Sunday, November 05, 2006

Concession to Borat

I got tricked into seeing this movie by a nation of film reviewers asleep at the wheel. I did not enjoy seeing it. I believe in voting with my dollars and in retrospect I wish I could have. I would have left, but I was in the middle of a crowded row. As the saying goes, these are two or so hours of my life I will never get back again, not to mention the images that will always be there. Do yourself a favor: Don't see this film.

But... spoiler alert (if one can spoil what is already rotten), as I drove home wiping off the culture slime, thinking of all the better ways I could have spent an afternoon, I had to make a concession. Although I may be taxing the credulity of those who disagreed with my interpretation of The Departed, it dawned on me that Borat was an explicitly Christian film.

Borat burns through all tiers of American society in the now tired "equal opportunity offender" genre of comedy. Keep in mind however that these are real Americans, not actors. Paralleling our civilization, Borat sinks lower and lower, until at rock bottom he finds himself outside a Pentecostal assembly hall. A surface viewing would assume that here we just get more of the same. But something shifted. True the tongue-speaking and aisle-dancing provides more fodder for derision, until the preacher has Borat comes forward.
"Can Jesus heal my empty heart?"
"Does Jesus love my retarded brother?"
"Does Jesus even love my neighbor Nusef Tugliagby?"
"But nobody loves my neighbor Nusef Tugliagby!"
All this with "There is Power in the Blood" up on the Power Point presentation. Surely this must have all been a set up to lampoon the paper-thin conversion experiences of those crazy born-againers, but Borat actually changes:

He forgives an alienated friend. He and "Mr. Jesus" go in pursuit of Pamela Anderson, but now for a legitimate Kazhek marriage. When the plan fails, Borat lawfully marries a prostitute instead and takes her home as his wife. He takes the gospel back to his Kazhek village, announcing "We are Christians now." As far as we can tell the village of sex-offenders goes chaste, and what was once a sex toy is used as a prosthetic arm for a village cripple. The Christianized town even gives up on its relentless anti-Semitism. True the insistence that his village is Christian is followed up by a scarecrow-Jew on a cross being poked by a pitchfork, but think about it - it's a Jew on the cross, not a Jew doing the poking. A fair interpretation of the scene is that the village came to understand its offense (seeing that their savior is now a Jew), and are performing some standard liturgical reenactment.

Borat comes to America, exposes our range of oafish contradictions, and comes away changed by the love of Jesus Christ. I hate to admit it, but this comedy that advertises itself as the spare-nothing variety spares the gospel, and exhibits the scandal of a God who shows grace, yes, even to Americans, a nation as imperfect as this movie makes us out to be.

Is there just enough sacredness left in our society that even the "nothing is sacred" comedy can't find the stomach to desecrate "Mr. Jesus"?

Perhaps at least for now.