The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody, and the Battle over Borat

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Overview

In his various guises, the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has threatened Uzbekistan with catapults, driven a U.N. Secretary-General to profanity, and ruined New York's Fashion Week. Evincing shades of Jonathan Swift, Monty Python, and Andy Kaufman, 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 Bruno. In Ali G, a wannabe gangsta rapper from the leafy English suburb of Staines, the Cambridge-educated humorist tackled the prickly questions of race, ethnicity, and identity in 'Cool Britannia.' As Bruno, a campy Austrian fashionista with a Nazi fetish, he tapped into a wellspring of homophobia simmering beneath the sheen of political correctness. Most dramatically, as the roving Kazakhstani reporter Borat, Baron Cohen offended the world's ninth largest nation, provoked the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, triggered dozens of lawsuits, and became the subject of presidential summits. 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. Through a probing discussion of the identity politics that mold this jester's unique brand of humor, the author navigates the eclectic socio-political climate that gave rise to the cable television hit Da Ali G Show and the international blockbuster Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The end result is a sublime synthesis of cultural history and contemporary politics that affirms the undeniable power of imagery in the global village.

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Editorial Reviews

Eliot Borenstein
The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen does not skimp on scholarship, style, or wit. Robert A. Saunders’s writing is lively and entertaining and makes a persuasive case for Sacha Baron Cohen as a case study of the complicated negotiations between local and global cultures.
Roman Vassilenko
A must-read for many aspiring satirists, branding experts, and researchers alike. . . . Sacha Baron Cohen, the Kazakhs, and people around the world should be grateful to the author for explaining the Borat saga in a scholarly, yet enlightening and entertaining, manner.
February 2009 Southwest Journal Of Cultures Cinema
The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen [is] a smart, informative, and crisply-written little book that may leave the reader wanting a bit more....The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen is a valuable political history of what its author calls a 'global minstrel show'.
Summer 2009 Journal Of Global Change and Governance
The author displays razor-sharp analysis, masterful use of the English language, and encyclopedic knowledge all the way through the endnotes.

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.

Michael Musto
A thoroughly detailed exploration of Cohen's explosive comedy. Robert A. Saunders dissects each button pushed, taking an approach that's as careful as Cohen's is improvised. A smart read deserving of a lot of 'respek.'
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739123379
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 12/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert A. Saunders is assistant professor of politics at the State University of New York at Farmingdale.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Table of Contents Chapter 2 Preface Chapter 3 Introduction: Who is Sacha Baron Cohen and What Does He Want? Part 4 I. Being Baron Cohen Chapter 5 1. From Hertfordshire to Kibbutz to Cambridge: The Making of a Minstrel Chapter 6 2.Da Ali G Show: Building a Brand Bamboozler Extraordinaire Chapter 7 3.Personae Comicae: The Postmodern Politics behind Ali G, Borat, and Bruno Part 8 II. The Battle over Borat Chapter 9 4. Defending and Defining Kazakhstan: The Battle over Borat Begins Chapter 10 5. Learning to Love Boratistan: Kazakhstan Buys in Brand Borat Chapter 11 6. Under Fire and Loving It: The Cultural Impact, Criticisms, and Controversies ofBorat Chapter 12 Afterword: The Global Minstrel Show Chapter 13 Bibliography Chapter 14 Index Chapter 15 About the Author

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