Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: I do, I see.

S3: Charlotte traded me for me, I am.

S4: What’s in the box? Yo, yo, down here.

S1: Hello and welcome to another Slate spoiler special podcast, I am Dana Stevens, movie critic at Slate. And today I am joined by Sam Adams, who’s the senior editor of our culture blog Browbeat to talk about and help help me get this right. Sam Borut, subsequent movie film delivery of prodigious bribe to American regime for make benefit once glorious nation of Kazakhstan. That’s my very mild version of the Borat voice.

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S5: I believe that’s correct. They’re actually like, we’ll talk about the SERP. They’re like four different subtitles in this movie. So it’s quite a dilemma for people who are sticklers about that. But I think officially that’s where it ends up.

S1: As I actually have to say, I love the title. I think the title is one of the funniest things about the movie, and I enjoy seeing it. So I was glad to have the chance to do so. Of course. Borat subsequent movie film is 14 years later sequel to Sacha Baron Cohen’s really kind of comedy comedy industry changing or at least in 2006, it seemed that way. First Borat movie and maybe we should start off. I feel like we need to put a little of this in a little bit of a frame for those people who might not have been, I don’t know, old enough or somehow plugged in enough to have gotten the hype around what the first Borat movie was in 2006. Do you have anything to say about that? I mean, in terms of sort of contrasting what a Borat one means to what a Borat two means?

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S5: I mean, I think, you know, the first Borat was considerably as much as I hate to use this term, it’s inevitably will have to be considerably edgier in 2006 than this one is now. I mean, it was a style of mostly kind of British comedy that started to come in, I guess, sort of in the late 90s, like the the office, the British office as part of it the day to day. And Chris Morris’s stuff like Brassai kind of is part of its lineage as well. But it’s so familiar in the US now and 2020. I mean, whatever the plot points they have to deal with in this movie right away is the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen can’t go out on the street as Borat anymore because everybody recognizes him because the first movie is so well known. And that’s true for the style it represents to. So they try to push things a little bit farther in some respects. And basically they have to adjust to a world in which the things that not only because it’s been 14 years since the first movie came out, but in which the things that kind of were shocking in in 2006 are just not now.

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S1: Right. I mean, I was looking back at my own review of the 2006 movie, and I feel like I treated it as much as as a kind of cultural event as I did as an aesthetic object. You know, I mean, it really seemed like it was kind of ripping a hole in, you know, a comedy that year and in the news as well. And that just points to what a completely different moment we’re in now in relation to politics, the news, public figures, you know what we expect from public figures in terms of, you know, hypocrisy. I mean, as you say in your review of this movie, the new one, this kind of gotcha comedy that he does is just it’s harder to adapt to the world of 2020. And maybe that’s why I just lay my cards on the table up top. I didn’t find this movie as funny. I’m glad it’s there. And there are there are moments in it that which we’ll talk about that, you know, are revelatory. But I’m glad it’s out there. I’m glad people are laughing at it. We need something to laugh at right now. But I wanted to laugh at this movie so much, I put it on wanting that feeling of kind of explosion and taboo breaking and just I can’t believe he did that comedy that the 2006 one brought. And instead and maybe to some degree, this is deliberate and is just a function of where we are right now as a culture. But I mean, this left a bad taste in my mouth that many, many moments. And and it was hard to see outside the ugliness of what he was showing us to, you know, the sort of hilarity of him being able to show it, if that makes sense.

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S5: Yeah, but I think he is in a trickier position. You know, in the first movie, he has the sort of a common project that runs through a lot of his stuff, but particularly through the Borat movies there. They are dedicated towards sort of exposing, you know, prejudice and foibles and stuff like that. But they’re really particularly focused on anti-Semitism. And that’s something that in 2006, at least for some people, you kind of had to work a little bit to get people to reveal. And now it is, you know, in this movie, literally something that you can just ask somebody to write on a cake and they will do it without questioning you. Like, it’s so out in the open now that the idea that the whole premise of I’m going to trick people into revealing their innermost prejudices is like people are running for office on those prejudices now, like they’re not under the surface anymore. So they’re kind of in our face every day, all day long. So, I mean, do we even need a movie, funny or not to remind us of? That is I mean, that’s something that the movie, I think addresses in some ways, but it certainly has to. This is part of the dilemma that is comes with making the sequel that comes out now.

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S1: So maybe it sounds like we’re somewhat on the same page there. Where. You weren’t rolling in the aisles at this rate, I mean, even if you were impressed by his his daring and his kind of ability to pull these stunts off, would you say that you you laughed really hard?

S5: I mean, there is there are definitely moments where I laughed very hard. You know, both times I watched it. And there are moments when I didn’t think there are moments in this one where it’s not even going for a laugh in some cases and maybe talk about those more specifically later on. I think it’s I mean, the novelty of the first movie is not there. One thing I miss and this is not really a sort of hot taker like a conceptual flaw, but watching the first one again last week or so, I was really struck, you know, not just by the kind of obvious things. And I’ve been worried whether the kind of cringe comedy of it would hold up or it would be mean. You know what I was really struck by watching it is just like what an incredible sort of physical performance that out in the first movie is like just just the way Sacha Baron Cohen, like, crosses the street. As Borat is funny, watching and thinking like this is like one of the two people alive who could conceivably play Charlie Chaplin in a movie or something like that. He’s just got this incredible sort of physical comedy chops that really inform that really make the character more than just this kind of xenophobic caricature. And I don’t get as much of that in this movie. I think this one’s much more driven by bits. You know, it feels less it’s weird to say that it’s less character driven because I don’t think anybody would accuse the first movie of being that. But I just didn’t. He was not it wasn’t as enjoyable like just to watch Sacha Baron Cohen in this movie, just to kind of watch Borat do his thing. And I really I miss that. Interesting.

