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David Poland

By David Poland

The Left Turning Right?

Is it just me or hasn

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56 Responses to “The Left Turning Right?”

  1. Wrecktum says:

    For the most part the mainstream press has been practically lauditory of Cohen and his creation. Yoy cite four anger pieces (two from foreign sources) and try to make it into a trend. Not buying it.

  2. waterbucket says:


  3. bipedalist says:

    It’s definitely a trend but it sort of illustrates what Cohen did in the film that was so funny; illuminate our fear of looking stupid by speaking the truth. Clearly, there were people out there who knew the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes but were afraid to say so for fear of looking stupid. Well, now that a few others have been vocal about it it’s suddenly “okay” to bash Borat. You know they hated it all along.
    The only thing I found didn’t sit well with me was the stuff in Romania. Making fun of that man with a missing limb was just plain wrong, no matter who you are. He could have used an actor for that. The poor, starving guy’s been embarrassed and laughed at by fat, rich Americans. It isn’t worth a laugh at someone like that’s expense. Once he got over to America, though, it wasn’t so bad.

  4. James Leer says:

    It’s a tremendous leap to turn four Borat articles (two foreign, one not even opinionated) into some idea that the Left is shirking its principles. That’s the kind of overly broad, out-of-left-field conclusion you usually slam the NY Times for. And it’s as much of an overreaction as the ones you perceive these articles to be having.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    If it’s a trend, I agree with the notion that it’s a backlash to Borat’s success, which I would call deserved, because the movie is funny, but not a masterpiece. It needs a certain degree of criticism to come back down to Earth.
    And do people really believe that Training Day and Monster’s Ball were really worthy of the awards they won? I would say it was the Academy’s usual blend of timing, politics, PR campaigns, and popularity that won those awards.

  6. palmtree says:

    I see the George Saunders piece as being a satirical take on Borat’s premise, not as a blindly political statement.

  7. Blackcloud says:

    Dave, have you never heard of the stereotype of the “humorless left”? Are you kidding me???
    As for Borat, I say this having not seen the movie, but this strikes me as a prime example of that law of the universe: what goes around, comes around. Or maybe it’s turnabout is fair play.

  8. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Humorless Left…that’s it in a nutshell. I think all those critics need to get laid and laugh a little bit. The one who thought Life is Beautiful amounted to Holocuast denial is an idiot of the largest order…it was a comedy for christ’s sake…I mean, good lord…this idiot actaully thinks Americans thought it made the Holocaust look fun??? What a tosser…
    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone who doesn’t think BORAT is funny needs to just hang themselves right now…I mean, I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but if you aren’t laughing at the naked fight, you’ve got a serious problem, and need therapy…

  9. Direwolf says:

    Those articles are a joke. It’s a fucking movie. Sometimes I wonder about our society. Do we even have to take comedy entertainment seriously?

  10. palmtree says:

    For the record I didn’t think Borat was unfunny, but I did share Saunders’ qualms that some of the jokes were hampered by a mean spirit. Is that a valid critique or just people taking things too seriously?
    Personally, I liked Borat in the TV incarnation when he goaded people into revealing their biases, which were front and center. In the movie, I felt like in many ways he was continually upstaging them.

  11. bipedalist says:

    I could forgive all of it. But the stuff with the poor people in Romania was just sad. How do you justify that? He could have done that whole segment with actors. He didn’t need to use real people.

  12. James Leer says:

    Why are people so extreme on both sides here? It is OK for people not to like this movie. If they don’t, and articulate why they don’t, it does not insult the people who DO like this movie. Sheesh! And I’m saying this as someone who LIKED it.

  13. EDouglas says:

    “I could forgive all of it. But the stuff with the poor people in Romania was just sad. How do you justify that? He could have done that whole segment with actors. He didn’t need to use real people.”
    And it makes you wonder where that $18 million went because I assumed that a lot of the cost was “building that village” and hiring all the actors. The fact that they got all of them on the cheap burns me up even more…and really, it has nothing to do with me liberal or conservative… it’s about being a kind and thoughtful human being.

  14. Stella's Boy says:

    Clearly, everyone who likes Borat is a selfish and cruel human being.

