If Borat Was Iranian

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Just weeks before the release of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, Twentieth Century Fox downgraded the scope of the film’s release — planning an opening weekend of 800 theatres instead of the original 2,000. Despite massive internet buzz, including a slew of YouTube clips, Fox worried that Borat might be the next Snakes on a Plane, “all hat no cattle” as they say in some corners of the heartland traversed by Borat.

Alas, the concerns were for naught. The numbers are in and as Borat himself might say, “It’s Nice!”

The $18 million gonzo comedy averaged a phenomenal $31,511 on its 837 screens, for an overall haul of $26.4 million — easily tops for the weekend, according to estimates Sunday from Exhibitor Relations.

“This was the case where the movie was bigger than the hype instead of the hype being bigger than the movie,” said Exhibitor Relations’ Paul Dergarabedian.

This week, MJL takes it’s own look at Borat, with Saul Austerlitz analyzing the dynamics of the film’s faux anti-Semitism. According to Austerlitz, Borat’s country of origin is key to understanding why his Jew-hatred is funny and not threatening.

Borat’s anti-Semitism is funny because it’s so comically ill-informed and because — for Americans and Jews — Kazakhstan is a relatively obscure country that lacks political and social resonance. If Borat were Iranian, his jibes about Jewish economic power might not be as funny. We laugh at Borat because we feel comfortable putting him in his place and because Cohen telegraphs to the audience that he is little more than a buffoon. We laugh at Borat because he is an anti-Semite, not in spite of it.

Read the rest of Austerlitz’s article here.

Posted on November 6, 2006

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