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S1: I mean, that could also be because there’s not as much Borat in this movie, because, as you said, he’s now recognizable to lots of people and there’s a scene of him being chased for autographs when he appears in his classic, you know, ill-fitting gray suit, Borat. Look, he turns into all these other characters, right? So we see him as country, Steve, that the character who infiltrates that that rally in Washington state, who’s this kind of obese farmer in overalls? Who are some of the other characters he takes on over the course of this while he plays Donald Trump? I mean, he gets into a pretty convincing Donald Trump prosthetic makeup to infiltrate the CPAC.

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S5: Some of them, I think, are not named. I know there’s one character named Cliff Zafari at one point.

S1: Is that the guy who goes to the debutante ball? No.

S5: Well, no, that is that is Professor Philip Drummond. The third, I believe, is right. But I think Cliff Safari is the guy who asks the sort of deep consultant about how he should behave at a debutante ball, if I remember it correctly.

S1: Right. And of course, this is Sacha Baron Cohen’s thing is shapeshifting, taking on different costumes, et cetera. But I think you’re right that there’s something about Borat himself who is somehow lovable in spite of all his incredible prejudices and, you know, offensive things that stream non-stop from his mouth. And you sort of miss that. There’s not as much time spent on screen with him. But to compensate, we have a really likeable new character opposite him in the place of Azmat, who was his sidekick in the last movie. He now has a daughter tutor who’s played by Maria Baklava, who is I mean, I think it is really a co-lead in this movie, and it’s quite extraordinary. He apparently did a worldwide search to try to find the right young woman. She’s 24, playing a 15 year old to play tutor because obviously it has to be someone who can can do some of the shapeshifting physical comedy that he does, but also someone who is utterly shameless and fearless and is able to, you know, just to sort of have a brass conscience and will when they brave these strange situations that they get into.

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S6: I prepare my daughter for market and I am looking for a suitable cage for her.

S7: OK, a cage. This is pretty nice for nine hundred bucks.

S6: Not a hell of a lot. I think this one too expensive. Let them all of them want to get close to what their daughters happy. You got to make them. I think you have many other girls are going to live in here with me. How many girls you normally put in the cage this size? One. But I hear Donald Trump. He cage Mexicans.

S5: Yes, I’m I’m part of these movies is an especially if you watch them more than once or even just sort paying this sort of attention to them is not just everybody thinks about the kind of gotcha interviews and the kind of outlandish comedy bits of them, but they’re really so much of them as about as comedic performers. And, you know, you could always doubt some bits of it are which are staged and which are sort of purely what they appear to be. And then there are a lot of things that I think are somewhat in the middle where the people are that they’re kind of interviewing or doing the scene, where they’re not reciting lines, but are also not in the situation that they’re being that they’re being presented in. But you really can watch the. Performer Sacha Baron Cohen and Rebecca Lobo and this movie just kind of shaping the scene, like as they go to seizing a moment, turning the interaction in a different direction and things like that. And it just takes like an extraordinary amount of not just talent, but kind of presence, a real intelligence about how this is going to play later, which parts can fit together. And Sacha Baron Cohen has been doing this for, you know, 20 odd years or something. It’s not surprising that he’s really good at it. But the extent to which Maria Bacolod is able to kind of perform in that same way. And if you watch especially like the her encounter with Rudy Giuliani at the end of the movie, some of the other bits, you really just see her kind of thinking on her feet and kind of steering the thing in a certain direction. And that’s really kind of extraordinary to watch just as a as a performance.

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S1: Yeah, it’s you’re right. It’s not so much an acting skill to do that as it is an improv skill and a kind of management skill. Right. I mean, it really involves being very psychologically attuned to the person that you’re talking to and sort of trying to get the performance out of them that you want, even though they’re not an actor. That’s really key. What you what you just said, I think about the different methodologies employed in this movie, which is the same as in the first Borat movie, but because of the greater likelihood that he’ll be recognized is even more complex this time, which is that there’s essentially three kinds of scenes. There’s scripted scenes where, you know, everybody in it knows they’re in a movie. For example, the scenes with just Borat and his daughter, of which there are a lot and we’ll get to that. But that’s a that’s a significant plot thread about their relationship and its development. Then there’s the just the pure pranking kinds. Right. Which I guess you could put the Giuliani scene into and other scenes with big public figures or when they go into the, you know, infiltrate various gatherings where they’re just pretending to be someone else. And everybody there is either fooled by that new identity or just slowly figures out they’re being poked in, gets mad about it. And then there’s this third kind, which, for example, I would say that the long sequence where Borat hides out or lives with these these Kuhnen dudes, remember when he’s he needs a place to hide when the pandemic starts or a place to be safe and wise up kind of rooming with these two conspiracy theorist roommates. I mean, clearly, those guys had to know something was going on, right? Because a cameraman was following them around, presumably for days. There had to be a whole lighting crew there. Obviously, there’s some mixture there. I don’t think those guys are quite actors, but they had at some point to be told that they were in on something.

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S5: Right. There have been a bunch of interviews coming out over the last few days with a woman named Janice Jones, who’s a 62 year old black woman from Oklahoma who plays at what point in the movie Borat leaves to tire to kind of be babysat by her. And she ends up kind of being like the moral conscience of the movie. She tells them of like misogyny is a major theme in this. And the fact that, you know, as we know from the first movie, like women in quote unquote, Kazakhstan, are kind of kept in cages. You know, he’s horrified at the beginning of the movie to learn that his daughter, who’s 15, is unmarried, which makes her the oldest unmarried woman in Kazakhstan. And the whole premise is that he’s going to kind of go to the US and give her to Mike Pence in order to help Kazakhstan’s premier kind of get in the strongman club with Donald Trump. And she’s the one jinnies Jones is the one who ends up kind of telling Borat off and saying, look, you can’t treat your daughter like this. You can’t treat a woman like this, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And those interactions are apparently kind of more or less legitimate. But she’s been interviewed a bunch recently and you find out that they approach her and they said, OK, you know, we’re we’re shooting a documentary about, like child care in the US. So we’re going to take you and put you in this house, which is not yours. And then this guy is going to come and hand his hand off his daughter, do this and that. So the whole situation is fake. And she knew that she was participating in a documentary like they didn’t just come up to her door randomly, but then the interactions between her and Borat, you know, apparently is some sort of genuine. So that’s what I’m talking about, the kind of middle ground of things that aren’t quite that aren’t exactly fake but sort of aren’t purely cinema verité either. I think a lot of the movie kind of falls into that category and they write the Q and on guys in Washington State, I think definitely is in that category as well.

