Borat, Blogs, Boorishness and Bad Judgement
November 12, 2006
Update: The fellow who asked the question actually doesn't want to participate in the lawsuit against Cohen. Wonders never cease!
On Ask MetaFilter a month ago, a question from the friend of someone who was ashamed by the things he said on camera while being questioned by Sasha Baron Cohen in character as Borat:
Last year, a guy came to my town claiming to be filming a documentary for Kazakhstan. He recruited my friend John to be in it. John signed the papers and everything- that's not the issue. However, the producers got John really drunk and he said some things he really regrets that made it to the final cut. John's terrified that everyone's going to see the movie and think he's an awful human being (which he's not). He's very distraught.
My own answer to the question was marked as one of the best answers.
John doesn't need to be terrified that people will think he's an awful human being. He should work on accepting that some large number of strangers, and small number of acquaintances, will think (correctly) that he has poor judgement or can say offensive things when he's drunk.
He needs to first make sure everyone he cares about is aware of exactly what he said, the context he said it in, and his true feelings on the topics being discussed. He then needs to proactively contact the appropriate campus authorities to let them know of the incident, along with the fact that he's remorseful -- don't let them make him a scapegoat for any brouhaha that pops up.
If he wants to go the extra mile, he should send a succinct, contrite letter of explanation and apology to the capmus [sic] newspaper, or ask for space in the paper to write, and acknowledge that he'll get some deserved grief.
There was a lot of great discussion in that thread, much of it centering around the fact that people have personal responsibility for the things they say, especially when they say them on camera in a major motion picture. And then, in the news on Friday:
Two unsuspecting fraternity boys want to make lawsuit against "Borat" over their drunken appearance in the hit movie.
The legal action filed Thursday on their behalf claims they were duped into appearing in the spoof documentary "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," in which they made racist and sexist comments on camera.
The young men "engaged in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in," the lawsuit says.
Well, sure, you could sue the filmmakers, but then you're just drawing attention to your own poor judgement. This is also one of those great examples of how blogging means that almost all of us are only one or two degrees away from almost any news event. I'm sure there are already suits pending against people who've blogged the things that other people say when they're drunk.