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Review: Borat Takes on Trump’s America And Discovers Its Feminist Side

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat serves as a perfect snapshot of mid-2000’s American culture, using the framing device of a fictional Kazakh journalist to display if not expose Bush-era xenophobia with copious amounts of gross-out humor and a heaping helping of ironic racism, antisemitism and misogyny. Borat’s success as a character—with his iconic gray suit and mustache—would intuitively make a sequel difficult, as much of the humor of the original film resulted from people not recognizing the unassuming Kazakh. It came as a surprise to many when a sequel, entitled Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, was announced in September 2020, to be released the following October. Borat’s journey into Trump’s America is not simply a rehash of the earlier film due to the addition of his teenaged daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova), who stows away on his second trip to America. Tutar’s introduction gives us a cartoonishly patriarchal view of Kazakhstan, a nation where women are kept in cages like animals and aspire to be caged, with fairytales based on First Lady Melania Trump being married into a “golden cage” treated as the ultimate feminine ideal. Tutar’s arrival in America (and her murder and consumption of a chimpanzee) sets the plot of the sequel in motion; Tutar will be given as a gift to a high-level figure in the Trump administration as a wife and as a bribe to further Kazakh interests. While the original Borat focused on a boorish man, the addition of Tutar to the sequel’s narrative adds an unexpected feminist dimension. Using Tutar’s internalized misogyny as a lens, the film highlights ways in which the American woman has had her rights and worth assaulted over the last 14 years. Borat takes Tutar to an anachronistic debutante dance, to a “sugar baby” consultant and even to a plastic surgeon who hops from hitting on her to offering her breast implants to fetch her a husband at blistering speed. Perhaps the film’s most absolutely uncomfortable moment occurs in after a misunderstanding involving a small baby figurine sends Tutar and Borat to a pregnancy crisis center, where a counselor tries to convince and, later, shame Tutar away from an abortion even after he is led to believe that the imagined child is the product of incest. The film culminates in a much-publicized scene in which President Trump’s personal attorney and former mayor of New York is seemingly inches away from having sex with Tutar after an interview, only to be interrupted by Borat at the last minute. Viewers are exposed to an uncomfortable scene wherein the 76 year-old Giuliani fondles his genitals in front of Tutar, a character who we are led to believe is a teenager (though played by a 24 year-old actress), fulfilling the film’s premise of giving Tutar as a sexual prize to a Trump Admin figure. Tutar’s function in the story, as little more than a football with a vagina, is contrasted with Bakalova’s excellent comedic instinct which at times upstages the veteran Cohen. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm premiers exclusively on Amazon Prime Video this October 23rd and will be free for all Prime members that day.

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