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S1: I mean, jinnies Jones is a really good example of someone who could not have purely fallen into the category of being punkt, not only because of the length of time that she interacts with them, but because of how smart she is. You know, I mean, she seems to be someone who has a moral conscience and who has some sort of an actual bead on the situation of, you know, this guy who appears to be this very abusive parent who wants to keep his daughter in a cage. She just clearly is not somebody who would who would put up with that and continue to to deal with that situation if she was not, you know, changing her relationship to it in some way. So she’s kind of, you know, she’s one of the few moral centers that this movie has, although, I mean, you could certainly argue that not in character perhaps, but as creators, you know, Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Baklava are the ones sort of driving the moral center of the movie as well. So, as you say, the basic plot of this movie has to do with the attempt to give. Far away as this bride, you know, this sort of bride gift from the government of Kazakhstan to Premier Mikhail Pentz, Borat refers to him, that ends up failing because they can’t get into this CPAC conference that that Pence is speaking out. And so then they downgrade their ambition to to give her to Rudy Giuliani. But before all of that stuff happens, we meet them back in Kazakhstan. I think it was actually filmed in Romania, but we meet them in their dirt poor village and and we meet Borat, who has been apparently doing hard labor in the 14 years since the last movie came out because he failed to make glorious nation of Kazakhstan and has been punished this whole time. So this is actually a chance for him to to, you know, regain his freedom and and his stature in the country. And in fact, before the decision to make to take the prize that they’re giving away, the idea is that that Borat will be bringing this gift, that he’s a chimpanzee who is at once a porn star.

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S5: And I think Kazakhstan’s premiere talk show host or something like Kazakhstan’s MINUT like Kazakhstan’s minister of culture. And I think no one television star is the official term. Something like that. Yeah. So he is Johnny the Monkey is being sent over as a special guest for Mike Pence, Borat. Initially it was they initially wanted to give the gift to Donald Trump. But if you’ve watched the first movie recently, you may remember that there is a scene in that where the camera kind of pans along the entrance to Trump Tower and you see Borat at the end taking a shit like on this side in 2006. So they replay that clip and they’re like, well, unfortunately, we can’t get him to close to Trump. So they go for the second banana. Mike Pence, the the voice pussy grabber, as Borat calls them. But when Borat shows up in the U.S., having gone kind of the slow carriage route while the monkey got to go express, he opens the crate and finds that not only has his daughter sort of stowed away in it, but that she has in order to keep herself alive during the transatlantic journey, Eden, Johnny the Monkey. So unfortunately, now he has to give his daughter, who’s a poor substitute for a porn star monkey. But this is the only gift he has left to give our great leaders.

S1: All right. There’s two or three big, big set pieces. We definitely have to discuss that I can’t wait to get to, but I wanted to talk maybe first about some of the more interstitial interactions that they have that that Borat and his daughter Tutera have with Americans, which aren’t always ugly Americans, exposing their the prejudices that are so close to the surface and so easy to expose, but are sometimes, you know, just somewhat baffled citizens trying to to do right by this strange Florida and his daughter who have appeared in their lives. The first one that occurred to me is the facts guy. There’s a copy store that they keep going to to it to send faxes back and forth to the premier of Kazakhstan. And and these faxes get more and more bizarre and are about things like the dead monkey and, you know, giving the daughter to the pussy grabber in chief or his his sidekick and are just really right out front about the bizarre stuff that they’re doing without giving any background to to the facts, dude. And I have to say that he acquits himself pretty well. I mean, I suppose that there are moments that if he he really thought all this was happening, he would have called the cops on them. But I also think there’s a there’s a nice element in those scenes with the facts guy that he may know he’s being pranked, but, you know, be playing along with it in a somewhat generous way.

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S5: Yeah. And there’s a there’s a charming little bit to where Borat. But I guess he’s playing one of his other characters at this point. But he is decidedly says one of the big changes in the U.S. since he was last here in 2006 is that everyone has gotten calculator crazy, which means that everybody’s on their iPhones all the time and he needs to get a phone himself to be able to navigate the country. So he goes to a telephone store and he’s buying a cell phone of this guy named Brian, who he later describes as America’s minister of technology. And Borat is just, you know, totally confused by face time. He is talking to the salesman over FaceTime, but keeps telling him to shush because he wants his twin brother in the phone to get a chance to talk to stuff like that. And Brian just he doesn’t seem to be like in on the joke, but he’s just very politely kind of humorous, this guy. And it’s interesting, like so much of these both both these movies are set in, you know, shot in the south. And a lot of that has to do with, you know, sort of exposing like racism and the indifference to the history of slavery and stuff like that. But there’s also the extent to which they kind of exploit, but then also kind of savor the certain kind of Southern politeness or indulgence or stuff like this. The fact that, you know, if the character, whoever, whatever the name of the character is at that point was in some store in Manhattan and being like, you know, oh, I just discovered how to use porn on the cell phone. Do you mind if I just take it into the bathroom for a few minutes? You know, they want to call the cops. They’re. And this cell phone guy, and I think it might be in North Carolina at that point, I’m not sure we know, but it’s just kind of like, oh, I think he figured it out. You know, it’s sort of yeah.

