Sunday, January 14, 2007

Borat: The Joke's On You, America!

I don't know why I never posted this, back in January. It's now the end of June and here it is.

Alright, I admit it. I watched Borat, Sasch Baron Cohen's movie about a "Reporter" from Kazakhstan who comes to America to learn about us, and Pamela Anderson.

Now, I can't say it was a hilarious movie, although parts of it were amusing. I can't even say it was a good movie. In fact, just as a movie, it was somewhat boring, and even a bit disturbing. But the most interesting thing about the movie, to me anyway, was that the vast majority of the audience, didn't even get it, and that was part of the joke.

One of the central jokes Mr. Cohen seems to bring out is the ease with which our Non-Jewish neighbors can be drawn into anti-semitism; how very close beneath the surface it lies. Of course, his earlier foray into that realm was with his character, Ali G, and his famous "Throw the Jew Down the Well" video, which took place in a honky-tonk in Arizona. He had those folks dancing and singing, with one woman even making horns with her fingers while singing the lyrics, "You must take him by his horns..."

But while the people directly involved in the overtly, if not downright exaggerated anti-semitism, in Mr. Cohen's work are clearly demonstrated to be anti-semites, the real joke seems to be on the American public; the audience.

Let's consider some of the numbers:
  • According to the latest (as of this writing) US Census Bureau data, there are approximately 299.4 million people in America.
  • According to American Jewish Committee data, there are 6.4 million Jews in America; about 2% of the American population.
  • According to the movie-industry analysts at, "Borat" has grossed $126,738,371, as of 1/11/2007.
  • According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the average ticket price in the US in 2005 was $6.41. For my calculations below, I'm going to raise it to $6.50 for 2006, which is probably at least close to accurate.
  • Using these numbers, we find that approximately 19.5 million tickets have been sold for this movie, since it opened on Nov. 3, 2006.
  • This means that, even if every single Jew in America saw this movie, there would still be over 13 million non-Jews who also saw it.
  • Borat was the #1 movie in the country for two weeks, and was still in the Top Ten for an additional four after that.

Now you don't get to be the #1 movie if people don't like it. So that means that, for at least two weeks, people thought this movie was the best thing running! They recommended it to their friends. They thought it was hilariously funny!

And who wouldn't? I mean, what could be funnier than that scene with "The Running of the Jew," where two ultra-stereotyped charicature "Jews" run down the street in Kazakhstan, complete with horns, big noses and sidelocks (on the man, of course)? And when the Jewess lays an egg, and all the children are encouraged to go break the egg with sticks to make sure it doesn't hatch? I mean, that's comedy right there!

Virtually none of them realized that the joke was not only on them; it was them.

I wonder how many weeks it would have been in that slot if he were making fun of any other minority