It's hard to believe it's been almost a decade since Borat, the satirical mockumentary that won Sacha Baron Cohen a Golden Globe and made it impossible to walk down the street without hearing someone yelp, "My wife! Very nice!" Baron Cohen retired the character shortly after the movie's run, but he revived the Kazakh journalist on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night for rather American purposes: self-promotion.
After easing his way back into Borat's trademark anti-Semitism and homoeroticism, Baron Cohen riffed on Donald Trump's political ascendance. "The only person who would ban Muslims is someone with a brain like a female chicken," said Borat. "It is clearly a parody of a rich American racist!" He then premiered the newest trailer for his upcoming comedy The Brothers Grimsby, in which he plays an idiot hooligan separated at birth from his younger brother — now a stylish, lethal international assassin. Baron Cohen wrote and produced the movie, which is being released March 11th, 2016.
Knowing Baron Cohen's intent doesn't make Borat's prejudice any easier to stomach
How does Borat fit into a cultural and political landscape that's changed a ton in the near-decade since the character's rise? In some respects, it's hard to imagine Borat blowing up the way it did in 2006 given the movie's over-the-top prejudice. Knowing that it's being deployed with satirical intent — to draw out the sinister, "real" prejudice of people who aren't in on the joke — doesn't help it go down any smoother. One of the centerpieces of The Brothers Grimsby's trailer is a gay gag in which Baron Cohen's character refuses to suck the venom from his brother's injured groin, a scene that's as joyless and lazy as it sounds on the page; watching Borat and Kimmel go back and forth in a display of casual gay panic is purely discomfiting.
The character's efficacy as bait for people's hidden hatred could be compromised, too. Borat was effective because Baron Cohen was willing to do so much to suck people into dropping their guard. If presidential candidates aren't doing anything to hide their virulent racism — if they're relying on it, even — can Borat serve the same purpose? He may not have to, as there's been no indication the character's appearance on Kimmel was anything more than a one-off.