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S1: That’s seen as joking on Borat himself, the character as much as it is the guy he’s he’s interacting with. I mean, there’s right there’s moments that he’s making a fool of himself to make you laugh rather than making a fool of his his mark. Right. All right. Well, I guess the next big scene I wanted to talk about is the gross out scene. I mean, I would say that this is more or less the equivalent of the naked wrestling scene, the first Borat movie. Right. I mean, it’s a moment of physical comedy that sort of trying to gross you out, but also just makes you laugh at its sheer taboo breaking insanity. And that is this debutante ball kind of cotillion that they attend, father and daughter in the persona, as you say, of of Professor Drummond and his daughter isn’t her name Sarah Jessica Parker Drummond? I believe his fake name.

S5: And that it might have they might have been at Santur, Jessica Parker, just to make it slightly less obvious for the people there. But, yeah, that’s basically the idea.

S1: So they’re in Georgia. It’s a southern debutante ball. And and what it turns into is this Kazakh fertility dance that the two of them decide to put on for the whole group that then devolves into this kind of like menstrual fertility rate, whereas the father and daughter are joyfully dancing together to this gypsy music. She starts to pull up her gown and you realize that she’s on her period, her moon blood, as she she says to her dad. And and then it really just becomes this sort of like gross out joke where you sort of observe or witness her, her bloody thighs and underwear as they’re doing this dance. And she and her dad continue to just sort of gleefully grin as their, you know, as they’re performing for this group of fathers and daughters, essentially not aware that they could be doing anything but delighting everyone with their folk dance. And I’m curious what you thought about this in light of the movie’s attitude toward women, because as you said, I mean, there’s this ongoing joke about how horribly women are treated in Kazakhstan. You know, she she begs for a nice cage. Her dream is to live in a golden cage like Princess Melania as she calls the first lady. And so throughout the whole movie, there’s this there’s a kind of critique of misogyny. But that you could also say is, you know, kind of in this scene, for example, maybe an example of it. But I’m going to stand up for this debutante ball scene and say that it’s the one part of the movie that I really did laugh out loud at, if only just at the sheer fearlessness of both of their performances and the grins on their faces. But when we were recording The Culture Gap, a segment about this yesterday for for Slate, our guest, Jody Rosen, was somewhat disturbed by the scene and was saying, you know, I felt like that the whole joke of the scene was not on the people that they were making uncomfortable at the kitchen cotillion. But it was just simply isn’t it gross that women bleed every month or something like that? I can see it being laughed at in that way and kind of being hard at by frat boys in a way that I might find disturbing. But at the same time, I thought there was something sort of gloriously feminist about the idea of this father daughter ritual where they’re both just completely psyched that she’s bleeding. I don’t know. Did you have any thoughts about that?

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S5: Well, it’s interesting. You make the comparison to the kind of naked wrestling match in the first movie, because we’re watching that. I mean, I that killed me the first time in 2006 and watching it this time, like, I didn’t laugh at it at all. And I wasn’t, you know, kind of troubled by it or problematic. But it isn’t that thing where it’s just kind of like how much of this how much of the humor here is because it’s funny that, like, a fat guy has his balls and Sacha Baron Cohen’s face.

S1: Yeah, I talk about that in my review. The first Borat, actually, I didn’t remember that I talked about this. But looking back at my review before our conversation, I saw that one of my only objections to something that I found offensive in that movie that’s constantly trying to offend you about everything was that I thought there was some some mean fat humor in in the wrestling scene.

S5: Right. So this this is kind of, you know, having a birthday suit, like inevitable. And part of the humor of this, this is you know, it’s an uncomfortable scene. And part of it is like, yeah, that she’s like gross, that she’s like doing these splits with, like, giant. And it’s not just like a little she’s got like a huge smear all over her crotch. But this is also in the context of I think it’s you know, maybe right after there’s a whole scene where they go to one of those sort of fake, you know, abortion like, you know, quote unquote, crisis pregnancy centers where she’s like, you know, supposedly trying to get an abortion. There’s a whole gag where she, like, accidentally swallows a plastic baby on top of a cupcake. And then she goes to the thing and she’s like, I have to get this baby out of me. It’s dead. I don’t want it to come out, my asshole or whatever. And this pastor who runs the thing just keeps, you know, talking about how she has to have the baby and even, you know, what point Borat again, whatever Borat character he’s playing starts talking about how I put the baby in her. You know, we need to get it out. And and so the pastor now thinks he’s talking to like this 15 year old girl who’s been impregnated by her father and wants to abort the child and then is still saying, like, you have to go through this. And that’s obviously like horrifying. So having this, you know, seeing that then revolves around menstruation, you know, a couple of minutes later is sort of it fits into that context, into the context of, you know, this kind of. Sort of. And gag order all through the movie that Kazakh society etiquette, quote, quote unquote, no offense to the actual Kazakhstan, but the Borat society is incredibly, incredibly patriarchal. And it’s like you can’t you know, if a woman tries to run a store, her head will fall off. You know, if she tries to drive a car. That’s what caused the Hindenburg explosion arbeter. So, you know, it’s in the context of that and just also in the context of this debutante ball where these, you know, which is itself such a sexist institution, where these women are being presented to society by older men and they’re wearing their, you know, their white gloves and they’re, you know, off the shoulder dresses and stuff like that. So just to have her kind of, you know, exhibiting her menstrual blood in this very flamboyant way and cutting to the discomforting discomfort at faces of all the people in the room is like, that’s the humor in it. But part of it is also just like, you know, periods of gross and funny. And it is, you know, I laughed pretty hard when I was watching it the first time, and then I watched it again with my wife. And it was one of those things where I’m just like, I was going to take a beat before I react to this and make sure that, you know, I was like cracking up. And then I start getting a looks. And then she was laughing way harder than I was. So I feel like we’re fine.

