The Borat sequel has received backlash from many including President Trump. What happened?
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest mockumentary has caught the attention of many Americans, including Donald Trump, after its release on Friday.
- Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm follows the format of its 2006 predecessor, in which actors intertwine the plot of the movie with various real-life pranks and setups designed to collect funny or problematic sound bites from real people.
- In the movie, Baron Cohen tackles and pokes fun at relevant and divisive issues in America today, including COVID-19, QAnon, abortion, and partisan politics. As with some of Baron Cohen’s other stunts, the entire movie appears to serve as a critique of Trump and the American right. Several scenes in the movie portray conservatives as ignorant or simply heartless. In an interview with the New York Times, Baron Cohen said that his goal in making the movie was to “reveal the dangerous slide into authoritarianism” which he associates with President Donald Trump.
- Perhaps the most controversial scene in the movie shows former New York Mayor and current Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani with his hands down his pants in a hotel room after what he believed to be a real interview with the woman who was actually an actress playing Borat’s daughter in the movie. Giuliani claims that the scene was edited to appear more incriminating than it actually was, and called it a “hit job.”
- Giuliani responded to the movie on Twitter, calling the video “a complete fabrication.” Giuliani says that he was “tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar.” He claims that the film is “an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family,” referring to the Hunter Biden laptop scandal.
- President Trump responded to the Giuliani scandal on Thursday night, calling Baron Cohen unfunny and a “creep.” The president also claimed that Baron Cohen had tried to prank him, but that Trump “was the only one that said, ‘No way. This guy is a phony guy.'”
- Baron Cohen responded to Trump’s comment on Twitter, thanking him for the “free publicity.”
- Meanwhile, Kazakhs have expressed distaste over Baron Cohen’s portrayal of their country. #cancelborat trended on Twitter and Instagram on Friday as thousands of Kazakhs called the movie racist and unfair to their people. In reality, the movie’s “Kazakhstan” scenes were filmed in Romania.
- Generally liked the film. Huff Post points out that, although unorthodox, the film’s core themes include women empowerment, cultural acceptance, and personal growth. Vox says that the movie makes an important statement about problematic gender norms upheld by the Trump administration.
- Expresses skepticism that the Giuliani scene was taken out of context. Daily Beast calls the compromising incident “not an accident,” while Newsweek reports that Giuliani feels unfairly targeted by Hollywood. Slate provides a frame-by-frame analysis of the scene, which concludes that “in the best possible interpretation of the end of the encounter, Giuliani should probably refrain from tucking in his shirt when he’s in the same room as other people” and reports that he “got more handsy than was strictly necessary” with the reporter.
- Ties the themes of the movie to broader sociopolitical issues affecting the country. The Guardian writes that Giuliani’s conduct is a reflection of the “very low bar” America has set for “powerful white men,” and draws a connection between him and Jeffrey Toobin, the reporter caught masturbating on a Zoom call last week. CNN points out the role of racial stereotyping in the movie and in America today.
- Provides mixed reviews of the film. New York Post said that the movie was worth a watch, but called it overly political and criticized Baron Cohen for making Rudy Giuliani into a “joke.” The Times said that the movie was funny “for some,” and claimed that Baron Cohen only got away with the racially charged humor because it poked fun at poor Europeans instead of Africans or African Americans.
- Sympathizes with Giuliani. Daily Caller and Washington Times report that the scene was unfairly edited to incriminate Giuliani, while New York Post offers coverage of the poor treatment Giuliani and his supporters have received in response to the movie. Fox News leans into Trump’s comment, saying that the prank was not funny.
- Stays tuned for more Hunter Biden news. The Blaze reports on Giuliani’s response to the movie, which included promises of “much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell.”
© Evelyn Torsher, 2020