  15. EDouglas says:

    “everyone who likes Borat is a selfish and cruel human being.”
    Maybe not everyone…just the critics who like it. 🙂

  16. Me says:

    I think Tipper Gore pretty much proved that there’s an entire segment of the Left that has no sense of humor when it comes to popular culture, so it doesn’t seem like anything new to me.

  17. Blackcloud says:

    ^ I think the humorless left thing started with Robespierre.

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    Does the right have a sense of humor?

  19. David Poland says:

    I’m getting on a plane… but I agree that this proposition might be overstated… I do not agree that these four pieces are all there is… but I also think that a lot of you, as you bounce it around, are considering it more deeply, so I am happy I posted this…

  20. Joe Leydon says:

    Of course no one on the Right is going to complain about Borat. Because Borat speaks for folks on the Right. Right?

  21. jeffmcm says:

    Good call on the Robespierre thing.
    But Tipper Gore’s humorlessness I think would have to be categorized as politically conservative, not liberal.

  22. movielocke says:

    I’m surprised there are this many anti Borat rants, Borat only targets Caucasian Americans, use the same tactics on other ethnicities/cultures and you get the response of several people in this thread ‘what he did in Romania was sick’.
    Sort of like the Race Class and Gender classes in film and literature taught in college. They’re all about how movies like Remember the Titans promote a more effective racist message unconsciously because the text is consciously anti-racism, and the anti-racism serves to make racism safe and contained, thus making racism more acceptable overall.

  23. jeffmcm says:

    Can you elaborate on how your Remember the Titans example applies to Borat?
    Romanians are Caucasian, by the way.

  24. “And do people really believe that Training Day and Monster’s Ball were really worthy of the awards they won? I would say it was the Academy’s usual blend of timing, politics, PR campaigns, and popularity that won those awards.”
    Well, they like Denzel and it was him or Russell Crowe for a second year in a row. Advantage: Denzel. And with Halle, well, Sissy already had an Oscar and they probably did actually like Halle’s performance thought it was a suitable time.

  25. anghus says:

    Here’s the biggest problem with the fourth estate, at least in terms of entertainment reporting:
    Writers believing that they represent the masses.
    If it isn’t painfully clear at this point, most writers’ thumbs are far from the pulse of the community.
    No one gives a damn about these Borat claims, other than the plaintiffs, defendants, and writers who think people give a damn.

  26. Me says:

    I think there are a lot of different issues with Borat, and different people feel one or anoth, so it’s a little much to say it is one big conspiracy by the left. I mean, you have all the lawsuits, with little defending from Cohen about his practices. You have the people who hate foreigners who attack Americans (and the Americans who love them). You have the people who found the movie distasteful for the Jewish stereotypes. You have the people who found the movie mean-spirited. You have the people who just don’t find it funny and feel ripped off by the critics and internet buzz. Etc.
    That there are these sentiments out there (and were pretty much ignored by critics before the release), and no real news (the Oscar race is a bore so far this year, and neither Bond nor Happy Feet were really controversial) is giving the Borat discussion legs.

  27. Nicol D says:

    We’ve all been raised to believe since the sixties that the more left you are, the more loose and free and light you are; and the more right you are, the more rigid, orthodox and humorless you are. The truth is not so black and white. Both sides have sacred cows they are humorless about and profanities they are willing ridicule.
    In the case of Borat, I think it plays out like this.
    There is much humor in Borat that comments on issues of anti-semitism. There is also a lot of humor in Borat that is just plain racial/non-PC.
    At first, the left embraced it by saying the whole movie was a comment on racism that mid America would not get. Then Borat became a phenom everywhere.
    It became more subversive by being a movie filled with racial humour that not only sticks it to racists who may reside in middle America, but stuff shirt PC types on the left who want to deny that there are any jokes that can be made about issues of race at all.
    Many on the left don’t like that the right got the joke and now they are distancing themselves from it. Kinda like when the niche rock band you like gets too popular and you start to resent them for it. Conservative film critic Michael Medved gave Borat a rave review.
    The left and right both have humourless types in them but because so much of pop culture skewers the right, it is hard to see when the left is humorless. Look at Team America; Parker and Stone both said they got far more flack from the left then the right. Look at the hysteria from the left over the Brokeback Mountain parodies that floated around a year ago. Or remember the outrage from the left over Andrew Dice Clay in the early nineties. Liberal feminists flat out killed the man’s career.
    Once the left created/embraced political correctness they became every bit as uptight, stuff shirted and orthodox as their Falwell like peers on the right. They just couldn’t see it.
    Perhaps Cohen is the genius he is being called.

