Nov 25, 2020
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Far from offending Jews, some see Borat as an anti racism crusader

TORONTO (CP) _ Borat Sagdiyev, the fictional character at the centre of the new comedy "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," is ridiculously anti-Semitic.

The movie, opening Friday, features a "running of the Jew" segment back in Borat’s home village in Kazakhstan that would be astonishingly offensive if it were not so ludicrously funny. On the Comedy Network’s "Da Ali G Show," Borat once took to the stage at a country-and-western bar in the southern United States and performed a song called "Throw the Jew Down the Well" as the rednecks sang along and cheered.

Yet far from being outraged, some of the most creative and powerful Jews in Hollywood are big fans of the film _ including Larry David, Garry Shandling and Larry Charles, the legendary Seinfeld writer who directed the Borat movie. Borat is the creation of British comic Sacha Baron Cohen, himself a Jew.

"I see Borat as a bit of a folk hero or even a superhero," Seth Abramovitch, a Montrealer living in L.A. and one of the brilliant minds behind the gossip blog "Defamer," said Thursday.

"Most Jews assume there’s still anti-Semitism lurking everywhere _ even here in Hollywood _ but it may take a random traffic stop in Malibu for it to bubble to the surface. Borat has a secret identity _ Sacha Baron Cohen, who we know is an observant Jew _ but then he changes into his Borat costume and completely transforms himself into a naively likable Jew-hater, flying around the world to ferret out anti-Semitism wherever it may be hiding."

The great thing about the film, says Mark Breslin, the Canadian comic behind the Yuk-Yuks nightclubs, is that it exposes anti-Semitism for exactly what it is _ the product of supreme stupidity, he says.

"Since the character of Borat is an ignoramus, everything he does is seen as being ignorant. So Sacha Baron Cohen is equating anti-Semitism with ignorance, and knowing that, it becomes an attack not on Jews but on people who dislike or hate Jews. The movie makes anti-Semitism look stupid."

In the United States, however, some human rights organizations haven’t been quite so enthusiastic, saying Borat goes too far in his cheerful anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement last month saying that, while it understands that point Baron Cohen is trying to make about the ignorance behind racism, it fears "the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke."

Breslin disagrees.

"The kind of people who would go see an independent comedy are smart enough to get the joke," Breslin said. "Audiences are quite intelligent who go to things like comedy clubs and movies like ‘Borat.’ They’re smart enough to know when the motive is hateful, and when the motive is more satiric."

Len Rudner of the Canadian Jewish Congress says Borat is unveiling real anti-Semitism wherever he goes, not encouraging or celebrating it.

"He exposes the follies of others," Rudner says. "People ought not to take offence about the follies he’s exposing; they should be taking offence that they exist."

Indeed. For Abramovitch, the film also serves to remind Jews that far from being a thing of the past, anti-Semitism is still alive and well.

"There’s something comforting about seeing a saloon full of rednecks clapping and singing along about grabbing us by the horns and throwing us down a well," he said. "The laughter is as much a nervous release as it is a natural reaction to a genuinely hilarious situation. It’s a deceptively dark variety of comedy that tells Jews that their lingering sense of unease, no matter how settled or assimilated we think we may be in 2006 America, is still very much justified."

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Front Page, Industry News

Far from offending Jews, some see Borat as an anti racism crusader

TORONTO (CP) _ Borat Sagdiyev, the fictional character at the centre of the new comedy "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," is ridiculously anti-Semitic.

The movie, opening Friday, features a "running of the Jew" segment back in Borat’s home village in Kazakhstan that would be astonishingly offensive if it were not so ludicrously funny. On the Comedy Network’s "Da Ali G Show," Borat once took to the stage at a country-and-western bar in the southern United States and performed a song called "Throw the Jew Down the Well" as the rednecks sang along and cheered.

Yet far from being outraged, some of the most creative and powerful Jews in Hollywood are big fans of the film _ including Larry David, Garry Shandling and Larry Charles, the legendary Seinfeld writer who directed the Borat movie. Borat is the creation of British comic Sacha Baron Cohen, himself a Jew.

"I see Borat as a bit of a folk hero or even a superhero," Seth Abramovitch, a Montrealer living in L.A. and one of the brilliant minds behind the gossip blog "Defamer," said Thursday.

"Most Jews assume there’s still anti-Semitism lurking everywhere _ even here in Hollywood _ but it may take a random traffic stop in Malibu for it to bubble to the surface. Borat has a secret identity _ Sacha Baron Cohen, who we know is an observant Jew _ but then he changes into his Borat costume and completely transforms himself into a naively likable Jew-hater, flying around the world to ferret out anti-Semitism wherever it may be hiding."

The great thing about the film, says Mark Breslin, the Canadian comic behind the Yuk-Yuks nightclubs, is that it exposes anti-Semitism for exactly what it is _ the product of supreme stupidity, he says.

