Friday, March 20, 2009

New York Case No. 2B: Borat Comes To Dinner

The driver's ed case, above, was consolidated with two other cases, both of which involved Alabama etiquette teachers who had agreed to give lessons to Borat. Borat was allegedly represented to them as “a Belarus dignitary” needing etiquette and dining skills training.

The lessons were allegedly to be filmed for a National Geographic-style educational documentary for Belarus television, the purpose of which was to teach “cultural diversity and to learn about Southern traditional values and Southern-style living.” In exchange for pay, plaintiffs shared their Southern hospitality in a filmed dinner at a plaintiff’s home. As always in the film, a seemingly ordinary event degenerates into a hilariously offensive fiasco, including a scene in which Borat hands the plaintiff a bag of feces.

When the plaintiff gently accompanies Borat and his bag to the toilet to instruct him in polite bathroom behavior, Borat suggests that her hostess’ duties include “wiping” him. The plaintiffs not only suffered the alleged humiliation of being tricked into appearing in a R-rated film “celebrating racism, child pornography, sexism,, nudity, anti-Semitism and vulgarity.”

Plaintiffs claimed that by manipulative editing, they were made to appear racially insensitive. For example, the dinner scene was preceded by an establishment shot of a street sign, suggesting that the dinner was taking place at a fictional “Secession Drive.”

Moreover, the dinner scene culminated in an appearance by Borat's dinner date, Luenell Campbell, an American comedienne and one of the few actors in the film. Borat introduces Luenell as "a prostitute." The film was allegedly edited to show plaintiffs quickly escorting Borat and the African American Luenell out the door, which plaintiffs said was far from what actually occurred. Instead, the hostess claimed that she took aside Ms. Campbell to let her know that they were all victims of Borat's practical joke.

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