  28. Nicol D says:

    As a quick add-on, I must also say that I agree with Howell on the Michael Richards incident. As soon as I heard it I thought, he’s trying to do Borat and failing miserably.
    As George Carlin said in The Aristocrats, no one is shocked by sex anymore. Race is the new sex. That’s why films like Shortbus come and go with nary an eye-bat but Borat is a phenom.
    It’s also probably why in the next decade you will see more edgy comedians coming out from the right then the left. It will be hard to do well…but it’s-a-comin’.

  29. Nicol D says:

    The problem with the classes you talk about is that they are not empirical. They start with the notion that all movies are racist, sexist and homophobic and cherry pick the facts to fit in to this pre-ordained conclusion.
    Kinda like if everything that is longer than it is wide is a phallic symbol then it loses its value. That’s where modern film academia fails.

  30. Stella's Boy says:

    Nicol, are there currently any edgy comedians on the right?

  31. Nicol D says:

    Hmmmm…your queston sounds a bit like a trap, Stella. No matter who I mention you will just say they are not edgy or are crap.
    Truth is…I don’t follow a lot modern contemporary stand-ups. That’s why I said ‘probably’ and gave a ten year timeline.
    You thought I would mention Foxworthy or the Blue Collar tour guys?

  32. Stella's Boy says:

    Wrong on numerous accounts Nicol. You know what they say about assuming. I don’t follow contemporary stand ups either. I asked because I was curious if you knew of any or are a fan of any. And of course I didn’t expect you to name Foxworthy or the Blue Collar guys.

  33. Nicol D says:

    If I mistook your question, then I do apologize.
    Too many cups of French Vanilla coffee this morning I suspect.
    No, I do not know of any at the moment. Not saying they don’t exist but I don’t really follow the scene like I used to.
    I do think that many standups who were considered left when I was growing up would not be considered so now. I love Eddie Murphy’s Delirious and Raw, but I would never put those on in front of my left wing friends now. It would freak them out.
    Similarly, some of the stuff that George Carlin put out against feminists a decade ago would not be considered very left wing although he himself seems to have that rep.

  34. palmtree says:

    I’m confused now. Is the liberal critique now that Borat is too liberal or too conservative?
    I actually would have preferred a more even skewering of both sides. The critique that Saunders makes is that Borat is not an equal opportunity offender. Is that position on the left or the right?

  35. Eric says:

    I gather that the most popular comedians in America are the Blue Collar Comedy Tour guys– such as Jeff Foxworthy (sorta funny) and Larry the Cable Guy (ugh).
    I think Dennis Miller is the most “edgy” mainstream comedian you could find on the right, but he really hasn’t been funny in years. Well before he “switched sides.”
    I think you’ll find better comedy coming from the left, but that’s just my opinion. I think that because the interesting comedy is the one that expresses discomfort with the status quo, and the right has always been more like “the man” and more easily depicted as caricature.
    I agree with Nicol that the extremists on both sides are too rigid to have a sense of humor. And I agree with whomever said that articles like the ones Dave cites are intended more as contrarian responses to the zeitgeist than any broader trend.

  36. Alan Cerny says:

    Dennis Miller can be funny quite a bit of the time, but never when he’s talking about politics. When he does that he sounds as elitist as Michael Moore.
    And come on. I consider myself left (not far left, but moderately left) and I still laugh my ass off at Eddie Murphy’s early stand up. Or Pryor’s. Or Carlin’s. (Although Carlin now, he sounds like he’s just ringing the bell and announcing the end of the world. He really sounds like his idealism died in a fire.) And I laughed my ass off at BORAT. Doesn’t matter that he could be goading racism or making fun of little old Jewish people. Much of the laughter is because we as the audience are in on a joke that the people we are watching aren’t in on. Funny is still funny. As Mel Brooks said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open manhole and die.” Does it matter what color the guy who falls into the manhole is?
    And JACKASS 2 was hilarious too. Anything to make Bam cry.

