Saturday, March 28, 2009

Borat Serves A "Public Interest"?!

Acknowledging that the movie’s brand of humor “appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers,” Federal District Court Judge Preska elaborated upon the “teachings” of Borat:

"At its core, however, Borat attempts an ironic commentary of ‘modern’ American culture,

contrasting the backwardness of its protagonist with the social ills [that] afflict supposedly sophisticated society. The movie challenges its viewers to confront, not only the bizarre and offensive Borat character himself, but the equally bizarre and offensive reactions he elicits from ‘average’ Americans. Indeed, its message lies in that juxtaposition and the implicit accusation that ‘the time will come when it will disgust you to look in a mirror.’ Such clearly falls within the wide scope of what New York courts have held to be a matter of public interest."

Bizarre and Offensive Behavior Goes Two Ways.

Judge Preska, in her opinion, went so far as invoking the film’s contribution to our philosophical notion of “otherness.” She implicitly answered plaintiff’s question about the limitations on Borat’s unauthorized use of private persons: So long as the challenged use advances the film’s theme – i.e., that Borat’s behavior is no more “bizarre and offensive” than our own reaction, the use serves a public interest that trumps our privacy and publicity rights. Plaintiff allegedly suffered public ridicule, degradation and humiliation after he was filmed “fleeing in apparent terror, screaming for Mr. Cohen to ‘go away.’ ” Plaintiff, however, did not justify his extreme reaction upon being approached by Borat, and Judge Preska pointedly noted that it was unwarranted (“without further provocation”). Based on this opinion, the odder our reactions to Borat’s provocations, the more the balance of interests weighs against our individual privacy rights and in favor of the rights of media producers to expose us.

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