Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Borat and post Borat

I think we were preparing for or gone to India when Borat first opened here. This week it's at the Bear Tooth, our favorite movie theater where you can have dinner while you eat and movies are only $3.

So after all the hype it seemed to me that Borat was Everything is Illuminated plus Candid Camera with no boundaries. It would have been hard to take all the Jew jokes if Cohen weren't Jewish. Making that a running theme, sort of gave him permission to hit on everyone else.

[Hey, I know the pics are fuzzy, but it was dark and I don't like using the flash, and here especially it would have been tacky. Anyway, you get the point of how the Bear Tooth works.]

I got to talk about it afterward at a returned peace corps volunteer party - with people who hadn't seen the film, but had heard about it. In Germany it is illegal to publicly deny the holocaust. For an American, that grates badly against my First Amendment sensitivities. Our ideology is that if your ideas are good, through open discussion they will win out. Suppressing people's thought only drives it underground. I say ideology there because I'm sure the Founding Fathers did little or no empirical study on this and we know that those who can control access to information or to dissemination media can screw up that assumption, at least in the short run. But it seems to me that neo-Nazis are alive and well in Germany despite the prohibition.

Well, Borat made me realize how much we self censor in the US. Given what I see in the movies and on tv it's hard to believe that we self censor at all. But Borat really was over the top - especially in putting down lots of different types of people. And in exposing people who agreed with his racist, sexist, and other prejudiced ranting. (Though someone said they'd seen a tv interview of the car salesman - who told him how fast he needed to drive to kill Gypsies - who said he'd actually questioned his goal of killing gypsies and finally said 30 miles an hour to shut him up after constantly being asked the question. So we don't know what people really said and what was edited. But this wasn't supposed to be a documentary, it's a made up story, so I'll allow him that much.)

The point I'm trying to get to is that it is probably better to have people say this out loud where everyone can hear it, rebut it, etc. than to repress it and send it underground. Especially in the age of Google where anyone can get to anything anyway. The key is that children get the care, attention, and education they need so they don't feel so alienated in the first place, and so their crap detectors are working well.

I know I caught myself a couple of times thinking, "I shouldn't be laughing at this," and I suspect others felt the same. And if this starts a trend of similar movies we're in serious trouble. Actually, I don't think too many people could pull something like this off. Ideally, people who watched the movie started talking about why it was both terrible for him to say all those things and also ok. Life isn't simple.

And at the party I ran into Jack Dalton.. I knew him years ago when he was a student at UAA and a waiter at the Golden Pond restaurant, a Chinese restaurant run by Charlie, who now owns Charlie's Bakery. A long article in the Anchorage Daily News recently focused on how in college he began exploring his birth parents' Alaska Native culture and how he has a flourishing business now as a Story Teller using Alaska Native themes with modern twists. He gets contracts at school districts, museums, and other venues - including private homes - all over the country.

And thanks Sunny, for hosting the party

- it was a State of the Union party and I'd thought I missed it yesterday. But she emailed me today strongly suggesting I show up. I didn't catch the hint. It turned out I'd won the grand prize by guessing how many standing ovations the president got. (That's why it was today, so she could count that as well as use of different words such as democracy, terrorist, math (Sunny teaches math)). Anyway, by her count there were 3.5 standing ovations which I guessed exactly. And the prize is pretty neat - two tickets to the Pamyua concert next Thursday.

[Hey I know these pictures aren't that sharp either, but it was fairly dark, don't like flash, etc. Sunny is the sunny one in the middle. And I figured it was ok to cut off Jack's head since you can see it in the other picture. You probably didn't even think to complain about cutting off his body from that one.]

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