thinking of Jamie Oliver's cooking show a few years ago.

Other countries aren't all that welcoming of Americans who want to go "entertain" them by humiliating their citizens.

Drago said...

MayBee: "I'm thinking of Jamie Oliver's cooking show a few years ago."

Jamie Oliver is just this generation's Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet)

Drago said...

Sasha Baron Cohen instinctively knows that conservatives are Israel's best friend.

Maybe Cohen should set up a pro-Israel table at any major university and see what the reaction is.....

LOL

Roy Jacobsen said...

Better question: Does Sacha Baron Cohen understand anything?

Gahrie said...

Is there no way to be a good man — a good man?

Of course not, we're all just splooge stooges responsible for everything evil and bad in the universe.

mikee said...

Steve Allen, guest hosting on the Tonight Show way back when, had a young Steve Martin on as a guest. Allen told Martin that he found his entire act to be "playing a jerk" and Martin agreed. A few years later The Jerk came out, to raves and packed theaters.

Cohen is also a jerk, but not a happy, funny one. He is a mean one, too often.
Imagine a Martin segue from "Walk Like an Egyptian" to a riff on beating up the homeless. It doesn't work as comedy, or entertainment. Cohen needs to get his act together.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I've never liked people who like to trick other people.

The Crack Emcee said...

"We still have dangerous enemies, so maybe keeping this stereotype going is useful. We seem tough after all, with our big muscles and love of guns. On the other hand, the Morad caricature makes us look bellicose and pigheaded, if not downright absurd. And it probably makes us seem hideous to many Americans, especially young ones, especially liberal ones — the Americans with whom Israel already has an image problem...."

I used to have a Jewish roommate, who was determined to excell at everything, so he was constantly taking tests and tests and tests, as well as wanting to be the hardest physical specimen the world had ever seen. I dug it. He went medieval sword fighting on the weekends, in these huge armies and shit, and took martial arts and, well, you name it. He did it. Great guy. I admired him. He was walking motivation to succeed. A credit to his people.

But he couldn't stop talking about black people with other whites behind my back. And I learned to despise him.

I see black people as noble. I probably always will. Not always, individually, but taking in the whole group, pulled along, through the sweep of history, without being allowed to catch a breath? Most definitely: We learned to swim.

Fuck fools who don't get it.

The Crack Emcee said...

OT - I think Sacha Baron Cohen is part of this generation of comics who think the darkest thing they can think of is the epitome of the craft, when it's supposed to be making people laugh. I have a BFF who teaches a comedy class in SF and he'd never do the shit these fools do. They're depressing. It's all about an imaginative person, a mike, and punch lines - not make-up, Trump, or protests, or lectures.

They just don't get it.

Rory Skoval's special on Netflix is golden, except for the skits, which are awful.

tim in vermont said...

He had a show in the UK years ago that I used to watch when I worked over there, and it was pretty funny. If it was the same guy, I think it was.

Ralph L said...

he couldn't stop talking about black people with other whites behind my back
More than rude, that was reckless. You could have short-sheeted his bed.

One of my cats barfed on my then housemate's pillow. He (cat) knew he'd been disrespected.

tim in vermont said...

Other countries aren’t all that welcoming of Americans who want to go "entertain" them by humiliating their citizens.

A Mexican owns the New York Times.

I wonder if Le Monde is owned by foreigners, The Times of London, Die Welt, for that matter, El Universal?

Martin said...

I am reminded of Kipling's poem, "Tommy." Nobody likes the macho soldierly type until they need him.

http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_tommy.htm

Cohen and Colbert are two of a kind. I appreciate a joke, even at my own expense, but some people bring a nastiness to it where you know they aren't joking, they really despise the object of the joke.

Clyde said...

People like Sacha Baron Cohen and Jim Carrey are perfect examples of people who used to be funny before their Trump Derangement Syndrome took over.

Howard said...

The funny thing is that the cuckservatives who fall for Morad actually admire this type of cartoon character. Roy Moore passed the test, obviously not a cuck

Tina Trent said...

I don't understand how Colbert has managed to survive the lefty purges considering his early work playing a stereotypical vicious closeted gay teacher on Amy Sedaris' extremely un-PC show, Strangers With Candy.

He spent half an hour a week mocking gays on cable television.

Now he polices other people for lesser transgressions. By their lights, he is confusing the beam in his eye for the speck in the other guy's eye.

And S B Cohen spent a decade playing Ali G, a parody of both urban blacks and urban whites who mimic them. Ali G sure couldn't get a poem published in the Nation today.

narciso said...

no but the independent is owned by a Russian oligarch and fmr? kgb, lyubimov who was expelled from Britain in 1971,

Howard said...

Macho is the phony tough bullshit you get from the latin/middle east area. Real American males are supposed to be cold blooded vikings, quiet, slow to anger while poised to be swift and viscous. The cuck whorship of macho posturing proves your impotence

buwaya said...

