Truth be told, my first three years watching Sacha Baron Cohen was spent fast-forwarding through Borat on to Ali G. And for the last year or two Bruno has replaced Ali G as my favorite character. But recently–maybe only the last six months or so–I have gained a new-found appreciation for that Khazakh Borat. Whatever, I still think Bruno’s fashion euphemism for something not being sufficiently stylish “send ‘em to Auschwitz” beats Borat’s middle-America sing-along of “throw the Jew down the well.”
What I like about all three characters is that they highlight the idiocy of bigotry. Contrary to popular belief, Cohen does not “get away” with what he does because he is Jewish–he is not gay and yet his Bruno character is the best spoof on homophobia out there. Cohen “gets away” with it because ultimately he is mocking those who are sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic.
Perhaps a more provocative way to see Cohen’s work is in opposition to the music album “Jewface,” put out by bunch of kitchy pop-hipster Jews associated with a record label named Reboot Stereophonic. Unlike Borat, here it is actual Jews embracing and promoting the worst Jewish stereotypes. Unlike the Borat effect, “Jewface” does not mock anti-Semitic sterotypes; it celebrates them and says yeh, there is some truth here.
The producers of this album–who, in their own words, are “all kind of disaffected American Jews, who arenâ€™t particularly religious, donâ€™t really practice, and donâ€™t really lead very Jewish lives at allâ€–seem to think that by digging up and releasing artistic musical experiments in pathetic self-mockery (and perhaps self-hatred) they might be tapping into a whole new form of Jewish identity. With tracks such as “When Mose With His Nose Leads the Band,â€ who could disagree?
I mean this is art, very serious art. Children, just do me and the rest of the Jewish people–you know, those of us who are not as cool, hip, and ohh how can I forget…as ironic as all of you–a favor: Please don’t forget to close your bedroom door when you’re playing your music.