Monday, January 22, 2007

The Misuse of Certain Rodeo Reaction Shots

At lunch yesterday, a friend said, "I forget sometimes how conservative you are." This came after I had voiced a very general, not incredibly hawkish support of Israel. Such is "how conservative" you can be in New York.

Most of my friends in both Texas and New York are moderate people, including the one mentioned above. Being a natural contrarian who's bounced from north-to-south-to-north, I feel like I've been able to maintain some kind of centrist politics of my own while ridiculing the extremists on either side of me. You could call this a position with some integrity, or you could call it a cheap way to avoid adopting a strong position. Your call.

This is a roundabout way of getting to another critique of Borat, this one from Armond White. I agree with the blogger at Quiet Bubble (where I found White's piece, and which seems like a smart place to visit, run by someone in Jackson, Miss.) that White goes a bit too far in his anti-Borat argumentation. But on his travels to "too far," he does get at something important. I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a funny guy, but I also think too deep a political defense of his humor's value is a really bad idea. I'm still not convinced he really cares who he ridicules (look at Ali G's interview with leftist deity Noam Chomsky). But many people have praised Borat because they see it as politically adroit, and if you see it this way, I think you have to agree that Cohen's politics, like Michael Moore's, all but force him in to very narrow, carefully chosen attacks. White writes:
In one of the film’s silliest sequences, Borat appears at a rodeo and sings the U.S. national anthem using jokey lyrics. Director Larry Charles chooses reaction shots of beefy, disapproving white folks. Surely Mets and Lakers fans would have felt the same insult (ask Roseanne Barr), but Cohen doesn’t dare risk offending the markets where his checks are signed.
I'm all for critiquing the cultural assumptions of rodeo denizens (and the assumptions of Upper West Side cocktail partygoers, though their assumptions are presented with a higher sheen and more annotations, of course), but said denizens getting upset at someone botching the national anthem (especially when they're not in on the joke) is hardly incomprehensible, and I would think it's obvious that that reaction alone doesn't make them xenophobic. To stack the deck in favor of your own piety like that is just cheap, whether you're Borat or Rush Limbaugh.

(Speaking of the national anthem, check out the Mavericks' Jerry Stackhouse singing it before a game recently. Making Dallas -- and Chapel Hill -- proud.)


Blogger Fox said...

Nicely done. I don't blame him a bit for opting out of the fifth above "free", it's tricky and overused.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Salty Atheist said...

How the f*ck does singing the National Anthem at a basketball game honor "God"? It's the land of the free and the home of the brave. Brave PEOPLE. The National Anthem honors America and Americans. I'm not going to any more Mavs games. Good thing I live in San Francisco.

4:50 PM  

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