Watching 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm' in The Year of the Karen and Ken
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking. You know, because it’s 2020 and there’s a pandemic going on so I - and my loved ones - can’t leave the house.
I mean we can, we just need to wear a mask. Which would be fine if you're okay with the government controlling your mind man. Anywho, just a fair warning about what’s to come - I’m pretty sarcastic. I feel the need to say that bluntly.
The first Borat came out when I was a sophomore in "highschool" junior kindergarten (2006) and you best believe that the hallways ran rampant with jocks and class clowns yelling “My Wife” or “wawaweewa”.
While in a lot of ways the first movie was illuminating with regards to the average American prejudices against foreigners, it wasn’t made with the same intent as Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was. In fact. It must have been made on purpose for a purpose.
Go figure. A comedy movie being made on purpose! In 2020. Who would have thought:
The Great Dictator
You know what, it’s fine. You get it.
I also suppose it’s hard to remember 2006 but here are some highlights from that year:
Nintendo releases the Wii
Pluto is no longer considered a planet
Saddam Hussein is executed
Google buys Youtube
Trump on CNN is quoted saying “I like nepotism”.
And sadly, Steve Irwin is killed by a Stingray.
Yes, I ended with the story I remember the most. God bless Steve Irwin.
Now, here we are in the year 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, a sociopathic American president thinks he is still running for re-election, and populations around the world are calling for the police to be defunded. Considering that we all can’t risk going to the theatre (don’t get me started on Tenet), the distribution strategy to give exclusive rights to Amazon Prime, is not only smart but totally accessible. Especially in a year when Amazon Prime has become a titan in commerce.
At the end of viewing this film I voted. (Yes I’m an American living in Toronto).
I voted because I couldn’t believe that what I was viewing was real testimony from privileged white Americans thinking they can say whatever they wanted without consequence.*
The debutante ball, in this regard, is my personal favourite scene. Not to give too much away but for those that aren’t familiar, a debutante ball is where fathers showcase their daughters in front of other fathers because Jesus?
In anycase, Borat decides this is what he has to do in order to fit into the elite white male class in the South. It ends with a traditional dance between Tutar and Borat that just left me speechless - top five moments in cinema history. It exposes the double standard of young women in high society and their fathers that insist on maintaining their patriarchy. And for what? Because “young girls are fun”? Based on who’s opinion? Their father’s?!
The actions of Borat and his daughter Tutar are only eclipsed by the revealed hidden perspectives of the so called “White High Society” that they are desperately so eager to be a part of.
As a first generation kid myself, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Borat and his daughter. As outrageous as this plotline is, it’s one hundred percent the immigrant story. We all just want to fit in, and a lot of families place themselves, and those they love, in these? ...delicate? situations only to be rejected.
This just proves that you don’t have to sacrifice being “edgy” or avoid taboo subjects in order to master the craft of satire. I think we live in an age where comedy is actually itself a societal documentary. Yep, we’re in the “upside-down”.
There’s like so many things I could say about the world right now. Honesty I’m stupefied. I have no idea if I’ll even have a job like….EVER. I mean that. But like… there’s been enough time in this pandemic that I could have gotten a job at Burger King and have already been fired because some “highly educated PhD graduate” got mad that their online order arrived too late. Even worse it was delivered by a Black person.
I love you all.
Hang in there.
*They are so kind to have blurred out the faces of the Southerners at the rally that gave the Hitler salute.
Nola Cooks is a Toronto-based filmmaker and columnist for The Town