  37. qwiggles says:

    “Is it possible that The Left has felt so beat up for so long

  38. Wrecktum says:

    I think this is Poland testing the waters: if Dreamgirls tanks, he can now blame the uptight liberal elites for killing it. “Oy. When the liberal wing of the Democrat Party took over congress in November, the humorless PC elite have crawled out from under their rocks and are flexing their disapproving muscles. So it goes.”

  39. Cadavra says:

    If you look at the whole of the Richards tape, there’s a point where he says, “Still those words, those words, those words.” I suspect he may indeed have been trying to do some sort of Sam Kinison-style shock thing, but then realized it wasn’t working and couldn’t figure out how to get out of the corner he’d painted himself into.
    What really bugs me is this notion that Political Correctness is somehow liberal. Fascism is fascism, whether it’s from the left or right. A true liberal does not attempt to censor ethnic or gender humor; (s)he recognizes that laughter is the best healer. Besides, as the late, great Bill Everson once noted, “When everyone’s being made fun of, who’s being discriminated against?”

  40. Sam says:

    There’s a weird confusion about what constitutes left and what constitutes right. It has nothing to do with a sense of humor, nor anything to do with censorship. I much prefer the two-dimensional gauge used on, where there is not just a leftwing, rightwing axis, but a vertical axis as well, with “authoritarian” on the top, and “libertarian” (small l) on the bottom.
    Stalin would be leftwing authoritarian. Hitler would be rightwing authoritarian. Gandhi was leftwing libertarian. Most of the American Libertarian Party is rightwing libertarian.
    The problem is, we use the leftwing/rightwing model for both axes. We think of authoritarians, which are normally the guys who promote censorship, as rightwingers, but they’re not. Not necessarily, anyway.
    Political correctness seems most certainly a product of liberal values, but only something that authoritarians try to thrust upon others. A leftwing libertarian is going to appreciate the motive but not the method (which seems to be Cadavra’s stance); a rightwing authoritarian will appreciate the method but not the motive. Probably in stark contrast to most people here, I’m a rightwing libertarian: I do value tolerance and sensitivity, just not at the expense of personal freedom.
    As for Borat, I can’t quite figure out which quadrant of people are actually the ones with the problem. I haven’t seen the movie, and from everything I’ve heard it’s not a movie that interests me at all. But I just have no idea what the real political issue is. Maybe it’s not a political thing at all, on either axis, and just a case of personality: who can be comfortable with this kind of humor and who can’t. I dunno.

  41. palmtree says:

    ^^^I’m guessing the quadrant is leftwing authoritarian.

  42. jeffmcm says:

    Liberal feminists did not kill Andrew Dice Clay’s career. That was his own doing thanks to such quality releases as The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Dice Rules. And it’s not like he was an innovator or talented artist with a unique voice that America was not ready to hear – he was a hacky flavor-of-the-month.
    The only way a right-wing comedian could become one of the ‘edgy’ comedians out there would be if the country took a turn to the left with a Democratic President. Comedians are only edgy if they can be anti-establishment.

  43. Richard Nash says:

    What does the Left wing like out there? Do they like anything? Robert Altman I guess. George Clooney maybe. Michael Moore sure. But what else? They dont like anything. They had to all support CRASH last year because of white guilt and the fact that they felt a need to support a movie with a message. But I bet 90% of them didnt even like the movie.

  44. Wrecktum says:

    ^ What he hell are you talking about?

  45. TheLeft says:

    I don’t care what Dave says: we like Dreamgirls.

  46. qwiggles says:

    Not sure what you mean by bringing up Crash, Richard. You bring it up (I think) as an example of what the left might support, then dismiss it as something they didn’t like. Hm?