Sebastian is correct, this is deliberate, designed propaganda.

I assume Cohen is being subsidized, and operates as he does for other than purely commercial reasons.

traditionalguy said...

Cohen is irrational and plays stereotypes of people he will never know. He resembles the mentally ill more than a satirist.

Infinite Monkeys said...

The pranksters are stealing shoes.

Ray said...

It has been a long time since Hollywood was about commercial reasons.

>Blogger buwaya said...
>
> Sebastian is correct, this is deliberate, designed propaganda.
>
> I assume Cohen is being subsidized, and operates as he does for other than purely
>commercial reasons.

The Crack Emcee said...

Clyde said...

"People like Sacha Baron Cohen and Jim Carrey are perfect examples of people who used to be funny before their Trump Derangement Syndrome took over."

Jim Carrey and Robert De Niro are, both, part of the anti-vaccine cult - that's now spreading measles, again, around the world and Carrey was dating a girl who's committed suicide since - a point that's never made on the news when they go into their anti-Trump rants. I can't imagine why, except they're liberals.

They protect their own.

The Crack Emcee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony said...

I rather liked him in a Madonna video. . . . . .

JohnAnnArbor said...

Everybody in Israel is a soldier at one time.

Not Israeli Arabs, who are equal citizens but don't have to serve in the military. They can volunteer to do so, and a surprising number (still pretty small) do. Some are officers.

n.n said...

Subversion from within is insidious.

buwaya said...

There has been a long-running anti-Israel campaign in the MSM, especially against right-wing Israeli politics. Not just against some individual, such as Sharon or Netanyahu.

An interesting bit from six months ago - with interesting implications, in several directions, no? And note not exactly prominent in the US MSM. A good reason to read the foreign papers.

JPost - KERRY TO ABBAS CONFIDANTE: 'STAY STRONG AND DO NOT GIVE IN TO TRUMP'

"During the conversation, according to the report, Kerry asked Agha to convey a message to Abbas and ask him to “hold on and be strong.” Tell him, he told Agha, “that he should stay strong in his spirit and play for time, that he will not break and will not yield to President [Donald] Trump’s demands.”

According to Kerry, Trump will not remain in office for a long time. It was reported that Kerry said that within a year there was a good chance that Trump would not be in the White House."

...

"Kerry hinted that many in the American establishment, as well as in American intelligence, are dissatisfied with Trump’s performance and the way he leads their country."

Deep State or what?

In other words there is something up, and there has been something up for a long time. SBC is probably just a "culture war" part of the whole thing.

Alex said...

Macho, macho man (macho man)
I've got to be, a macho man

J Lee said...

Cohen basically gets what the people running Showtime and the other entertainment outlets want for comedy these days, which is angry mocking stuff that confirms and cocoons them in their own personal ideological biases. They love his willingness to do anything possible to lure in suckers, almost all right wing or right-of-center types, even thought they go apoplectic when James O'Keeefe does the same thing to left wing and left-of-center types with his videos (and both have not taken well to being caught in the act -- O'Keefe when the Washington Post caught onto his sting attempt during the Roy Moore election, while Cohen bravely ran away when the gun store owner recognized him as Borat, something we'd never have known about except for the fact the store owner had security cam video of the incident).

Char Char Binks said...

The Mossad image is a counterbalance to the nerdy, wimpy Jew stereotype. You'd think Jewish men would welcome that, if not as a replacement, then at least as a corrective.

True, Cohen is a bully, and is unfair to his targets, but I also find him hilarious.

Jim at said...

If not for this blog, I wouldn't even know if Sasha Baron Cohen was alive.

Not sure if that's a good thing.

buwaya said...

"The Mossad image "

It used to be the Israeli paratrooper image.
As in Netanyahu's brother at Entebbe.

rcocean said...

The amazing thing about Cohen, is how good he is at spotting his victim's weaknesses.

In the earlier shows, he knew Americans - especially Southerners - try to be nice and polite. So, he exploited that.

This time round, he exploited the Right's love of Israel, and got them to go along with any crazy crap, some "Israeli Col" or "Mossad agent" said.

But this article sounds like a NYT parody. "Cohen attacks Conservatives, Israel hardest hit".

Bad Lieutenant said...

There were muskeljuden before there was a Sacha Baron Cohen to exploit their reputation. Or a Rosner to decry them, though there have always been his type.

What's his type? Two Jews are brought to the scaffold. The first spits on the executioner's face. The second says to the first, "Don't make trouble."

Rosner is the second. Who sleeps beneath the blanket of freedom provided by the first.

anti-de Sitter space said...

I'm a nacho man. But, I'm guessing that "Macho Man" is some sorta gay thing. [consciously, or not.]


Not that there's anything wrong w/ that.