Aish.com’s sister site, the largely pathetic Jewlarious.com, has reached a new low. In a serious review of the new Borat movie, Brenda Yablon writes:
… Satire is a powerful comedic tool that exposes the bigots by holding up their behavior to ridicule. The Anti Defamation League, while being concerned about "the character’s boastful expressions of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of others," nonetheless is hopeful that people will understand Baron 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." Admittedly, Borat at times achieves this end.
But truly good satire, of the Charlie Chaplin variety, goes even further. It makes people reevaluate how they view the world and even commit to changing their beliefs and actions. This, Borat by no means achieves.
Borat devolves into bathroom humor that sinks to levels so low that it can only be termed grotesque. It succumbs to the all too common temptation that most modern comedies seem to fall prey to – it assumes most viewers want toilet humor. By supplanting edgy, thoughtful comic satire with frat party antics, Borat squanders a golden opportunity. Instead of walking away from the movie and thinking about how ridiculous and dangerous racist ideas and those who hold them are, viewers will most likely come away thinking about why the longest scene in the movie involved Borat wrestling with his producer at a convention of insurance agents.
The President of Iran is calling for the elimination of the State of Israel. Attacks against Jews are rising at an alarming pace. Israel advocates and a handful of activists are trying to bring this issue to the forefront of the world’s attention, but have little to show for their efforts. Now is the time for creative ways to get this message across, and satire is one of the best methods. Unfortunately, in 2006 all we got was Borat, when what we truly need is Charlie Chaplin.
Let’s see if I have her line of "reasoning" down: Borat does not rise to the level of Chaplain’s Little Dictator, the iconic anti- fascist satire of all time. Therefore, Borat is bad. True, the film does achieve effective satire of Jew haters with alarming regularity, but its descent into "frat humor" ruins the film. Right. Okay. So the Marx Brothers were also failures for Duck Soup, even though it is widely considered to be the next best thing to the Little Dictator.
Here’s a tip for you deep thinkers over at Aish – if you want Charlie Chaplin, make Charlie Chaplin. Of course, you don’t have anyone talented enough to do so. You don’t have anyone talented enough to make Borat, either.
You run an institution that still claims the so-called Torah codes are supported by science and endorsed in peer reviewed journals. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. You use those codes to trap kids, to make them frum – even though you know them to be untrue.
Borat is humor. Through that humor Sascha Baron Cohen exposes the stupidity of antisemitism. He does not claim to be Chaplain. He does not claim to be a rabbi or a religious figure or to represent Jews, Judaism or Torah.
But you claim to be representing Judaism, God and Torah – and you lie, deceive and cheat as you do so. Glass house? Stones?
Or, to put it more clearly – if you don’t like the movie because of its earthy humor, fine, say so. But do not fault Cohen – a novice filmmaker – for not equaling Charlie Chaplin at the peak of his powers.
Now go ask your Rosh Yeshiva why Discovery still uses the codes.