Fiona McCade: Where Tony Blair failed, Borat has succeeded

There is only one joke, and that is in watching those he is offending

Share

He's an embarrassment. The embodiment of all that is bad about the country he represents. He's a gross caricature of a proud nation and not only gives a false impression of his homeland, he's made it a worldwide laughing stock.

No, not President George Bush. Thankfully for US citizens, there are enough of them about to reassure the rest of us they aren't all like their president, but Kazakhstan doesn't have the same advantage. Since British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen released a film - Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - about the exploits of his outrageous Kazakh character Borat Sagdiyev, the ruling elite of that country has become very upset, to the extent of Baron Cohen being a talking point at the recent meeting in Washington between Mr Bush and Kazakh premier Nursultan Nazarbayev, as predicted in The Independent on Sunday last week.

You can see why the Kazakhs are annoyed. Borat's wit ("Democracy is different in America. For example, woman can vote, but horse cannot!") and wisdom ("We have many hobbies: disco-dancing, archery, rape and tennis") has reached an audience that the fledgling ex-Soviet republic can only dream about. Hardly anybody knows anything about them, but here's some irritating comedian with access to the world media making them look like a bunch of dog-shooting, Jew-baiting, child molesters whose favourite tipple is horse urine.

But when it comes to presenting a distorted view of the beliefs, traditions and the true nature of a country, there is one slight difference between Borat and Mr Bush: Borat isn't real. He is the invention of a well-known character actor and comedian.

Watching Baron Cohen as Borat, there really is only one joke, and that is the reaction of the people he's offending. Because they don't know he's bogus, the way his appalling behaviour affects them is the beginning and end of the fun. As even Mr Nazarbayev must understand, if you're watching this film and you haven't grasped that Borat is pretend, you're wasting your time. Everybody who sees it will know Borat's just a joke.

So, it's OK to embarrass your country if you are a native of that country (please step forward Mr Bush, oh, and you too, John Prescott) but if you're a foreigner pretending to be someone who isn't real, but who is supposed to be from another country, you'd better stop it right now.

How wonderfully surreal, with war, poverty, third-world debt and global warming up for grabs, to think of two presidents discussing someone who doesn't exist. Sport and politics have collided for decades, but now comedy could become a new bargaining tool on the world stage. The only reason Mr Bush and the president of the world's 10th-largest oil producing nation could be talking about this film is because they want it stopped, so I'm now wondering how long it'll be before an Amnesty International flyer drops through my door asking me for a donation to Get Sacha Baron Cohen Out Of Guantanamo Bay. The Kazakh government has not ruled out legal action against him and I bet Mr Bush won't be pleased if some two-bit British joker's freedom of speech comes between America and more oil.

But I'm proud of Baron Cohen for more than simply forcing two immensely powerful men to put a fictional character on their agenda. After years of Britain being perceived as America's poodle, a Briton has actually made some impact on Mr Bush's political strategy. The US might have done little but pat us on the head lately, but at least now, by even vaguely endangering America's oil supply, the poodle can honestly say that it influences US foreign policy - even if it is by crapping on the White House lawn. Where Tony Blair has failed, Borat has succeeded.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...