  47. Blackcloud says:

    “The only way a right-wing comedian could become one of the ‘edgy’ comedians out there would be if the country took a turn to the left with a Democratic President.”
    The Democrats took Congress, but do you think that was really a turn to the left, Jeff? I think the election of a Democratic president might be a sign the country has turned left, but I think it’s more likely that it would have the same meaning the last election of a donkey prez had: that where “left” begins in this country is much closer the right of the political spectrum than it used to be. Sure it’s a move left nominally, but practically, not so much.
    Personally, I like those versions of the political spectrum that are circular, so that the right-wing totalitarians and left-wing totalitarians are right next to each other.

  48. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Right-wing comedians? Do you mean Bill O’Reilly?
    Isn’t it an oxymoron to say right-wing comedian? Shouldn’t all great comedians be bascially anarchist?
    Isn’t Dave Chapelle really the contemporary forerunner to Sasha Baron Cohen, with skits like Chapelles “The N***A FamilY” being essentailly the equivilant of BORAT – that is, a black comedian pushing black (and white) stereotypes way over the line, but because he’s so funny, it somehow works…
    In my mind, Political Correctness and “funny” can never work together…and the only crime a comedian can make is to not be funny…in the end, that seems to be Michael Richards real problem…not that I think it’s easy for a white man to be funny while spewing N-bombs, but I don’t think it’s impossible…in a way, that’s the challenge…to shock and yet still tickle the funny bone…

  49. David Poland says:

    If Dreamgirl bombs?
    Where did that come from?
    Box office is not the conversation. That is obvious on Borat. Are you just trying to bait me, Wreck? Or are you obsessed with Dreamgirls?

  50. Wrecktum says:

    I didn’t mean boxoffice bomb, Poland. I meant bomb out of the Oscar race. You’re the one who brought up Dreamgirls in your blog entry.

  51. jeffmcm says:

    I can’t imagine that there are any serious ‘gay’ issues with Dreamgirls, I would assume it’s all about whether the movie is the right combination of entertaining and dramatic. To suggest that Dreamgirls is ‘too gay’ sounds, in a word, ridiculous.
    Hey Richard Nash, I was going to praise you for making sensible posts in the other threads, and then I read your post in this one. Same old Hicksville.

  52. Nicol D says:

    Just a few more comments on comedians and Borat.
    Some have mentioned that the reasons there are so many left-wing comedians is that in order to be ‘edgy’ one needs to be anti-establishment. The assumption of this statement of course, is that the right is the establishment. As with most things, the truth is not so black and white.
    True, Bush is your President. But the concept of establishment is much more complex. In the modern world there is no one establishment. Culturally, the establishments would be school, media, film, church, law, political office etc.
    Some of these are right, some are left. Talk radio could be considered a right wing establishment, so could church perhaps. But the public school system, university system, legal system, entertainment and news media are all overwhelmingly left post 1970.
    Culture moves in much slower waves than election cycles. Elections are every 2-4 years but culture tends to move in waves of generations or every 25-30 years.
    Hence, even when Reagan was in power you had a left-wing culture (teen titty movies of the eighties, anyone?); and even if Hillary becomes the next president it does not mean the issues of religion and moral conservatism will go away.
    My point is, the majority of left-wing comics are not anti-establishment…they reflect the established culture of the ‘progressive’ baby boomer generation. Let’s be honest, there are very few Murphy’s, Pryor’s and Bruce’s. Most comedians aren’t that courageous. Do you actually think Robin Williams is anti-establishment? SNL?
    Borat in some ways reflects this and in some ways challenges it regardless of which Cohen may vote.
    Whatever he choses to do next will determine if Cohen is a true groundbreaker or merely a one shot; but at least for now, he does seem to have broken some new anti-PC ground.

  53. Eric says:

    Nicol, I disagree with several of your assumptions, but in particular I want to point out that Robin Williams and SNL are poor examples here, because regardless of any real or imagined political bent, they’re just not funny.

  54. Wrecktum says:

    I also diagree with the concept that “teen titty movies of the eighties” are examples of “left-wing culture.” They’re examples of *no* culture and were enjoyed by both left and right wingers of the era.

  55. frankbooth says:

    Damn those left-wing titties!
    We missed you, you big nut. Keep on standin’ tall against those Feminazi breastses.

  56. jeffmcm says:

    Ugh. Nicol, you make some good points, but they’re subsumed by the attitude inherent in your delivery into something noxious.

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