The “Borat” sequel, according to Sacha Baron Cohen, was intended to function as a multimillion-dollar contribution to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign — and Amazon distributed it. Cohen again made this explicit in a new interview with NPR, saying, “I felt I had to get this movie out before the election.”
In a discussion on the film’s highly dubious treatment of Rudy Giuliani, Cohen said, “What we did with Rudy was crucial. I mean, we made the movie to have an impact on the election. … So ethically, I can stand by that all day long.”
He later added, “We did [the film] because there was a deeply unethical government in power. And there was no question. … We had to do what we could to inspire people to vote and remind people of the immorality of the government prior to the election.” (I’m all for holding the powerful to account, but what happened with Giuliani and others in the film was really questionable. The press ran with nonsense framing of a clip that finds the former mayor tucking in his pants as a sexual gesture in front of a young woman.)
Combine that with Cohen’s previous statement that Biden’s team was “very happy” with the Giuliani scene because, “It was such a close election that everything in those final weeks was crucial.” The actor also tweeted in October: “Donald Trump says I’m a creep. I say he’s an existential threat to democracy. That’s why I released Borat before the election.”
On NPR, @SachaBaronCohen defends entrapping @RudyGiuliani: "We did it because there was a deeply unethical government in power … We made the movie to have an impact on the election … I have no doubt about the morality of this film. I’m very proud of it.” pic.twitter.com/NJcD7ohyE0
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 23, 2021
Jeff Daniels framed “The Comey Rule” in similar terms last fall. “The idea was, this [series] is going to matter, this is going to count, this is going to be relevant. So if you’re going to put it somewhere where it’s irrelevant, then I’m out. It’s that simple,” he told the Washington Post, explaining why he felt the anti-Trump Showtime series needed to air before the 2020 election. (Emphasis added)
Here’s what Daniels told the Hollywood Reporter in September: “And it’s not like, ‘Let’s get Trump.’ It’s, ‘Let’s be part of the conversation, let’s matter.’ So that people who are out there voting, in particular, the ones in the middle, if they exist, might see this and go, ‘Now wait a minute.’”
“The Comey Rule” was made on a $40 million budget. “Borat Subsequent Movie Film” was reportedly made for $10-20 million.
To some extent, Daniels and Cohen are exemplifying the cliche about “saying the quiet part out loud,” a statement on how comfortable the entertainment industry is with its own politics. We know Hollywood uses art for political purposes, and we know Hollywood leans so far left it can barely stand anymore. That’s all fine, art and politics can and should be a powerful combination. Partisan art, however, tends to fall flat, hampered by its necessary blindness to one side’s problems.
This partisan mission explains why “Borat Subsequent Movie Film” was lacking, especially compared to its iconic predecessor (one of my favorite movies). “The Comey Rule” was always a bad idea, but the partisanship didn’t make matters better.
Quality aside, the bigger takeaway is that major corporations such as Amazon and Viacom poured millions of dollars into projects billed by their stars as partisan projects to sway the election in favor of the Democratic candidate. Thank goodness for Citizens United!