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S1: Yeah. I mean, I can’t say that that scene was doing much to expose the audience members. Like who wouldn’t be uncomfortable that if that happened, no matter your political or beliefs about gender or whatever. But I still say that I laugh at that that scene just for the sheer performance and the glee that they take in that performance. And really the sense that Sacha Baron Cohen has found in Maria back of an actor of his own stripe, you know, to people who are willing to do something that gross and embarrassing and enjoy every minute of it. One thing more, though, about about the position of women in this movie that I will say that is a little bit more critical is that I’m not sure that the movie quite nails American sexism in the way that it should. Right. I mean, it posits this this very primal tribal sexism of the culture that they come from. But there’s also a sense late in the movie as Tutera, there’s a period where she kind of runs away from her dad and starts to find herself and becomes a journalist and starts to realize, wait, women can have careers and wait. You know, I can touch my own private parts without my arm being swallowed by it to the vagina. And kind of she comes into her own right and becomes, for example, somebody who could set up that interview with Giuliani on her own as as her character does. And so, in a way, it seems to me that this this movie, as smart as it is about some aspects of American politics, doesn’t quite nail, you know, the the sexism of the country that it’s exploring and trying to expose.

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S5: Right. I mean, if anything, I mean, you maybe see a little reflection of it in that there’s a moment later on to speak of sort of, you know, more sexist institutions has decided that, you know, Barack kind of decides for his daughter that she needs to get a nose job and breast implants if she’s going to properly seduce Rudy Giuliani. And then right on the eve of that happening, she walks into this. It’s like a, you know, conservative women’s club meeting at some Ramada Inn. And that’s where she kind of has her epiphany. She goes into the bathroom and masturbates and comes out in the middle of this little practically almost feels like a sort of dinner meeting or something, because after the party was like, I have this wonderful thing to tell you. You know, you don’t need to, like, put our fingers in our guns and and the women there just start getting, like, very uncomfortable. They’re like, oh, honey, you know, we don’t talk about that in public. And so you see, like, you know, a little of some of that, like internalized misogyny. There’s another part where she visits an Instagram influencer who advises her on how to be like sort of, quote unquote, sugar baby, you know, about how to be a young woman who seduces older men who are going to die soon and leave them their money. So that stuff kind of comes out of the movie Beato. It is certainly it also kind of reinforces that idea that if women just like, you know, go out and get a job, then everything will be fine and they’ll be liberated. And obviously, that is not actually the case.

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S1: Right. OK, I feel like we’re getting to some of the big payoffs now. And and the first one that we need to talk about is, I mean, what you really might consider, in a way, the the emotional climax of the movie, which is the scene in a synagogue that happens pretty well into the movie, about two thirds of the way through. Maybe there’s a lot to say about this, the synagogue scene. But you just want to describe, first of all, what what happens.

S5: Yes. So right after the scene, I’m talking about where to start on the verge of getting plastic surgery and then has this revelation that she can give herself orgasms and that everything in this owner’s manual, that this daughter owner’s manual that Borat was given by the Karzai government is a lie. And so she can actually she says, you know, I hate you and I want ever to talk to you again. She goes off on her own. And then Borat is very despondent, decides that he wants to kill himself, but he can’t afford to get a gun in the U.S. And this is just a staggeringly dark joke. He decides that he’s going to kill himself by going to the nearest synagogue to wait for the next mass shooting. Right. Which is really like just. Knocked the wind out of me the first time I like it, that’s just. Like, that’s a minute where the movie is like genuinely like right at the edge again. So he decides to describe himself as what in his sort of fervently anti-Semitic mind is a typical Jew, which involves like, you know, putting like an eight inch nose on his face and carrying kind of like a cartoon bag of money and a little wooden puppet with the word reading media on it and stuff like that. So he goes into the synagogue and there are these two elderly women sitting there and, you know, and he starts talking to them. He says he says, oh, hello, fellow Jews, nice weather, we’re controlling. And then and and these women, instead of instead of, you know, being alarmed that this guy is walking in, they sort of keep their cool with equanimity. They kind of talk him off his anti-Semitic ledge. You know, this woman who we find out in the credits is her name is Judith Tim Evans. She is a Holocaust survivor, says, you know, come up to me, you know, touch my nose. I don’t have a long nose. You know, I’m not going to inject you with my venom or whatever. And they end up having this real heart to heart. And part of what happens, I should mention another thing that causes Borat’s depressive episode is that to start, you know, who has realized that this book that Borut gave her, this owner’s manual is fake. So she’s found the real truth in a different book called Facebook. And to prove it to him, she shows him an article written by Holocaust deniers on Facebook about how the Holocaust wasn’t real. And Borat, who believes that the Holocaust was one of Kazakhstan’s greatest achievements. Specifically, the fact that there were guards in the concentration camps is devastated to learn that this wasn’t true and that the Holocaust was just, as he puts it, a beautiful fairy tale. So Judith M. Evans reassures him in this scene that actually the Holocaust was real and he’s and he’s overjoyed to find this out.

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S1: I just have to say it’s when he’s talking about Judaism that Sacha Baron Cohen is his funniest and his sharpest. And of course, he is an observant Jew in real life and keeps kosher. And these things are really a part of what he grew up with in his culture. And I completely agree that the joke about waiting for a mass shooting, the interaction with the woman at the at the synagogue, some of those moments are the sharpest moments in the entire movie.

