Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Borat and the Limits of Free Expression

By Dave A
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I took some time to do what millions of Americans did, other than shop, and went to see Borat, the parody film about the television reporter from Kazakhstan who visits America. Rather than bore you with a long run-up, I'll cut right to the chase: I, and my date, left about 40 minutes into the film (and it was a unanimous decision). I found insufficient redeeming social value to justify my time investment.

Now, for those of you who think I'm stodgy, I would disagree. I often think of myself as too base in my sense of humor. I loved American Pie (my favorite line being..."oh, Stiffler's Mom") and I can't get enough of the pop-culture disaster that is the first few episodes of each season's American Idol. Part of my brain is, admittedly, still stuck on the male sophomoric humor that finds value in bathroom jokes. Also, to the extent it lends credibility to this argument, I love sports and don't think it important to see all (any?) of the films that have been nominated by for Academy Awards. It would seem that despite being 38 years old, I should find some value in Borat. Instead, I found it to be obnoxious, offensive and hurtful in a way that didn't even remotely justify the small amount of the humor I found in the first 40 minutes.

My chief objection lies with the underlying principal of making fun of people in a hurtful and disrespectful way. I understand the need to catch some participants unaware (the older man at the rodeo talking about terrorists and mustaches was priceless) so they would be honest but too often it was done in a cheap way to get a laugh at someone's expense (the dinner party and the bed & breakfast come to mind). I'll embrace humor when it isn't at someone's expense but when it is, I find it hurtful and unworthy of my attention. If one can excuse that behavior, then we could move on to the scene of the running of the Jew and the killing of the Jew egg. I understand that it was done to parody people who think that way but I think there is a world of difference between that message and the many messages Mel Brooks shared with us in Blazing Saddles. Brooks was able to identify racist / sexist sentiment but he didn't do it cheaply, he didn't leave a humorless wake of offensiveness and incivility when he made his point. People laughed but they laughed at the silliness of the underlying sentiment and how it was presented, not just the absurd presentation.

The title of this blog suggests that perhaps Borat goes too far and isn't entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Well, that was a set up. However stodgy you think I might be, my last proof to you that I'm not is that I do think the First Amendment protects this nonsense, though I hope that common sense and taste will encourage self censorship. I wish I had my $30 back and hadn't rewarded the producers and been counted among those who have seen it.


Blogger oakleyses said...

chanel handbags, tory burch outlet, longchamp outlet, longchamp outlet, longchamp outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, polo outlet, oakley sunglasses, tiffany and co, louboutin pas cher, nike air max, tiffany jewelry, christian louboutin uk, nike outlet, nike free run, kate spade outlet, jordan shoes, christian louboutin shoes, michael kors pas cher, nike air max, ugg boots, nike free, longchamp pas cher, air max, replica watches, uggs on sale, sac longchamp pas cher, christian louboutin outlet, louis vuitton outlet, polo ralph lauren, oakley sunglasses, jordan pas cher, polo ralph lauren outlet online, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton, burberry pas cher, prada outlet, louis vuitton outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, nike roshe, ray ban sunglasses, christian louboutin, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, louis vuitton, prada handbags, gucci handbags, replica watches

12:48 AM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

new balance, true religion jeans, polo lacoste, replica handbags, hollister uk, vans pas cher, nike roshe run uk, nike tn, michael kors outlet online, north face uk, michael kors outlet online, kate spade, north face, abercrombie and fitch uk, hollister pas cher, hogan outlet, nike air max uk, coach purses, michael kors outlet, nike air max, timberland pas cher, uggs outlet, nike blazer pas cher, oakley pas cher, converse pas cher, sac hermes, nike free uk, ralph lauren uk, michael kors outlet online, true religion outlet, burberry outlet, nike air force, michael kors outlet online, true religion outlet, michael kors, guess pas cher, michael kors, ray ban uk, coach outlet, burberry handbags, uggs outlet, lululemon canada, true religion outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, nike air max uk, ray ban pas cher, mulberry uk, coach outlet store online

12:52 AM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

ferragamo shoes, asics running shoes, giuseppe zanotti outlet, bottega veneta, lancel, timberland boots, chi flat iron, soccer jerseys, instyler, herve leger, insanity workout, nike huaraches, vans, hollister, nike air max, gucci, ray ban, oakley, lululemon, p90x workout, baseball bats, babyliss, hollister clothing, ghd hair, nike air max, mont blanc pens, valentino shoes, north face outlet, soccer shoes, ralph lauren, celine handbags, hollister, longchamp uk, nike roshe run, vans outlet, mcm handbags, abercrombie and fitch, nfl jerseys, jimmy choo outlet, wedding dresses, louboutin, beats by dre, new balance shoes, reebok outlet, north face outlet, hermes belt, converse outlet, nike trainers uk, mac cosmetics, iphone cases

1:12 AM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

ugg pas cher, pandora jewelry, moncler, doudoune moncler, toms shoes, thomas sabo, canada goose, moncler, canada goose, canada goose uk, louis vuitton, juicy couture outlet, swarovski crystal, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, moncler, louis vuitton, wedding dresses, moncler outlet, canada goose outlet, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, moncler outlet, coach outlet, swarovski, karen millen uk, juicy couture outlet, moncler, replica watches, links of london, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, ugg uk, pandora charms, canada goose outlet, marc jacobs, moncler uk, louis vuitton, canada goose outlet, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, ugg, canada goose, canada goose jackets, hollister, supra shoes, pandora uk

1:17 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

Powered by Blogger