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Borat vs Jewface: The Politics of Jewish Humor

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 aren’t particularly religious, don’t really practice, and don’t really lead very Jewish lives at all”–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,” 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.



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Scott

posted November 9, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Regarding that video, Wow! I was fascinated by the contrast between the ranch owner’s soft voice and easy country manner and his, well, views and behavior. I don’t know what to say other than we must judge people by their actions in the end. And, if so, well what do we do with charedim?



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posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




Borat vs Jewface: The Politics of Jewish Humor

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 aren’t particularly religious, don’t really practice, and don’t really lead very Jewish lives at all”–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,” 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.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(1)
post a comment
Scott

posted November 9, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Regarding that video, Wow! I was fascinated by the contrast between the ranch owner’s soft voice and easy country manner and his, well, views and behavior. I don’t know what to say other than we must judge people by their actions in the end. And, if so, well what do we do with charedim?



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




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