Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What do Borat, Sexual Assault, and Informed Consent Have in Common?

I was in L.A. and I looked for Sacha Baron Cohen, A.K.A. Borat, who apparently dined at Pat's a really good kosher restaurant.

Not that I was at Pat's, but I couldn’t have been all that far away.

Who is Sacha Baron Cohen ? He's a comedian and has a hit television show in London and now stars in one of the biggest movies in America, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, supposedly hilarious.

The film is a "documentary" about American culture, which is not a documentary. Rather he duped people into thinking he was interviewing them for a documentary, playing Borat from Kazakhstan, a film-maker with an interest in American life.

Borat Cohen did not let on that he is really a comedian intent upon embarrassing anti-Semites, racists, and misogynists.

In the process, people made complete fools out of themselves and signed away their right to refuse to be in the movie. According to one film review, unsuspecting interviewees were promised that the release of the movie would not be in the U.S. and that they would not be identified.

Promises, promises. Interviewees were made out to be the biggest morons in the movie according to one reviewer, James Berardinelli.

People don’t like being made out to be misogynists and racists in movies. Especially when they've been promised the movies would not be released in the United States. At least two Americans, fraternity boys from North Carolina University, who participated in the “documentary” signed releases while under the influence of alcohol.

Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) picked them up, got them drunk, showed them a lude film starring Pamela Anderson. He filmed their racist and misogynist jokes. The interviews will be seen by millions of people all over the world. The children and grandchildren of these kids (not to mention their mothers and fathers) will not be pleased.

So they sued for lots and lots of money. Why not?

It is the issue of INFORMED CONSENT that grabs this doc.

Jason Fortuny may have been guilty of the same thing, duping shady people. But Jason says that he wasn't out to deliberately humiliate anyone. He told me that he did his Craig’s List experiment because he was curious to see what would happen. That’s what he said. He was curious.

Sacha Baron Cohen is accused of deliberately humiliating people and contextualizing a situation in which they would make racist and anti-Semitic remarks. He was out to make racists and anti-Semites look bad, and he succeeded.

Theoretically, we should give him a prize.

But this is America, and in America consent must be INFORMED CONSENT.


See, I don’t like sexual assault or rape. These are acts of violence that more often than not occur to women when they are under the influence of alcohol. Under the influence they can not give a perpetrator informed consent. In 90% of all rapes, the perpetrator is an acquaintance of the victim.

So it IS possible to obtain informed consent for sex if you know the woman you want to have sex with. You just ask. By law, if one or both of you are under the influence, you risk the whistle blowing bit with rape.

Informed consent vis a vis sexual relationships means that the woman is able to tell a man that it is okay to have sexual relations. If a woman is under the influence, she’s impaired. It’s almost always a woman who is raped, by the way. Seven out of ten victims are women.

Similarly, Sacha Baron Cohen got these idiot frat boys (their names haven't been released) drunk. They made morons out of themselves then signed releases (informed consent) so that Mr.Baron Cohen could use them in his film. Since they were impaired, they have a case.

Seems to me, but I'm not a lawyer.

Seems to me that Mr. Baron Cohen will end up settling. The precedent for informed consent is established as I’ve described above in most United States regarding sexual relations.

So as much as I would love to support you on this, Sacha, and would have given anything to have been at Pat’s to have interviewed YOU while you wined and dined on the town, I can’t do it. I can't support 'cha. (Unless you give a lot of money to Israel, then maybe).

Seriously, you could have got the same footage with informed consent. There are plenty of racists and anti-Semites in this country. I guess that was your point.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


Reel Fanatic said...

The list of people trying to sue Borat seems to grow bigger each day ... I can understand the people in the opening sequence complaining because they are very poor and were paid very little ... those three frat boys who wanted to own slaves, no matter how drunk they may have been, have no case at all .. they're just jerks, and its not Borat's fault if they showed their true colors

therapydoc said...

No one would disagree. Borat's an artist and he used these people to express his art. That might be his best defense, but legal documents aren't legal under certain circumstances. This may be one of them, having contributed to their inebriation.

Anonymous said...

Same goes for those awful insulting and abusive "girls gone wild" videos. Most of those girls were drunk and taken advantage of. Raped you could say. It's disgusting. Why we are not rioting in the streets because of this disdainful behavior is criminal. Instead I hear people laugh, while these rapists earn millions of dollars and people become more perverted everyday. It's disgraceful actions like this that make me tempted to lose all hope for humanity.