The hype around the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, staring actor Sacha Baron Cohen, centers around Rudy Giuliani’s alleged sexual harassment of Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova. However, people forget that sexual harassment is not a humorous subject to many people, no matter who the perpetrator or the victim are.
Despite the reviews and positive feedback, along with the appearance of both Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani, the excitement over the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s (Borat 2) Friday release on Amazon Prime has concerning implications. Ever since the public learned that the final scenes of the movie feature Rudy Giuliani sexually harassing Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, it seems to be their only reason they want to watch it. For context, the premise of the movieseries is that a famous Kazakstan reporter, Borat, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, infiltrates aspects of U.S. culture to expose it, which results in many humorous exchanges. The original movie (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) faced criticism for its depiction of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender which sparked several lawsuits on behalf of those featured in the film and criticisms from viewers and critics alike.
Now, the most recent movie seeks to make humorous the experience of sexual harassment. It is not normal nor humorous to watch sexual harassment take place, unscripted, on camera. Under the guise of humor and the humiliation of a hated public figure, Borat 2 justifies allowing a scene where blatant sexual harassment becomes a punch line and undermines the seriousness of the moment. The one reason to not watch Borat 2 becomes the most simple of all, because the film reduces the experience of sexual harassment to a joke.
In the final segment of the movie, Bakalova, playing Borat’s 15-year-old daughter Tutar, poses as a right-wing journalist for a non-existent news outlet to infiltrate The White House’s inner circle and interview Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani falls for this manipulation, though to his credit the crew did include a full set up to make it look legit once he got there. The interview takes place in a hotel suite and begins in the suite’s living room before moving to the bedroom.
Throughout the interview, Giuliani is allegedly handsy with Bakalova. They were both also drinking. Bakalova was flirtatious with Giuliani throughout their encounter, and he did ask for her phone number and address. The moviefilm’s star, Borat, filmed Giuliani, without Giuliani’s knowledge, in what many outlets are calling a “compromising position” (rather than calling it what it is, sexual harassment) once Giuliani and Bakalova concluded their interview and moved to the bedroom to keep drinking. Bakalova removes Guiliani’s microphone, and Giuliani lies down on a bed and puts his hand down the front of his pants for an extended time, Bakalova still in the room. Then Baron-Cohen, as Borat, enters the room in an outlandish outfit and stops the encounter, informing Giuliani that Bakalova, playing Tutar, posing as a right wing journalist, is 15 years old. According to IMDB, Bakalova is 24.
According to Giuliani, he is innocent, and the final scenes of the moviefilm are portrayed out of context. He tweeted, “the Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar . . . in fact, the NY Post today reports ‘it looks to me like an exaggeration through editing.’ As soon as I realized it was a set up I called the police, which has been noted in THR article on July 8th [which is true]. This is an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family. Deadline Hollywood reports CAA [Creative Artists Agency] had a distribution screening in September where there was no mention of the scene holding any importance. We are preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell, of which Joe Biden will be unable to defend or hide from. I have the receipts.”
(Still from the moviefilm leaked before Friday’s premier, at the specific scene in question. Source: Sky News Australia YouTube)
It Does Not Matter What Happened, Sexual Harassment Is Not A Joke
Their interview was unscripted, and Giuliani had no idea there was a camera filming the whole time he and Bakalova were together. Giuliani could be right, and the Borat sequel could take the whole encounter between Giuliani and Bakalova out of context. However, the definition of inappropriate is being handsy with a reporter and asking for her phone number and address. Bakalova, no matter the flirtatiousness of her tone and speech, did not make him do anything against his will. Meanwhile, what Giuliani did was force her to witness him put his hand down the front of his pants for a long time, at least longer than it usually takes to tuck ones shirt in. “Although unfortunate, the circumstances of the set-up appear consensual”, Catherine Shoard wrote in The Guardian about Giuliani, which proves that no one considers the perspective of Bakalova. In no way does Bakalova indicate her consent during the incident.
The potential setup of Rudy Giuliani does not diminish the fact that the public still wants to watch him allegedly sexually harass Bakalova simply because it is humiliating for Giuliani. It does not matter what Giuliani’s intentions were, or what the truth is, why does anyone want to watch a movie under the pretense that an actress experiences sexual harassment perpetrated by a prominent public figure? People need to remember that it does not matter how humiliating it is for the perpetrator to get caught, sexual harassment should never be a light-hearted subject.
Sexual harassment is a serious problem, not a public joke. Does Maria Bakalova’s role as an actress make a movie depicting Giuliani’s sexual harassment of her more watchable? Is that how toxic U.S. politics are? In everyday scenarios, people do not want to watch that kind of trauma occur. So, do not watch the Borat Subsequent Moviefim. Do not ask women to relive that trauma. Do not take any enjoyment out of what Rudy Giuliani allegedly did. Instead, recognize that Maria Bakalova did not consent to have that done to her. Therefore, if true, Rudy Giuliani sexually harassed her. Do not normalize what happened in Borat 2 or use it as humiliation porn for the masses.