Borat: Beyond ‘Politically Incorrect’

David Ansen (Newsweek, 12/22/08) has a point when he says that the movie Borat “epitomized the [Bush] era.” But he strikes a jarring note when he says:

Racism, misogyny and homophobia come pouring out of the mouths of [Sasha] Baron Cohen’s unsuspecting dupes, and in a time of political correctness, when the slightest suggestion of bias on the lips of a public figure gets raked over the media coals, there was something fantastically liberating (and frightening) about seeing the national id so baldly exposed.

Presumably Ansen’s thinking of someone like Don Imus, who was “raked over the media coals” not after he showed “the slightest suggestion of bias,” but after years of wallowing in racist, homophobic and misogynist schtick with the tacit approval of his multitude of pals in the media elite.

In a media environment where the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter have wildly lucrative careers, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get what Ansen calls the “national id” exposed–and celebrated. What Borat provided–in the wake of the 2006 election’s repudiation of Bushism–was an opportunity to see such creepiness ridiculed and scorned. That’s what makes the film, as Ansen rightly notes, a cultural landmark.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.