S5: Yeah. And it’s really I mean, that scene is very complicated, too, because if you read up on a little bit like Shia jurist Tim Evans, the movie is kind of dedicated to her. There’s a link to a website that tells her whole story. And she died since it was released. She died, you know, sometime this year. And so they put together this website, this tribute website with help for members of her family. But the production is also being sued by her estate for supposedly tricking her into being this movie. And so it’s very complicated. And then they’re sort of they’re actually articles in the trade press explaining that while he was shooting the scene, Sacha Baron Cohen actually kind of broke character for the first time ever to explain to Judith Tim Evans, you know, the nature of the movie, what was going on here, that he’s a Jew, that the purpose of the scene was to sort of mock anti-Semitism and not to reinforce it. And there’s there’s a sort of hard cut in the middle of the movie where it goes from Borat talking about how he doesn’t want her to bite him and ejecta, but then to them all sort of sitting down and having, you know, sharing bowls of chicken noodle soup and stuff like that. And so the tone really changes there in the movies, like almost sentimental at this point, especially in the context of the rest of the film, which is so kind of, you know, outlandish and over-the-top. It’s this real sort of oasis of calm in the middle of it. And it shows you that. I mean, I think if anything has changed, really changed from the first movie, it’s that, you know, even as he’s playing this kind of absurd character, caricature of an anti-Semite and saying all these, you know, foul but absurdly over-the-top things, you know, Sacha Baron Cohen does kind of make sure to stop the movie in the middle just for a second and say, like, this is a joke. The Holocaust happened. Like, this is not you know, this character is not someone you’re supposed to believe in anyway. And I think that that’s like, you know, whether that makes a difference or whether, you know, people who didn’t get the joke in the first place are going to be swayed by that one way or the other. But it is a very sort of clear, like moral choice that he makes to include that moment in the film.

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S1: Yeah, I agree. And one edition on Judith Tim Evans family is that what I had read is that there’s sort of two wings of the family, that there are some people that are pursuing this lawsuit and are outraged by her portrayal in the movie and others who helped to make that website in her honor and really like the fact that she appeared in the movie. So it’s pretty complex. I mean, his you know, the layers of satire and of exposure going on in that synagogue scene are more complex, I would say, than when he’s doing things like just infiltrating a rally of rednecks. Right. I mean, he’s juggling a lot of different things in that in that synagogue scene. And and so it ends up being along with the scenes that show the father and daughters relationship changing and developing. It ends up being something that sets this movie apart from the first movie. Maybe in a good way, I mean, depending whether or not you like your Borat movies with a little sentimentality on the side, but, you know, there is an emotional arc to this movie and that synagogue scene, I think is a big part of it. Yeah. All right. And we’ve now been talking about Borat for over half an hour, and we still haven’t gotten to the first thing that everybody knows about this movie, even if they don’t plan on seeing it, know nothing else about it, which was the the revelation that came out a few days before the movie opened last week, that Rudy Giuliani gets punched in a in a big final scene of the movie are not final, but pretty close to the end. Do you want to describe the background to the punk scene? I mean, think at this point, everybody listening has probably seen these money shot or maybe not money shot, pictures of him lying on a hotel room bed with Maria Pikalyovo standing nearby. But how did he get there? What happened before?

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S5: I will do my very best. I mean, I have to admit, like having seen the movie, you know, the day before, you know, the embargo lifted his those articles supposed to come out. You know, that scene didn’t really I mean, I think was a big deal because they got Rudy Giuliani on camera. But the part of that scene that was really striking to me is the part where he says during this interview with two Tasaki of that covid-19 was manufactured by the Chinese, that in the bigger news to me, that eventually they sort of almost not quite literally catch him with his pants down because a part of the scene that kind of becomes like the money shot is so kind of chaotically edited and weirdly shot that it was really hard for me to tell what was what was going on, but at least got, you know, very quickly passed, I think, first by The Guardian as like here’s Rudy Giuliani, you know, in his room, which, you know what, in the movie is sort of a 15 year old girl. And also not clear that this character was presented to him as 15 with his hands in his right.

S1: I don’t think he was, by the way, for what it’s worth, I don’t think that theater is presented to him as 15.

S5: Yes. And so here’s Rudy with his hands in his pants and in the presence of this young woman. And it’s gross. And that that sort of went viral and Giuliani kind of pushed back against that. But sorry. But the set up of it anyway, is that Borat and Tuatara are still estranged. They’re not speaking to each other, but to Tooter learns that Borat is going to be executed by the premier of Kazakhstan unless she gives herself to Rudy Giuliani. If she decides he’s going to go through with this to save her father’s life and she’s going to get close to him by having followed in her father’s footsteps and become a journalist herself specifically for these sort of crazy right wing OCN and state sites. She’s now secured an interview with Rudy Giuliani and she is going to use this as the opportunity to kind of offer herself as a bride to heaven and Borat, you know, this is going on and that is engaged in the kind of like rush to the airport type scenario to kind of get there before it happens and stop her from doing it right.

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S1: And I would concur with you that although I went in knowing about this scene and being expecting to be most shocked by the denouement of him on the bed, I agree that some of the most shocking stuff is the stuff that he says when he knows he’s on camera. I mean, when he’s in that bedroom, he’s on a secret camera, which is why you see it partly in a mirror. But when he’s talking to her about, you know, the China virus being a manufactured hoax, he’s just he’s sitting there thinking that he’s talking to a right wing media journalist. Right. And aside from whatever happens in the bedroom, accepts a drink from her, lets her touch his knee repeatedly and flatter him as the interview goes on. I mean, I think a lot of what shocked me in that Giuliani scene was, you know, before anything untoward or secretive takes place at all, you see what a day in the life of Rudy Giuliani is like that he thinks that’s a perfectly normal thing to do. And if you imagine, I mean, sex crimes aside, if you just imagine the security risks that he takes by just following this random young woman who says I’m a journalist from a right wing Kazakh station into a hotel room and starting to talk to her about stuff, it’s just it’s really startling, especially given that this movie comes out the same week or maybe the week after he told that unbelievably preposterous story about Hunter Biden’s laptop being left at a computer repair shop for him to pick up. It’s just it just really makes Giuliani sort of list of tasks for the Trump administration seem to be something very disturbing and bizarre.

