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 aff
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Robert A. Saunders is assistant professor of politics at the State University of New York at Farmingdale.Review:
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. (Eliot Borenstein, professor, New York University)
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. (Roman Vassilenko, Chief Inspector of the Secretariat of the Secretary of State of Kazakhstan)
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'. (Southwest Journal Of Cultures Cinema, February 2009)
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. (Journal Of Global Change and Governance, Summer 2009)
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.' (Michael Musto, author of La Dolce Musto: Writings by the World's Most Outrageous Columnist and contributor to The Village Voice)
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