Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – or, simply, Borat – has not aged well. The full title is inherently offensive and it only gets more upsetting from there.
To recap: Borat is a mockumentary in which Cambridge-educated character actor Sacha Baron Cohen plays a fictional Kazakh journalist who goes around America making people feel uncomfortable. As the plot goes, he's been sent to "the U, S and A" by his government to make a documentary about American society and culture, but mostly succeeds in peddling lazy stereotypes about Romani people and saying "It's nice!"
The joke, of course, is that Borat is an idiot. A well-meaning goofball whose antiziganism is undercut by the fact that he's from a gypsy village, anti-semitism undercut by the fact that he speaks Hebrew (and is played by a British Jew), and sexism… well, I think we're just supposed to assume that’s "obviously bad" as well. Basically, you know all those scenes in Fawlty Towers where Manual goes "Que?" It's like 84 minutes of that, but instead of "que" he’s propositioning "sexy time" with his interviewees and talking about throwing Jews down a well. Unsurprisingly, the film was banned in all Arab countries except for Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. We all loved it, though, didn't we! "My wife!" Haha. Classic.
Anyway, the reason we’re bringing this up is because it’s the six-year anniversary of the time a sporting event in Kuwait accidentally played the Kazakhstan national anthem from Borat instead of the real one.
Absolutely fucked it.
Imagine you are gold medalist Maria Dmitrienko. You are standing on the podium at the Arab Shooting Championships, hand on heart, ready to absorb the splendid bellow of "My Kazakhstan" and feel a deep sense of pride for your accomplishments and country. Then you hear something unfamiliar. You stand there for a while with a "did I leave the gas on?" face – Surely not? Maybe it's the adrenaline? – and, before you know it, a significant moment in your sporting career has just been immortalised to the tune of some politically incorrect satire about prostitutes and potassium exports. Can you fathom the level of mass pants-shitting that would occur if, like, Erykah Badu took gracefully to the Super Bowl field to belt out the US national anthem, and suddenly "America Fuck Yeah!" started playing? There'd be a World War, even if it is essentially Donald Trump's entrance theme.
So there you go. That was a thing that happened once. Less celebrated but just as important is the fact that, a few days prior, the organisers of a skiing festival in northern Kazakhstan accidentally blasted "Livin la Vida Loca" instead of their national anthem. March, 2012 was clearly not a good time for people knowing what the Kazakhstan national anthem sounds like.
It's been 12 years since Borat was released, and I think we can all agree that if you sat down with a woke teen and watched it today they would look at you the way we look at Ricky Gervais, and fire off a carefully articulated Twitter thread about the cultural power of comedy, making you look like a dick.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.