It all started with this BBC News piece titled "How Borat Hoaxed America." Over at Netscape, Karina Longworth has been poking around into the techniques the producers of Sacha Baron Cohen's movieBorat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan used to get the unwitting saps who interacted with Cohen's alter-ego, Borat, to agree to be interviewed by the comedian on camera. First, Karina dug a little deeper into just exactly who Borat producer Chelsea Barnard is, and then she interviewed New York Times Magazine's The Ethicist, aka Randy Cohen, about the film and the techniques used by producers to get Borat's victims, er, subjects, to agree to be made fools of on film. The Ethicist implies that Borat is, well, less than ethical when it comes to disclosing to interview subjects the nature of what they're agreeing to.

I'm rather of two minds on this. While I can see the point of Borat's interview subjects who feel they were misled and made fools of, the bottom line is that Sacha Baron Cohen didn't force anyone to say the incredibly foolish things they said -- on camera. Tennessee rodeo manager Bobby Rowe, who opened up to Borat with his real feelings on those damn Muslims and homosexuals, is especially red-faced about the whole experience. The thing is, are the people Borat gets to reveal their inner ass the victims of a sinister, unethical hoax? Or has Cohen (the actor, not The Ethicist) simply found a brilliant way to tap into people's hidden sides and get them to show it to the world? I mean, honestly, these people knew they were on camera, regardless of whether they knew the context, and yet some of them said things that most intelligent people would never mouth off about.

And what about shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report? It amazes me how people agree to be interviewed for those show without seeming to be aware of their nature. Cohen -- The Ethicist, not the actor -- argues that there's a line between making a fool of a public figure, versus tapping some "unwitting sap" and getting them to reveal their foolishness. What say you, Cinematical readers? Is Borat brilliant? Or are Sacha Baron Cohen and his producers pulling a mean-spirited fast one on the poor, unsuspecting public?

More Borat than you can shake a donkey tail at:

Borat: The (Kind of ) Sequel

Borat Responds to Kazakhstan Advertisements
Fictional Borat Angers Real Kazakhstani Government
categories Movies, Cinematical