When Sacha Baron Cohen's creation Ali G first appeared on television it was one of the most brilliant satires in years. It wasn't so much the send up of the moronic elements of hip hop culture (although that is a target rich environment) or the phenomena of middle class white kids aping Jamaican culture badly, it was the reactions of the people he interviewed.
They were members of the establishment and were almost universally highly accomplished and very intelligent. Yet when they were faced with a Yoof TV interviewer who was clearly a halfwit they refused to pass judgement on his stupidity or his outrageous attitudes. If anything they largely pandered to him and sought his approval. There were a few exceptions to that rule such as Tony Benn challenging his references to 'me bitches', Donald Trump walking out as Ali G proposed a stupid idea or when Andy Rooney got sick of his idiocy here:
Borat was amusing but didn't really show anything that hasn't been done a thousand times before, be it dumb rednecks or funny foreigners. I haven't see the Bruno movie yet of course but as a TV character he hardly broke new ground as a flamboyantly camp fashionista and I doubt the movie will either. It may well work as comedy but it is a waste of talent for someone like Baron Cohen to do John Inman meets Zoolander when he has shown he is capable of making cutting satire that says something about society.
I think the difference between Ali G in 1999 and Borat and Bruno since then is that Ali G was exposing the cant and hypocrisy that was practiced by the sort of people who watched him, whereas Borat and Bruno don't hold up a mirror to the audiences own shortcomings but instead point and laugh at the little people.
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