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In his various guises, the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has threatened Uzbekistan with catapults, driven a UN secretary-general to profanity, and ruined New York's Fashion Week. Baron Cohen has consistently demonstrated a singular talent for crafting outrageous personae, a ruthless dedication to staying in character, and an uncanny ability to parlay controversy into professional success. Now, in his lively and often humorous study, The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody, and the Battle over Borat, Robert A. Saunders explores the striking cultural resonance and far-reaching political ramifications of Baron Cohen's portrayals of Borat, Ali G, and Brüno.
Part biography and part political analysis, Saunders traces Baron Cohen's rise from a small-time comedian-one who might have easily been forgotten in the pre-Internet era-to a cultural lightning rod who set tongues wagging from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The author navigates the eclectic sociopolitical climate that gave rise to the cable television hit Da Ali G Show and the international blockbusters Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Brüno. The end result is a sublime synthesis of cultural history and contemporary politics that affirms the undeniable power of imagery in the global village.
This is, by all measures, a superb first book by a very promising writer, and one can only hope that it is followed by many more.
Introduction Who is Sacha Baron Cohen and what does he want? 1
1 From Hertfordshire to kibbutz to Cambridge : the making of a minstrel 9
2 Da Ali G Show : building a brand as bamboozler extraordinaire 33
3 Personae comicae : the postmodern politics behind Ali G, Borat, and Bruno 57
4 Defining and defending Kazakhstan : the battle over Borat begins 85
5 Learning to love Boratistan : Kazakhstan buys into brand Borat 113
6 Under fire and loving it : the cultural impact, criticisms, and controversies of Borat 135
Afterword The global minstrel show 165