Good essay by Bob Somerby about the over-analysis of Borat by the punditocracy. Or mis-analysis. He chops down several supposed examples of the film's condescension to its subjects, suggesting that the critics don't have any better understanding of the film's various awkward situations than Borat does. "[New York Times columnist] David [Brooks], a stranger in a strange land...fails to see that the film concerns Borat himself—and that Borat is in many ways us." I certainly felt at sea in the scene where Borat gets drunk with three real life fraternity brothers: I understood them on one level having grown up in the South, but in their racism and general all-round incoherency they were as strange and scary to me as bug-eyed extraterrestrials.

Somerby notes the humorlessness of many critics of the film. In one scene, Borat tries to check into a Dallas hotel after learning the vernacular and dress code of some local black kids, and is promptly evicted by security. The scene gets its yuks from the cultural disconnect and Borat's low-riding suit pants, but the earnest commenters on blogger Kevin Drum's board are tut-tutting that it makes too much fun of the desk clerk. The footage was all a set-up--the clerk thought he was going to be giving a tour of the hotel (the Adolphus), and had no idea who the erratic "walk-in guest" was. In an email reproduced by a Drum commenter, the clerk writes: "I also called a friend at the Dallas Film Commission and she told me that she was certain that this had some connection to a man who had been spotted driving around Dallas in an ice-cream truck with a bear in the back of it." But he can't see the comedy in that sentence, says Somerby--he can't laugh at himself.

- tom moody 11-24-2006 12:40 am