November 04, 2006

At last someone hates Borat

Sometimes I feel hopelessly out of step. I was in a gym changing room recently and Borat was on the tv and people (keep fit types) were gathered round the box laughing while Borat spoke about transvestites at an award event. The thing that first troubled me about this Borat character was his suggestion that antisemitism is common currency in Kazakhstan. His stupid "throw the Jew into the well" song, sung to an audience of supposed rednecks in the American south would have been many English speakers first introduction to an emerging former Soviet state and people. Now Tony Karon of the Rootless Cosmopolitan site has weighed in with a post on what he sees as Borat's racism:
Most of the discussion about Borat and anti-Semitism misses the point. The ADL wonders if he’s not playing a dangerous game since “not everyone will get the joke.” But they may be missing the point: The prejudice that Borat is promoting is not against Jews, it’s against Kazakhs, branding them with one of the most toxic slurs in Western discourse — the charge of anti-Semitism.
A few weeks ago one of Sacha Baron-Cohen's (ie Borat's) writers wrote about antisemitism at the Edinburgh festival in the Times. I can't be bothered to dig it up now but it was yet another tiresome "don't even go there" sort of piece. The Jews are untouchable for political critique and humour. The Kazakhs or anyone else however, they're fair game.

Thankfully, Tony Karon is not alone. The Jewish Chronicle makes a very different point from that made by Tony Karon, arguing that "Borat fatigue" is starting to set in already. Good thing, I'd say.

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