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S5: I mean, if he could be thought by the blonde in a tight dress saying that she wants to interview him and then getting on camera that he knows is there and saying that the Chinese manufactured covid, I mean, this is the easiest person in the world to compromise and certainly, I think should, you know, make you skeptical about anything else he claims to have been given legitimately or stumbled onto.

S1: Right. I mean, if nothing else, speaking of covid, he’s sitting very close to her, Basileus. Right. I mean, that certainly happens throughout. I saw one review, a British review of this movie that said that this is the first great covid movie. And it was it was an interesting angle to take on it. I’m not sure that I would completely agree. I don’t think it really intends to be about covid, although because that that happened during the course of filming, they do deal with it and talk about it. But, yeah, this is certainly a. There you see that Giuliani feels completely entitled both in terms of health and, you know, sexual behavior and the stuff that he’ll say on camera, he feels completely entitled to just do as he pleases all day long.

S5: So it is hard to tell like what happens in the scene. And rather than going through it all ourselves, I would kind of just direct listeners to an article that Matt Tarsem wrote for Slate where he really forensically kind of shot by shot like breaks down the scene. And you know what you see what you don’t where it’s clear that the footage was kind of shuffled around in time and stuff like that, you know, looks to me very much like, you know, the stuff about him sticking his hands down his pants and her you see her like pulling out the top of her shirt is very much about like it is done under the pretense of like removing his lavalier mike and the Powerpack that is usually, you know, people like stick on their belt or, you know, put inside their shirt to prevent it from being seen on camera. And it seems to be something like that. And I could not possibly have less sympathy for Rudy Giuliani is a totally, you know, sort of vile invertebrate of a person. But this really does feel like entrapment in some ways. It certainly makes me suspect that that I mean, we’re not clearly not seeing literally what happened. And it feels like it’s edited in a way that is just kind of deceptive in order to give the movie a big kick at the end.

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S1: So, yeah, I would agree. I would agree. And I would also send people to that Matthew Decem piece, which is a great I mean, whether you’ve seen that the scene or not, but especially if you have seen it and you have it right there to replay is kind of a Zapruder style. And I think he himself says in the piece discussion of editing and the power of editing to to influence how how events appear. You know, it’s super well done since his daughter didn’t give himself to or Giuliani. How does he how does he make make glorious Kazakhstan when he gets back? Can you remind me?

S5: Well, he goes back to the premiere and says, you know, he pulls totally out of this interview, says, you know what, I’d rather be executed that have you give yourself to this disgusting man. So he goes back to Kazakhstan to face his fate and confesses to the premier. You know, I’m sorry I never did that. You’re going to execute me. And the premier basically says, you know what, not a big deal, whatever we’ll manage. And then there’s the usual suspects style where Borat starts looking around this room and looking at all the charts and replaying moments in the movie. And he realizes that rather than the mission that he thought he was on, but he was actually set to do as he was injected at the beginning of the movie with what he was told were a quote unquote, gypsy tears in order to protect him. But he was actually injected with covid-19 and he has been sent all around the U.S. in order to spread the virus to the U.S. and get revenge.

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S1: He’s the index case basically. Right? He’s the American index case.

S5: Yes. Yeah. And he was sent there to get revenge on the U.S. for making fun of Kazakhstan, you know, in the first movie for laughing at them. So he has been yeah, he is kind of a unwitting weaponized super spreader of covid. And that’s that’s the big twist.

S1: I kind of love that. The big twist in this movie is entirely fictional and, you know, places and places them back in the frame of of Kazakhstan. I mean, you have to admit that there’s a kind of there’s a nice shape to that. It’s a very silly season. The usual suspects, Omeje, that you mentioned of him, him staring around the room at at artifacts. But but it provides a kind of a satisfying closure. And there’s also an emotional closure to that arc that we talked about with Tooter, because the two of them are united at the end. He seems to have become somewhat more enlightened in his view of women. Right. In the sense that at least Tutera has kind of impressed him with her independence. And there’s a moment when he admits to her that she is now his favorite of his children, even more than his brutish sons that we briefly glimpsed at the beginning. And there’s sort of a nice bond between them. And that was a moment, even though I didn’t absolutely love this movie and didn’t laugh that many times, that I kind of wanted there to be more Borat in Tutera in our future. Like, I wouldn’t mind seeing the two of them set out on some other set of adventures, right?

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S5: Yeah, yeah. There is like an emotional payoff there. There is there some sort of jokes within it about Kazakhstan as a feminist nation now? So instead of sending off mail order brides, they now send off mail order grooms and there’s a shot of like young men in tuxedos being like packed into a crate and shipped to Kevin Spacey, which I guess is progress. I don’t know. Yeah, but but then there is this sort of set piece in the first movie called The Running of the Jew, which is like the running of the Bulls, but with these kind of grotesque anti-Semitic puppet caricatures, because now they now Kazakhstan realizes that, first of all, anti-Semitism is bad and that the real enemy is not the Jew, but the American. And so now they have these grotesque that there’s a there’s like a mugger hat guy and a sort of MacCulloch type, like Karen with an Uzi running down this narrow street and like shooting green mucus on people that outcomes like a doctor Falchi puppet in his car and shoots him dead with a real 15. So that’s that’s that’s the happy ending, I guess.

