Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Booyakasha!


“Is good!”


- Kazakhstan vs Borat: Apparently, the people of Kazakhstan find the character Borat to be offensive. Perhaps I’m being insensitive in suggesting what these folks should and should not be offended by, but this is idiotic. My whole thing is, the Borat character is a parody of the stereotypes people have of Eastern Europe. It is not funny because it is an accurate representation of these folks and I don’t think the character even comes close to purporting to be an accurate representation of these folks. I mean, who is suddenly convinced that folks from Kazakhstan are incestuous sheep-herders after watching this show? It’s not promoting these stereotypes, but making fun of the people who are silly enough to believe these stereotypes, right? It’s similar to what Dave Chappelle did with black folks in the “Chapelle Show.” My main point is that if anyone is offended by the Borat character, I think it is because of a blatant mis-reading of what he as a comedic character does. Again, perhaps it’s slightly insensitive of me to suggest that a group’s offense is misguided, but I just don’t think their offense is based on a solid reading of how Borat functions. The Borat character isn't based on reality, but is parodying the American folks that believe the stereotype, right? Borat is only funny if people believe him and react to him—it is these people that are the butt of the joke, not Borat. Am I wrong here?

- Eagles: The Eagles proved last night what most of us suspected last week. Their season is over. Oh well. Seahawks are gonna win the ‘ship anyway.

- Joe Beats: Joe Beats emo-hop CD “Indie Rock Blues” is available today. I’m not exactly sure what that means. I guess it means you can order it online today or something. Anyway, you should. Buy it here.

- Behind the Beat: Stones Throw is releasing a book called Behind the Beat which has pictures of “the creative spaces of [underground] producers and DJ’s from the US and UK.” Although the folks pictured in the book are folks that are largely irrelevant and/or folks I’ve completely lost interest in (The Grouch, Premier, The Automator, etc), it’s still cool to see pictures of records and equipment and stuff. Cop if you’re into that sorta thing.

- Robbing Banks on the Phone: I’ve got nothing but respect for this woman who robs banks while on her cell phone.

-e

27 Comments:

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

kazhakstan is central asia (the great missing region of this planet), not eastern europe. and that's partly why it's either more or less offensive than chappelle: no one, including sasha, knows anything about those countries. thus you can use them indiscriminately as "totally weird vaguely european, vaguely arab foreign countries." barat's a stereotype of nothing in particular attached to a particular country.

 
At 8:53 AM, Blogger emynd said...

"Barat's a stereotype of nothing in particular attached to a particular country."

That's the only good argument I've heard all day about that. I'm an idiot.

-e

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Drew said...

Poor Birds. As a Ravens fan, I never get disappointed because I make sure my expectations are as low as humanly possible. Did I expect a win against the Jags? Hell no! In fact, I anticipated an embarassing blowout. I think that's what diehard Eagles fans need to do- I know that there's a lot of team/city pride, which is fine, but maybe they shouldn't pull a Broadway Joe and guarantee victory every single week. Eagles fans just strike me as hyper-defensive: you HAVE to agree that their team will pull out a W, and suggesting anything to the contrary automatically makes you a hater. Whatever happened to being realistic? Also, they should stop using homophobic epithets for people who don't root for the Eagles. Actually, on second thought, they should keep doing that, as it's not offensive at all (here, I'm speaking in terms of the Eagles fans I personally know/hate).

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous embryo said...

yeah, I'm with bethlehem shoals, emynd. I saw some of this discussion on the NPF, too, and I was a little surprised at the ferocity of your defense of what is clearly hurtful to the people of kazhakstan. Consider:

* Borat's stunt in question, which provoked the statement from the Kazahkstanis, occured in front of a European audience, not an American one. We have no way of knowing how this was interpreted, especially given Europe's historic attitude towards places eastward (in this case, even more eastward than Eastern Europe).

* Dave Chappelle is a black man who has, debatably, every right to construct satirical representations of black people in the image of how white folks picture them, for the purpose of revealing the stereotypes that black people feel they are asked to play up to. He would know what these are, and he can accountably construct these characterizations. Baron Cohen, on the other hand, has nothing to do with Kazhakstan, has no claim to any productive satirical perspective, and therefore I find it very hard to swallow the hypothesis that his intent is simply to make fun of the people his character interacts with. Furthermore, even if that -were- his intention, the risks he takes by building such a ridiculous stereotype-based character (namely that people might laugh at the 'wrong' things) are not his to accept on behalf of the people of Kazhakstan, whereas Chappelle might have a valid claim to the right to take that risk. Borat is funny in and of himself, regardless of how people react to him, and honestly that's clearly the overwhelming reason for his success. "Is not good."

