I haven’t seen “Borat” yet, so I endorse David Brooks’ New York Times column (sub. req.) today with some hesitation. But based on everything I know about the movie, it strikes me that Brooks gets this just right:
The genius of Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance is his sycophantic reverence for his audience, his refusal to challenge the sacred cows of the educated bourgeoisie. During the movie, Borat ridicules Pentecostals, gun owners, car dealers, hicks, humorless feminists, the Southern gentry, Southern frat boys, and rodeo cowboys. A safer list it is impossible to imagine.
Cohen understands that when you are telling socially insecure audiences they are superior to their fellow citizens there is no need to be subtle. He also understands that any hint of actually questioning the cultural suppositions of his ticket-buyers — say by ridiculing the pretensions of somebody at a Starbucks or a Whole Foods Market — would fatally mar the self-congratulatory aura of the enterprise.
I like a cheap laugh as much as anyone, so I’m looking forward to seeing “Borat.” But I’ll be thinking about Brooks at least a little bit.