I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion on the new film, Borat. (See here, for example.)

But my favorite piece so far is Brenda Yablon’s Borat: Good Satire or Cheap Laughs? 

An excerpt:

Satire is a powerful comedic tool that exposes the bigots by holding up their behavior to ridicule. The Anti Defamation League, while being concerned about “the character’s boastful expressions of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of others,” nonetheless is hopeful that people will understand Baron Cohen’s comedic technique, which is “to use humor to unmask the absurd and irrational side of anti-Semitism and other phobias born of ignorance and fear.” Admittedly, Borat at times achieves this end.

But truly good satire, of the Charlie Chaplin variety, goes even further. It makes people reevaluate how they view the world and even commit to changing their beliefs and actions. This, Borat by no means achieves.

Another excerpt:

The President of Iran is calling for the elimination of the State of Israel. Attacks against Jews are rising at an alarming pace. Israel advocates and a handful of activists are trying to bring this issue to the forefront of the world’s attention, but have little to show for their efforts. Now is the time for creative ways to get this message across, and satire is one of the best methods. Unfortunately, in 2006 all we got was Borat, when what we truly need is Charlie Chaplin.

OK. Satire is useful. Or can be. But only when it’s good enough to make the impression it’s supposed to, and isn’t hidden behind filth. What is the idea of hiding behind filth anyway?

I keep hoping that more filmmakers will outgrown their potty-humor stage. Do any of these folks ever stop to wonder whether they’re making films that can be appreciated by people a few generations from now? Do they care? Is aiming for excellence just not done in their circles? (Too hoity-toity or something?)

Or do they really think that the purpose of art is to offend? (As some of them claim.)

The more I think about it, by the way, the more I’m sure that attitude’s a cop out, plain and simple. But if they believe that, and are surrounded by people who believe that, we’re in for more poop and less wit for a while yet, I’m afraid.

I don’t write it all off as hopeless. After all, I’m living proof that a person can change his/her mind about a number of things as he/she grows up, gets out more, and meets more people and survives more circumstances. It happens.

I’ve met people – and know of even more – who would just as soon erase some of what they said or did in their teens and twenties. Haven’t you?

And I’m noticing more folks who suddenly realize that they’d like to erase some of what they said and did in their thirties and forties. Aren’t you?

I think a lot of theories and policies from the sixties onward have combined to cripple a lot of young folks in the maturity department. And I think we’re paying for it big time.

But there are those folks I mentioned above who do manage to break free of their misguided youth, even if that misguided youth has extended indecently into their middle age. 

And I see a significant number of younger folks who are looking at some of the worst of what we handed them as their inheritance and who are saying “no thanks!” Don’t you?

I even see younger non-conservatives starting to laugh at old ‘liberals’: mocking their Marxism and its offspring, their toxic brand of feminism, their insecurities and insistence that everybody conform, their refusal to commit to one other person of the opposite sex ’til death do us part but their obsession with – you might almost say marriage to – cloudy causes. I don’t see enough of this to suit me, but I do see it. (I put ‘liberals’ in single quotes, because I don’t think many folks on the contemporary Left deserve the label. A classic liberal is worth admiring, in my book, but there seem to be precious few of them about – and mostly they don’t call themselves liberal. Perhaps we could discuss that another day.)

Another good trend is that there are folks rising to the challenge of presenting people with well-made, well-thought-out options. For instance, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe movie gave Hollywood-think a good rattling, I think. Or like to think. (I have my problems with LWW, but I do like how it broke loose, and how it didn’t turn C.S. Lewis’s story upside down or inside out.) 

So, I see some encouraging signs.

But, hey, in the meantime, boo hiss on the grossness of what some folks are presenting as humor in films and over the airwaves.

Please. We can do better. It’s embarrassing when we look bad when compared to our ancestors.

Sure, some old entertainment was crass. Even Shakespeare threw bones to the intellectual midgets watching his plays from the pit.

I guess that’s part of what irks me. I’m so tired of producers and writers who seem to assume it’s enough to play to the pit. That it’s somehow more “authentic” to slosh in the gutter without ever noticing the people who have enough self-respect to jump over sludge when they want to cross the street.

Hey, pssst. Beauty is real, too. And worth celebrating. Worth using, too, where it can lift people up. Honor is real. Discretion has value. Real value. Humans have animal nature, but they. have. more. than. that.

Much, much, much more than that.

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