"Since the character of Borat is an ignoramus, everything he does is seen as being ignorant. So Sacha Baron Cohen is equating anti-Semitism with ignorance, and knowing that, it becomes an attack not on Jews but on people who dislike or hate Jews. The movie makes anti-Semitism look stupid."

In the United States, however, some human rights organizations haven’t been quite so enthusiastic, saying Borat goes too far in his cheerful anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement last month saying that, while it understands that point Baron Cohen is trying to make about the ignorance behind racism, it fears "the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke."

Breslin disagrees.

"The kind of people who would go see an independent comedy are smart enough to get the joke," Breslin said. "Audiences are quite intelligent who go to things like comedy clubs and movies like ‘Borat.’ They’re smart enough to know when the motive is hateful, and when the motive is more satiric."

Len Rudner of the Canadian Jewish Congress says Borat is unveiling real anti-Semitism wherever he goes, not encouraging or celebrating it.

"He exposes the follies of others," Rudner says. "People ought not to take offence about the follies he’s exposing; they should be taking offence that they exist."

Indeed. For Abramovitch, the film also serves to remind Jews that far from being a thing of the past, anti-Semitism is still alive and well.

"There’s something comforting about seeing a saloon full of rednecks clapping and singing along about grabbing us by the horns and throwing us down a well," he said. "The laughter is as much a nervous release as it is a natural reaction to a genuinely hilarious situation. It’s a deceptively dark variety of comedy that tells Jews that their lingering sense of unease, no matter how settled or assimilated we think we may be in 2006 America, is still very much justified."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Front Page, Industry News

Far from offending Jews, some see Borat as an anti racism crusader

TORONTO (CP) _ Borat Sagdiyev, the fictional character at the centre of the new comedy "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," is ridiculously anti-Semitic.

The movie, opening Friday, features a "running of the Jew" segment back in Borat’s home village in Kazakhstan that would be astonishingly offensive if it were not so ludicrously funny. On the Comedy Network’s "Da Ali G Show," Borat once took to the stage at a country-and-western bar in the southern United States and performed a song called "Throw the Jew Down the Well" as the rednecks sang along and cheered.

Yet far from being outraged, some of the most creative and powerful Jews in Hollywood are big fans of the film _ including Larry David, Garry Shandling and Larry Charles, the legendary Seinfeld writer who directed the Borat movie. Borat is the creation of British comic Sacha Baron Cohen, himself a Jew.

"I see Borat as a bit of a folk hero or even a superhero," Seth Abramovitch, a Montrealer living in L.A. and one of the brilliant minds behind the gossip blog "Defamer," said Thursday.

"Most Jews assume there’s still anti-Semitism lurking everywhere _ even here in Hollywood _ but it may take a random traffic stop in Malibu for it to bubble to the surface. Borat has a secret identity _ Sacha Baron Cohen, who we know is an observant Jew _ but then he changes into his Borat costume and completely transforms himself into a naively likable Jew-hater, flying around the world to ferret out anti-Semitism wherever it may be hiding."

The great thing about the film, says Mark Breslin, the Canadian comic behind the Yuk-Yuks nightclubs, is that it exposes anti-Semitism for exactly what it is _ the product of supreme stupidity, he says.

"Since the character of Borat is an ignoramus, everything he does is seen as being ignorant. So Sacha Baron Cohen is equating anti-Semitism with ignorance, and knowing that, it becomes an attack not on Jews but on people who dislike or hate Jews. The movie makes anti-Semitism look stupid."

In the United States, however, some human rights organizations haven’t been quite so enthusiastic, saying Borat goes too far in his cheerful anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement last month saying that, while it understands that point Baron Cohen is trying to make about the ignorance behind racism, it fears "the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke."

Breslin disagrees.

"The kind of people who would go see an independent comedy are smart enough to get the joke," Breslin said. "Audiences are quite intelligent who go to things like comedy clubs and movies like ‘Borat.’ They’re smart enough to know when the motive is hateful, and when the motive is more satiric."

Len Rudner of the Canadian Jewish Congress says Borat is unveiling real anti-Semitism wherever he goes, not encouraging or celebrating it.

"He exposes the follies of others," Rudner says. "People ought not to take offence about the follies he’s exposing; they should be taking offence that they exist."

Indeed. For Abramovitch, the film also serves to remind Jews that far from being a thing of the past, anti-Semitism is still alive and well.

"There’s something comforting about seeing a saloon full of rednecks clapping and singing along about grabbing us by the horns and throwing us down a well," he said. "The laughter is as much a nervous release as it is a natural reaction to a genuinely hilarious situation. It’s a deceptively dark variety of comedy that tells Jews that their lingering sense of unease, no matter how settled or assimilated we think we may be in 2006 America, is still very much justified."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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