Borat’s Strategy

I’ve heard it claimed that Borat’s humor is subversive because the fact that Americans take him seriously (instead of realizing he’s a caricature) demonstrates their prejudices against Middle-Eastern people.

This seems mistaken to me. Meeting people from importantly different cultures can be, in my experience, an extremely weird experience. Not because those Others are inherently weird; rather, they’re relatively weird, in comparison to my past experience. (And presumably I strike them in just the same way.) The point being that when Americans take Borat seriously, maybe they’re just being hospitable, not bigoted.

Borat’s humor is subversive, but through a different strategy: by offering Americans a walking stereotypes, he’s giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their bigotry (e.g. his anti-Semetic remarks give anti-Semites an invitation to do the same). This is importantly different from the first strategy discussed:


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