Popular entertainer Sacha Baron Cohen, more widely known as Ali G., has entertained audiences with his bombastic, push-the-envelope humor. However, his upcoming film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan based on one of his characters, Borat, has the Anti-Defamation League worried. Borat is a parody of an outlandish anti-semite in a series of laughably inappropriate situations.
"The premiere of Sacha Baron Cohen's new film featuring his farcical character 'Borat' has raised anew concerns among some in the Jewish community about the character's notoriously boastful expressions of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of others," wrote the ADL in a press release Thursday.
The ADL worries that not everyone will understand the satirical nature of Cohen's sketch, fearing the humor to be dangerously too sophisticated for some: "When approaching this film, one has to understand that there is absolutely no intent on the part of the filmmakers to offend, and no malevolence on the part of Sacha Baron Cohen, who is himself proudly Jewish. We hope that everyone who chooses to see the film understands Mr. Cohen's comedic technique, which is to use humor to unmask the absurd and irrational side of anti-Semitism and other phobias born of ignorance and fear.
"We are concerned, however, that one serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry," the press release elaborated.
However, the ADL certainly recognizes Cohen's intent of erasing stereotypes by showing how ridiculous they are on stage, but fears this message may not reach all audiences.
The ADL press report continues, "While Mr. Cohen's brand of humor may be tasteless and even offensive to some, we understand that the intent is to dash stereotypes, not to perpetuate them. It is our hope that everyone in the audience will come away with an understanding that some types of comedy that work well on screen do not necessarily translate well in the real world -- especially when attempted on others through retelling or mimicry."
The ADL did level one concrete critique of Cohen's work: "It is unfortunate that Mr. Cohen chose to make jokes at the expense of Kazakhstan. It would have been better to have used a mythological country, rather than focus on a specific nation." A little constructive criticism can go a long way.