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Public reaction to 'Borat!' raise controversial questions

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Posted: Friday, November 17, 2006 10:00 pm

In the past three weeks, "Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" has become one of the most unexpectedly successful independently produced films in years. And judging by the reader responses I've been receiving since my review was published, I think it's safe to say it is also one of the most controversial films we've seen in quite a while.

One point of contention is: Besides the United States, exactly what culture is "Borat" satirizing? Although the nation of Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia, the weight of evidence suggests that the real target of the film's comedy is the more extreme facets of Middle Eastern culture that have permeated into other regions - what people like Bill O'Reilly refer to as "Islamic fascism" or "radical Islam," which is characterized in part by the oppression of women and an intense hatred of Jews. These are two traits that the movie continuously uses for comedic fodder.

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