Honestly, I've laughed at Borat, real hard. As hard as I've laughed at any aspect of the Ali G show. Still, I can't even begin to defend the premise.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous faux_rillz said...

Damn, man, I think I would be less embarassed if my girlfriend caught me looking at male-on-male porn than if she saw me reading that "Behind the Beat" book.

Truly a manifestation of the worst sort of fanboyism.

 
At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh emynd, how soon we forget....
mr. ali g himself moght be speaking turkomen if it were not for those brave hungarians whose horrible food poisoned Attila while his thundering hordes of horsed archers ravaged much of the known world. Central Asia may now be a relatively backwater spot upon this oblate elipsoid........but oh the glory that was Samarkand and Khiva, the capital of the oasis cities; how long shall your legacy be tarnished by these Eurocentrists. As Edward Gibbon said in 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire': 'what a different world this would be if Europe had felt the full brunt of the Tartar horse.' PS- Free Beans from child-support so he can stop cuttin' the raw with similac PSS-we all know who's gonna win the big one, those hicks (as bleach would term it) from western PA. Go Stellars

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger emynd said...

You know, I still don't buy that this shtick is really all that "hurtful to the people of Kazakhstan." The point is, nobody knows anything about Kazakhstan including myself as Shoalsy illustrated. And, the issue of "accountability" isn't necessary here like it is with "black" and "white" politics. After all, does it matter if Cohen has some Kazakhstanian blood in him? If that were the case, does that change how we or the country of Kazakhstan reacts to the shtick? The answer is clearly "no" as far as I'm concerned while that issue is much more complicated for "black" and "white" issues. Likewise, the indiscriminate "stereotyping of nothing in particular" is precisely that: indiscriminate "stereotyping of nothing in particular." There's no real referent for the stereotyping so we just have someone drawing up a completely arbitrary set of insults for a country nobody knows much about in order to draw some fairly cheap laughs out of the uncomfortable interaction between Americans and a "foreigner" they know nothing about. I don't know. Maybe I just don't think this act is really all that offensive because Kazakhstan is such a sort've anonymous place to us that the comedy simply isn't dependent on Kazakhstan at all. It's dependent on the interaction between the ridiculous Borat character and the American/European characters that don't really know how to react to him. I still don't really think Borat is all that funny in and of himself just like I don't think Ali G is funny in and of himself. That's why the the interview format is so much more succesful than the fictionalized movie format he tried to pull off. Basically, Kazakhstan is just the unfortunate reference in this joke (It's like Albania in "Wag the Dog") and I still think that Borat's character is so over-the-top I can't see how anyone can see it as anything but a ridiculous joke.

-e

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger emynd said...

I'd like to thank Garrett for stopping by and confusing the living hell out of me. I'm not Eurocentric enough to have anything interesting to say about European history.

Faux_Rillz,

I like looking at well-shot pictures of records and records in rooms and equipment and equipment in rooms regardless of who's room it is. Sue me.

-e

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous bliz said...

holy shit garrett!!!!

out of nowhere killing it!!!

my man.

oh yeah, emil- you can't let this go after your hypersensitivity to all things racist.

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger emynd said...

you can't let this go after your hypersensitivity to all things racist.

I can't? The Ali G character can be seen as a parody of stereotypes of black folks in England, no? And, I don't think that the Ali G character is "racist," just like I don't find Borat to be particularly offensive. I mean, it's definitely "insensitive" and schitt, but isn't that part of the humor, too? I dunno. This schitt is complicated.

If Kazakhstan is really that offended, fine, take it to court, but I still think it's kind've ridiculous. What's the charge gonna be anyway? "Defamation of national character"?

-e

 
At 12:55 PM, Anonymous embryo said...

I don't think Ali G is a charicature of black folks at all, emil. I was pretty sure that he was a charicature of the white "geezer", which is a British subculture that appropriates quite a bit from black culture, especially black American culture.

I just find it odd that you'd place so much weight on the intent of Sascha Cohen, when for me intent operates the same way we have discussed in the past regardless of the context: it's only 50% of communication, and even though the other 50% is up to the listener, you as the speaker/Borat are still at least partially responsible for it, in that it will be taken as part of what you're communicating. If Cohen is profiting from the fact that his intent is being ignored or misread, that is pretty problematic.

And it seems odd also that you'd see this as operating any differently than any other dynamic wherein a historically maligned and invisible group is being exploited for laughs by people with privilege. And yeah, of course it would matter if Cohen had some Kazak blood in him -- it would totally change the context, just like his Jewishness affects the context of Borat's anti-semitism. I don't understand why you think these principles don't apply here as much as across any cultural gap with an unbalanced power dynamic. I mean, if there's a reason you see it as so different, I'd like to understand it.

