I have only one question for the three University of South Carolina fraternity boys who appear so memorably in Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: How does worldwide celebrity feel?
Probably a lot like being a pledge again, I’d guess. Except the hazing this time is coming from every quarter of the globe.
In the film, USC Chi Psi frat members Anthony, Justin, and David pick up a hitchhiking Borat Sagdiyev in an RV, ply him with booze, and bluster about their lack of respect for women and how great America would be if we could still own slaves. They get hammered, spew slurry racist and sexist remarks, and treat the guerilla filmmaker to an on-the-spot screening of the Pamela and Tommy Lee sex video.
But what really stands out for me during the trio’s 10-minute cameo — even above all the binge drinking and bigotry on display — is the almost incomprehensible stupidity of these three. They knew they were being filmed; there was a camera operator in the RV with them. They also knew, probably better than most Americans, that this is the YouTube age, when virtually anything captured on video can and probably will appear on millions of computer monitors the next day.
In Borat’s Kazakhstan, they keep people this stupid in cages.
The film, of course, stars the British satirist pretending to be an unwittingly offensive TV journalist from Kazakhstan whose boorish sensibilities clash with ordinary Americans he meets on a cross-country road trip. The storyline is driven by a series of improvised encounters with real people who become Cohen’s unsuspecting foils while taking part in what they think is a real documentary. The three S.C. boys are hardly the only ones Cohen gulls into spilling their unfiltered feelings in the film; Borat is filled with similar appalling confessions. But few of his targets come off as being both so extraordinarily repellent and idiotic at once.
Any S.C. officials (or USC admins) hoping the movie quickly flops and exits the national stage is going to be disappointed. After opening Nov. 3 in 800 cinemas nationwide, it killed at the box office, earning $26.5 million. Last weekend, it blew up into 2,566 cinemas and took in an additional $29 million. Borat‘s gonna be sticking around for a while.
The few people not yet aware of Anthony, Justin, and David’s repugnant shenanigans became even fewer last week when the boys nabbed international press for a new stunt. Having made world-class jackasses of themselves in front of the entire planet, they’ve decided there’s only one responsible thing they can do: sue.
Last week, therefore, media outlets everywhere (as far away as Sydney, Australia) picked up the story that two of the boys are suing 20th Century Fox and the film’s three production companies. The basis of their claim? That they were duped — not difficult to swallow, really, after seeing them in action, but they’re also saying Cohen tricked them into “engaging in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in,” according to the lawsuit.
Um, right. Next, they’ll be trying to convince us that “CPT” stands for “certain people’s time.”
If you ask me, Borat Sagdiyev has a point. Some people really do belong in cages. Anthony, Justin, and David might do well in Kazakhstan. There’s no Jack Daniels, but I hear fermented horse urine makes one hell of a shooter.