I think Rabbi Grossman’s analogy to Archie Bunker is excellent!
Did many white 50-year-old men identify with Archie, thereby creating a racist cultural icon? Sure they did, but for every 50-year-old white racist bigot laughing along with Archie there were 10 people under the age of 50 who were laughing at him.
More important, the question of whether Borat is good for humanity boils down to the question of repressing our biases or putting them on the table. All of us have biases. Some think the best way to deal with them is by never allowing them to come up–covering our children’s ears and keeping them clean, forcing people to adopt a kind of politically correct speech that expunges anything that might be deemed culturally offensive. While such measures have their benefits, ultimately they fail to ever confront the problem head-on.
Borat, in contrast, takes our biases, puts them out on a table, and makes us look at just how inane and ridiculous we can be when we let our biases get the best of us.
By the way, for those of you interested in the Borat vs. Jewface debate, my friend Daniel Septimus from the “Mixed Multiudes” blog on My Jewish Learning duked it out with me the other day in a fast and furious email conversation.