Some important things to consider:
* as of 2000, more than 30% of Kazhakis lived below the poverty line
* many ethnic Kazhakis are descended from Mongols (so the white/non-white dichotomy is most definitely in play here)
* 47% of the country is muslim (so the west/east judeo-christian/muslim dichotomy is also most definitely in play)


just things to think about.

honestly, though, I agree with you in that it really isn't that big a deal. I bet many Kazhaks can take the joke. Still, if they are upset, I would argue for their right to be upset, not against it.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

Emynd,
I think this debate is pretty irrelevant outside of your involvement and stance.
"Otherness" and "our" conventional response to it offers great opportunities for humor. As our culture outwardly professes to place a premium on tolerance and understanding of "otherness" this situation becomes progressively more humorous. People that are different and not in seemingly precarious situations get laughed at. I don't have a problem with that and I'd venture to say that anyone that does have a problem with that is full of shit or they are pathologically earnest.
People that self-identify with those who are being ridiculed are, in my mind, justified in being upset with the misrepresentation of who "they" are. I feel that it's reasonable to be pissed when people are laughing at "your" expense, whether the humorous depiction is accurate or not.
To avoid all of this Cohen could have pulled a "Perfect Strangers" and created his own Mypos. For me the gags would be just as fulfilling, he could fuck sheep and "Joy Dance" till his heart was content. He didn’t whatever.
What's interesting to me about this whole thing is that, emynd, the strong-willed yet sensitive racialist is all but saying, "Fuck those cow punching Kazakhs". You seem to be the first person to jump down someone’s keyboard for any perceived slight of black people. Do you feel that you have some vested interest or concern for the perception and welfare of black people? If not then there's at the very least some lack of consistency here. At worst it's simple disingenuous exoticizing. emynd, I'm calling shenanigans on you.

"Don't be ridiculous"

 
At 1:08 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

I thought Ali G. was a take-off on Tim Westwood. Which from a racialist point of views is just a bit too sticky to deal with in sober hours.

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger emynd said...

I don't think Ali G is a charicature of black folks at all, emil. I was pretty sure that he was a charicature of the white "geezer", which is a British subculture that appropriates quite a bit from black culture, especially black American culture.

I don’t want to get too side-tracked with this point, but I would like to say that do I think it's difficult to talk about white folks who "appropriate" black culture without somehow simultaneously talking about black culture.

I just find it odd that you'd place so much weight on the intent of Sascha Cohen, when for me intent operates the same way we have discussed in the past regardless of the context: it's only 50% of communication, and even though the other 50% is up to the listener, you as the speaker/Borat are still at least partially responsible for it, in that it will be taken as part of what you're communicating. If Cohen is profiting from the fact that his intent is being ignored or misread, that is pretty problematic.

I'm not arguing the "intent." At least, I'm not intending to. Heh. Anyway, I'm attempting to argue that Borat affectively achieves his comedy not necessarily by making fun of Kazakhstanian folks, but through the interaction of this foreigner and the "regular" American/Euro folks in the skit. I don't care about his intent. I'm just saying, I still don't feel like the skits are based on laughing AT Kazakhstan at all. I’m arguing about the performance of the humor, not the intent of it.

And it seems odd also that you'd see this as operating any differently than any other dynamic wherein a historically maligned and invisible group is being exploited for laughs by people with privilege.

See above. I just don't get the feeling that their identities are really being "exploited."

And yeah, of course it would matter if Cohen had some Kazak blood in him--it would totally change the context, just like his Jewishness affects the context of Borat's anti-semitism. I don't understand why you think these principles don't apply here as much as across any cultural gap with an unbalanced power dynamic. I mean, if there's a reason you see it as so different, I'd like to understand it.

Well then can't Cohen's defense just be "I have a Kazakhstanian grand ma"? Does that automatically give him the entitlement to talk about this stuff with out being offensive? Or what if he grew up in Kazakhstan? Or what if he visited a few times? Where do we draw the line? I'm not sure this sense of "entitlement" is relevant here because while there is certainly a "historical malignment" as you call it, what exactly is that historical alignment based on? In the case of black folks and jewish folks, the history of marginalization and oppression is recent and familiar enough for us all to have some sort of referent, so the issues of “entitlement” hold a bit more water. But, isn’t the point here is that there is no such historically oppressive reference point for Americans and Europeans who don’t know a goll-darn thing about Kazakhstan? This whole shtick to me is either (a) taking a stereotype so far that it’s completely unbelievable or (b) the creation of an absolutely arbitrary stereotype with no clear reference point. In both cases, the Kazakhstanian people are simply the unfortunate grounding point that grounds the joke in some sense of reality, but I do not feel like they are the butt of the joke.

