Sacha Baron Cohen the post-racial clown

Ali G. and Sacha Baron Cohen represent white subjectivity. He represents the white person’s desire to move on from racism. Because they’ve moved on, they can make fun of racism as satire. It doesn’t matter if it’s indistinguishable from minstrelsy in many ways; they’re performing racism to criticize racism. In their mind, they have successfully moved on to the point that it is now acceptable to satirize with racial stereotypes. You’re only racist, if you believe it’s real!

Absent from the minds of white admirers is that white people have, historically, always wanted to move on from racism. Despite the fact that we have never stopped being a racist nation. Why are white people so eager to normalize racism? Why do they want to say the n-word so bad? Why do they perceive the taboo of racial stereotypes as an infringement of their freedom? Why can’t they move on from such stereotypes? Why do they want to move on from the taboo instead?

Cohen simultaneously criticizes and entrenches racial stereotypes. Unlike the overt racism of Donald Trump, such liquid racism is more difficult to analyze. It must be discerned whether the act seriously challenges the racial hierarchy of contemporary society. Without a doubt, Cohen does not challenge anything. Borat, perhaps his most challenging film, is only challenging on the surface level. He does a brilliant job at pointing out the post-911 hysteria and islamophobia of the US. Yet, he does not question the fundamental structures that enable such racism, which is evident in his choice to satirize Kazakhstan as a nation. Cohen is only concerned with his white audience. He wants to offend and educate them. Yet, the plight of Kazahks in the west doesn’t even enter his mind. In other words, Cohen is trapped by the white gaze. His ultimate project is a liberal utopia, in which there aren’t any Trumpers. In his utopia, Latin American immigrants’ labor will still be exploited. Black people will still be policed and jailed disproportionately. Such problems will persist, because he won’t question the subtleties of white supremacy and capitalism. Instead, he wantst to remedy such issues by white people satirizing racial stereotypes! At least we don’t have any taboo! It’s a sign that we’ve progressed!

Another important element of Cohen’s liquid racism is his racial status. White people are comfortable with Cohen taking up his role, because he’s ethnic enough. There is enough non-whiteness in his make up to “justify” minstrelsy. Sacha Baron Cohen’s mother is an Israeli of German origin. His father is a Jewish person of European origin. In other words, he’s white but not quite white enough. This is why he shares the white person’s desire to move on from race; at the same time, he can act as their dancing, post-racial clown. Sadly, Cohen appears to be a victim of the very system he enables.


Resources:

“Ali G expresses three strands of liquid racism. These are ‘postmodern minstrelsy’ — Ali G as a black man, ‘ethnocultural hybrid racism’ — Ali G as a white man pretending to be black, and ‘anti-Asian racism’ — Ali G as an Asian man pretending to be black. It is the combination of the three and the erasure they inflict on one another that creates liquidity. Finally, some non-racist themes in Baron Cohen’s comedy are outlined that encourage analytic confusion.”

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1367549410396004

“Howells ultimately extracted a sense of utopianism from Cohen’s work. His message was that if we as a society can laugh about ‘race’, like we do sex, then that will be beneficial to wider social relations. The extent to which ‘race’ can be a laughing matter to those whose everyday lives are shaped by the forces of racism across Britain and the world is, however, another matter.”

https://tiemotalkofthetown.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/no-laughing-matter-race-identity-and-the-humour-of-sacha-baron-cohen/

https://ave1125.wordpress.com/2018/11/10/sacha-baron-cohen-is-a-racist/?fbclid=IwAR22heNCU7i1c9RKVWkBXy0j7iilQmayMTawfGnSr44tDOVemMkmdd4mJS0