Is it too literal-minded to point out what any viewer of the movie can see for himself—that the crowd at the rodeo stops cheering quite fast when it realizes that something is amiss; that the car salesman is extremely patient about everything from demands for pussy magnets to confessions of bankruptcy; and that the man in the gun shop won't sell the Kazakh a weapon? This is "compliance"? I have to say, I didn't like the look of the elderly couple running the Confederate-memorabilia store, but considering that Borat smashes hundreds of dollars worth of their stock, they bear up pretty well—icily correct even when declining to be paid with locks of pubic hair. The only people who are flat-out rude and patronizing to our curious foreigner are the stone-faced liberal Amazons of the Veteran Feminists of America—surely natural readers of the New Statesman. Perhaps that magazine's reviewer believes that Borat is genuinely shocked when he finds—by video viewing—that Pamela Anderson has not been faithful to him and he will thus not be the first to "make romance-explosion on her stomitch." (And either the love goddess agreed to stage the moment when Mr. Sagdiyev tries to stuff her into a "wedding bag," or she and her security team displayed a rare indulgence to the mustachioed interloper.)
The joke, in other words, may well be on the prankster. I thought the same about Da Ali G Show. As far as one can tell, most youth culture is as inarticulate and illiterate and mannerless as Sacha Baron Cohen made it out to be: The elderly dupes who did their best to respond (Gen. Brent Scowcroft on the anthrax/Tampax distinction being the most notable) were evidently resigned in advance to quite a low standard of questioning. You can see the same fixed expressions on the faces of politicians when they attend a "real" event, like Rock the Vote, where wry, likable smiles are obligatory, and the only dread is that of appearing uncool.
Having gone this far in a curmudgeonly direction, I may as well add that any act that depends too much on the scatological is in some kind of trouble. Borat—and Borat—rely on excremental humor from the very first frames. This isn't unfunny just because it's infantile and repetitive and doesn't know when to stop; it's unfunny because the revulsion produced by feces is universal and automatic and thus much too easy to exploit. This is especially true when, in a cheap knockoff of Luis Buñuel, our hero decides to introduce the unmentionable topic at the dinner table. (To be honest, I am still reeling at the relative composure of that Birmingham society lady. If I wasn't trying to change the subject, I would say that I admired her phlegm.)
Thursday, November 16, 2006