Borat's Sociology Experiment

October 31, 2006   

In the TIME Magazine article about Borat's new movie, the author manages to be more condescending to his audience than the highly criticized Sacha Baron Cohen. The whole article is not worth reading in my opinion, but two quotes from the producers of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan were some of the most insightful things I've heard in a while, if they are indeed correct. Borat producer Jay Roach describes the effect of "outsiders" - like Baron Cohen's fictitious yet well developed Borat -- as powerful revealers of what people "really" believe. He says:

Political correctness has led to a more civil society because people with racist attitudes have taken them underground. It's a fascinating social experiment to observe this character walking amongst us, revealing this.

Director Larry Charles reiterated this, and defended Borat's character by saying: "I never felt like we tricked anyone in a cruel way," indicating that while some people come across as fools or racists in the film, they were never tricked into thinking anything materially incorrect except that no one in their community would ever know their true beliefs.

To give Joel Stein credit (author of the article), he closes by paraphrasing the real meat and potatoes of filmakers' position:

We gave people a chance to be themselves. Some come out well, and others don't. The difference is that if you're over 35, you think you have the right to keep your regrettable moments private. If you're under 35, you realize that everything is public now. Even if your racist rant were for a show in Kazakhstan, it would be on the Internet anyway.

And this is perhaps the most profound lesson we should take away from this whole thing. If you don't embrace that you can be Googled, you may get stuck being Borat-ed -- or worse: Foley-ed -- because you thought like an over-35 year old. You're life, whether you like it or now, exists online, so embrace it or be embarrassed somewhere down the line.

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