Some important things to consider:
* as of 2000, more than 30% of Kazhakis lived below the poverty line
* many ethnic Kazhakis are descended from Mongols (so the white/non-white dichotomy is most definitely in play here)
* 47% of the country is muslim (so the west/east judeo-christian/muslim dichotomy is also most definitely in play)


I know that “ignorance is no excuse,” but while these facts complicate the issue, I think it is important to realize that the average viewer (i.e. me) simply does not know these little factoids and thus the humor isn’t based on any of these factoids. There are never any issues of race and/or religion presented in the Borat skit.

Perhaps this is all a long-winded way of saying that the skit doesn’t purport to have any link to the reality that is Kazakhstan and/or the Kazakhstanian identity.

I mean, on a sort’ve basic level, I can certainly see why the Kazakhstanian people are “offended,” but I think it’s silly to be offended by something that is just uninterested in the “reality” of the situation.

In reality, you and Rocco are probably right and I’m probably just privileging first-world minority oppression and am too caught up in my own ideological grid to see that.

-e

 
At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats it.. When ever you get questioned and have to defend your stance, you make a long diatribe about so people loose interest in what the discussion was about, or you make them so enraged that they cant think to respond. I for one have lost interest but somehow enraged that Borat can bring about this type of heated race discussion.

PS - The Eagles are now on a slide that will last them for the next 3 years. Any team that TO leaves becomes a disaster. SF 4-21, BAL 11-14 (only going to get worse), PHI is 2-4 without TO. Every team ends up with a losing record. My point dosent hold much water, but you cant argue statistics. Go Skins.

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger emynd said...

Haha! I do do that long diatribe thing, but definitely not on purpose. It's mostly because I'm verbose and struggle to succinctly defend my position.

I'm totally wrong in this situation. Everybody is else is right. Rocco is correct that this whole thing could've been averted if Cohen just used a fake country. He didn't. Oh well.

I'm wrong. I'm stupid.

-e

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger emynd said...

Do you feel that you have some vested interest or concern for the perception and welfare of black people?

Yes, Rocco. I want to save you!

-e

 
At 6:13 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:42 PM, Blogger emynd said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

If that last anonymous post is from Brains, fuck you. A few short months living around D.C. isn't enough reason to suckle the teat of a hog. Your lady has mighty fine teats, more than worthy of being suckled. Get on it.

If someone else made that anonymous post, fuck you. You should have put down a name so that I can type terrible things about your woman.

 
At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF is this mental Masturbation? I was going to leave a simple comment, but after reading these 20 comments i am too exausted to continue. jeezz. (well maybe it made me laugh once or twice so not a complete waste.)

 
At 5:16 AM, Anonymous bliz said...

"(a) taking a stereotype so far that it’s completely unbelievable"

remember emil, this is subjective, and something that you have misjudged in the past. if kazakstani's are pissed let them be, they deserve it. they are being portrayed as a backwards, racist, sexist, incestual, third world country.

i don't understand why you don't have their back when they are underrepresented in american discourse, but you frequently are the spokesperson for other issues of 'racialism' as ali g would say.

oh yeah, if anyone has seen the skit where ali g is chilling with the mississippian wine tasters, it is something no american white boy could get away with. even if he is trying to expose the racist good old boys in this case.

 
At 5:29 AM, Blogger emynd said...

i don't understand why you don't have their back when they are underrepresented in american discourse, but you frequently are the spokesperson for other issues of 'racialism' as ali g would say.

Hey Mr. Johnny-come-lately, I've already admitted I was wrong.

-e

 
At 7:56 AM, Anonymous bliz said...

oh.

i don't read your long posts.

 
At 8:08 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Yeah and apparently you don't read the short ones either. The one where I admitted wrong-nitude is less than 50 words, terd.

The gist of the post was this: "I'm wrong. I'm stupid."

-e

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey rocco, type something terrible with deez in your mouth.

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm totally wrong in this situation. Everybody is else is right. Rocco is correct that this whole thing could've been averted if Cohen just used a fake country. He didn't. Oh well."

But no! He couldn't have chosen the fake country because he is journalist from an actual country. And that country is kazahstan. I think that helps him get people talking to him, no?
Finally I also agree that the fact that there is nothing perticular about kazahstan that he makes fun of really decreases the offensivness.
Finally all this is really unimportant. What is improtant to me is that I have spent many hours laughing at these characters, borat no less. plus for me he is easiest to imitate, hifive....

 

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