S1: All right. So having reached the end of this movie, the. Some more stuff I want to talk about that sort of lies outside the scope of the movie, but seems like a big part of it because as I was saying up top, these movies are performance pieces and kind of wake up calls to the public as much as they are works of art. And that has to do with the reception of this movie and Sacha Baron Cohen’s presence in the media afterward. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about that, because you mentioned it a bit in your review. I mean, the fact, for one thing, that unlike back in 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen will now appear as himself from time to time. He went on Good Morning America with Maria Oliver as himself. As you pointed out in your review, he late last year addressed the Jewish Anti Defamation League as himself. And it’s it’s a really good speech that he made. But it’s quite startling to hear him in the persona of his, you know, Oxford accented, extremely educated, progressive self who’s not in character and lives, but is completely sincere.

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S2: In the end, it all comes down to what kind of world we want. In his speech, Zuckerberg said that one of his main goals is to uphold as wide a definition of freedom of expression as possible. It sounds good. Yeah, our freedoms are not only an end in themselves, they’re also the means to another end, as you say here in the US, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But today, these rights are threatened by hate, conspiracies and lies. So allow me to leave you with a suggestion for a different aim for society. The ultimate aim of society should be to make sure that people are not targeted, not harassed and not murdered because of who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray.

S1: He’s also feuded, some with Trump and Giuliani on Twitter about their their backlash to this movie. And I have to say that some of the funniest and most insightful Borat content that I’ve seen in the past week doesn’t come from the movie itself, but from these interactions with the media and political figures about the movie.

S5: Right. I think there’s one point where, you know, Trump was called him an idiot or something like that. And Sacha Baron Cohen said, well, you know, I always need people to play racist goons and you’re going to be out of a job soon. So, you know, if you need work, just come to me.

S1: Right there is that one. And there was also a short video that he did in character as Borat addressing Giuliani that I thought was extremely funny and sharp.

S8: You shamash I here to defend America’s mayor Rudolph Giuliani. What was an innocent, sexy time encounter between consenting man and my 15 year old daughter have been turned into something disgusting by fake news media. I warn you, anyone else try this and Rudolph will not hesitate to reach into his legal briefs and whip out his subpoenas. Jacqui.

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S1: I guess I’ll just close Sam, on asking you in a more general way, I mean, looking at the way that you framed your review of Borat subsequent movie film, how do you think this all lands differently in 2020? I mean, lots of people have observed and I think it’s very true that it’s it’s much, much harder to expose a country that is desperate to expose itself the way that America seems to be in in Maritime’s. But I do I would say that to his credit, I think Sacha Baron Cohen knows that and is trying to in some ways change his approach. I’m not sure that it completely succeeds. But I just wonder what you think about about Borat moment right now. Do you think that it’s over or that, you know, he’s somebody who’s kind of energy can continue to reinvent itself?

S5: I think he’s managed to kind of just adjust himself to the moment. And some of that has to do with what you were mentioning, that kind of extra textural things he has done around the media, in fact, that Sacha Baron Cohen gave this big speech, the ADL specifically about kind of the spread of of Holocaust denier disinformation on social media and how dangerous platforms like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and spreading white supremacist anti-Semitic content. You know, the way he’s come out in other is just to make his personal stance really clear. I think that is kind of an important part of how the movie is received. I think that that synagogue scene is a real, you know, turning point as well, where there just is like just a little moment of seriousness in it. You know, I think the goofiness of it still works out like exposing the same, exposing anti-Semitism, you know, or even showing. He’s often said his job is to kind of expose like indifference to anti-Semitism, the fact that, like, people who maybe aren’t even necessarily bigots will just like let this stuff happen right in front of them for for whatever reason. I mean, we know that happens all the time. A lot of people probably do that in 2006 as well now. But you really have to be you really have to have a pretty thick set of blinders on in 2020 to not be aware of that. So I think that that element of the movie is lacking kind of through no fault of his own. And I’m not sure I really want to see someone go to jail due to this moment with the first Borat did to 2006, because I don’t want anybody going, like, I don’t know, that far out into the bigot stratosphere in order to do it. I think, you know, really what we can hope the best for is that, you know, 14 years from now, we’re back closer enough to the old normal for something like this to feel shocking again, right?

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S1: Yeah, exactly. If people would only be hypocritical in a slightly more concealed way, it would give Borat more more layers to uncover. Yeah, there’s moments in the first movie where you sense that he’s in physical danger, like when he gives that speech at the rodeo, if you remember that part of it. And I think that those moments in this movie happen more behind the scenes. There’s an extraordinary video that he posted to Twitter yesterday, Sacha Baron Cohen did of himself escaping from that that rally where his country, Steve, you know, a moment that they suddenly discover that they’re being pranked and get on to him and he gets chased, literally chased into his trailer and has to sort of say, pull out, you know, which made me really want to see the behind the scenes featurette for this.

S5: I will hold out for that when this comes out on DVD, although it’s it’s interesting that they cut that, too, because, I mean, there’s an edginess to seeing him in physical danger in the first one. And but I think, you know, maybe in this one the idea of a Jewish man being in physical danger from a bunch of kind of like Kuhnen supporting covid denials is no longer something we can take even sort of, you know, thrilling suspense enjoyment from. I think that it’s just it’s too dark to put it in the movie.

S1: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I’m glad that wasn’t in the movie, although I was glad to see it as behind the scenes footage. But, you know, he’s he’s obviously legitimately scared. And that’s not something I would have wanted him to put on on screen for us to laugh at. All right. Well, if this does happen again in 14 years, we’ll both be old. You can hobble in and talk to me about the next Borat subsequent movie film.

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S7: Yeah, I will look forward to doing that.

S9: So that’s our show for today. As always, you can subscribe to the Slate spoiler special podcast feed. And if you like our show, please read us and review us and the Apple podcast store or wherever you get your podcasts. And as always, if you have ideas for movies or TV shows or even podcasts that we should spoil in the future or other feedback to share, you can send it to spoilers at Slate Dotcom. Our producer today was Morgan Flanary for Sam Adams. I am Dana Stevens. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll talk to you again soon.