The Comedic Genius in ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ Offsets Its Contribution to Political Polarization

At a gathering with supporters, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a popular progressive congressional representative, was confronted by a right-wing troll who suggested that in order to slow the growing threat of climate change, people should start eating babies. Ocasio-Cortez ignored the woman and continued on with her event, but because she did not explicitly deny the policy of eating babies, conservatives as high up as the President jumped on Ocasio-Cortez’s response as proof that she was crazy. 

This ridiculous moment in twenty-first century politics highlights a growing trend: trolling. Trolling has created a political climate where one is constantly having to read between the lines to determine whether or not what they’re reading is intended to troll. This phenomenon does not support an environment of honest discussion or mutual understanding. It only further inflames political discourse and deepens the already large ideological rift. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, rather than reshaping political satire, fits snugly within that toxic framework.

Borat is a satirical character performed by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, intended to mock the ignorant. The film’s most widely publicized scenes involve Rudy Guliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, going into a bedroom and lying down next to Borat’s daughter, as well as Borat getting members of the right-wing extremist group the Three Percenters to sing along to racist lyrics. For the thrice-married Guliani, notorious for shady deals with Iran and China, getting in bed with a random woman is far from surprising. The scene just furthered the ideological rift, as the reaction to Guliani’s behavior was split along ideological lines, and getting gun-nuts from a far-right group to say something racist is not exactly impressive. White supremacists don’t need to be brought more into the open and exposed when they already have shout-outs from the Commander in Chief during a nationally televised debate stage. The scene serves only to further inflame and infuse with hatred the political discourse in this country.

Yet for all its political shortcomings, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm remained a hilarious watch. Baron Cohen retains the precision of the character Borat from his first movie, and the new addition of Maria Bakalova as his daughter does not disappoint. The addition of a woman to the cast allows for jokes about sexism to hold greater weight, something that was missing from the first Borat movie. The movie did best when it let the characters shine instead of wading into the muck of politics. Even so, the scenes that dealt with more political content remained comedic, despite how unhelpful they might be. While giving more air time to extremist groups might not solve any problems, seeing militia members get strung along for jokes at their own expense was definitively funny in a vindictive way.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a product of the times we live in, steeped in division and hatred. It doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said or show anything that hasn’t already been shown. Even so, the comedic genius of Baron Cohen and his character Borat shines through. The Borat movies prove everything that Baron Cohen has to offer to the world of comedy. However, the movie left me wishing that Baron Cohen had focused his comedic effort elsewhere and steered clear of the dumpster fire that is American politics.

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