Sacha Baron Cohen Wants to Break American Politics
The Comedy Icon goes undercover in exposing some outrageous takes among our country's leaders.
The American public is no stranger to Sacha Baron Cohen, a well known prankster who sports a wide variety of personalities, such as Ali G, Borat and Bruno. Each of these personalities was born out of The Ali G Show (2000, 2003-2004), an HBO short run series that features Cohen undercover as each character in an attempt to garner an outrageous response from his victims. That victim’s list is a long one, and includes names like Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and even our nations studious leader Donald J Trump. However, with his latest Showtime series, Who is America?, Cohen takes full aim at the politicians.
The first three films of Cohen’s were feature length iterations of his most popular characters from his HBO show. Borat (a Kazakhstanian reporter with a foul mouth and zero personal space), Bruno (a flamboyant Australian fashion expert), and Ali G, the character that founded his career, are all extensions of his previous work. After his rise to fame in exhausting his characters on the big screen, Cohen turned to more roles that showcased his acting by making appearances in the film versions of musicals Le Miserables (2012) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). These roles are more suited for Cohen as a Cambridge educated actor with theater experience, but it is surprising that he has made his name naked wrestling and rocking a mankini.
Of course, there is purpose behind Cohen’s zany antics, as he attempts to expose the outrageous ideals still held by people that tends to be hidden away. It is oddly terrifying how people tend to reveal more when eased into a sense of acceptance and like-mindedness. This is the goal with Cohen’s latest project Who is America?, which premiered July 15th on Showtime to infiltrate the political elite in an effort to expose the varying views of “patriotism.” The problem is that Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, and has had politicians on their toes for years. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a problem (so far) as controversy already seems to be brewing amongst the likes of Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Philip Van Cleave.
The first episode of Who is America? immediately begins with a montage of our nation’s greatest moments and leaders. John F. Kennedy’s natural charisma and footage of Jackie Robinson are interrupted by the infamous clip of Trump mocking a disabled reporter. This is followed by the message that the nation is divided, and through Cohen’s four new characters, we get four different perspectives. So, right off the bat Cohen is displaying his message about American politics: we’re all wrong, and he’s going to expose the worst no matter the party affiliation.
The first identity of Cohen’s attempt to show who America is portrays the message of “drain the swamp” with Billy Wayne Rudduck. Rudduck rides around in a scooter meant for the disabled, but his use is to preserve his energy to combat the diseases Obamacare forced him to get. Obviously a caricature of the far right, Cohen sets his eyes on his first target, United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Cohen tries to rattle Sanders with an obvious lack of intelligence and a combative attitude, but ultimately just confuses the hell out of him. The makeup isn’t too strong on this character, but this is apparently the one that got Sarah Palin, so stay tuned!
Cohen’s next character comes in the form of Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, a “progressive” far left exhibitionist that is attempting to “Heal the Divide.” This character mocks the acceptance attitude with concepts of forced change, and is an example of leaning too far in one direction. He is invited to dinner with a couple, both Trump supporters, that are making an effort to understand the other party, and Cohen is sure to take advantage of their hospitality. Cohen here pulls no punches, as he continues to say outlandish things in the name of being progressive. Cohen mocks the couple, that say of course the left would do this, and the sect of society that tends to push any agenda for the sake of attention. Cohen is somewhat unrecognizable here, surprisingly, and I look forward to seeing more from this character.
The third act of the episode features ex-con Rick Sherman, an aspiring artist that seeks distribution for his artwork…that is made of feces and semen. Cohen, again taking advantage of an individuals personal agenda, is able to secure a meeting in a prestigious art gallery and representative. The woman he meets with is enamored with the shit laden art, and spews pretentious nonsense at him in an effort to secure his clientele. It is apparent of what she views the meeting as, which is an opportunity to portray this character as a redemption story in order to make some money. Maybe I’m jumping the gun, but the finale of the meeting is hilarious, and I couldn’t believe the lengths Cohen gets these people to go to. After leaving the room to “produce” art, the woman gives an important lesson on how art is subjective (and sometimes complete bullshit).
The final alias Sasha Baron Cohen undertook was Col. Erran Morad, or the self deemed ‘Terrorist Terminator.” Getting the most publicity for the absolutely outlandish take, Erran took DC in an effort to get backing for his new anti-school shooting campaign, “The Kinderguardians.” Featuring interviews with multiple (current and former) house members, senate members and gun rights advocates, The Kinderguardians program supports the idea of training/arming children as young as three years old. The quotes that come out of this segment are hilarious, but also jaw dropping. People like Phillip Van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, agree with Erran’s obscene program, and mention that children under three lack the consciousness to know right and wrong; therefore making great soldiers. I know, scary stuff.
It is no wonder former congressman Joe Walsh had to explain himself after Cohen showcased him as an advocate for the program, and had him saying, ‘Turn your first graders into first grenadiers.” This sheds light on the idea that all people care about is their own agendas, especially if they can get their gold sticker of approval from higher power; they’ll say anything. This segment was the most damning of how politicians will blindly read off any message they agree with, but also shows that people tend to let their guard down when they feel someone else agrees with them. Whether you agree with Cohen or not, America is in a divide, and rather than bridge the gap, Cohen wants to watch it burn. Sometimes comedy is the best medicine, so maybe this will make the American public question those in power and their own personal views. HOWEVER, until then, I’ll be with Cohen laughing at the absurdity of how we act as a society, as Sacha Baron Cohen continues to ask Who is America?