The Ali G show is the essential jackpot for analyzing gender and popular culture. The hit HBO series is composed of skits and interviews conducted by three characters: Ali G, the urban, British macho character, Borat, the Jew-hating foreign character from
The Ali G Show relays multiple messages to its audience concerning hegemony. The discussion of females in various interviews and skits constantly emphasize stereotypes prevalent in today’s society. For example, in one particular episode, Ali G interviews a professor of Women and Gender Studies about Feminism. Ali G asks the professor if she would feel safe with a woman flying a plane; he explains that women easily get distracted by thoughts about other things. Ali G infers that women are poor drivers and operators of machinery. He also infers that women are too emotional to function and carry-out actions that men are considered to excel in because they don’t let emotions interfere. This idea of sex-segregated activities and occupations is internalized at childhood, according to Michael Messner, author of Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities. Men feel that certain activities, whether it is occupations or sports, like in the article, should be reserved for men only; this misogynist idea is conveyed through Ali G’s comment (127). This interview overall is a mockery of feminism; during the interview, Ali G confuses feminism with lesbianism. This mere slip-up is actually a big slap in the face for feminists and women alike. Society’s ignorant members have formed the stereotype that feminists are “butch” or lesbians that hate men. Through this comment, he is reaffirming this established stereotype of feminists. In another episode where Ali G is attempting to publish an erotic novel, Ali G explains the risks of engaging in sexual activity, one being a relationship. In Myth of the Sexual Athlete, Don Sabo discusses how in sexual relationships women are viewed as opponents (276). Intimacy is frowned upon, especially among young males. Also, in an interview with a publisher, he refers to his girlfriend as “Me Julie,” or if said properly, “My Julie.” While this is merely a subtle reference to his girlfriend, the fact that he uses “my” infers possession, like his women is his property. During a pro-life demonstration, Ali G interviews a young man who claims he is a virgin; Ali G laughs at him in disbelief. This reaffirms the popular trend that the younger a male is when he loses his virginity, the more accepted he is among other males. Don Sabo makes the point that young males feel the need to boast about their sexual experiences; it is like “winning points,” for being masculine (275).
While Ali G is constantly making hegemonic comments in his interviews and skits, both subtle and blatant, the show surprisingly conveys a number of counter-hegemonic messages as well. This is partly due to the face that the show is a form of a satire. For example, Ali G’s character is an exaggerated mockery of the stereotypical urbanized macho man; Ali G doesn’t speak proper English, his style of dress is simply ridiculous (goggle sunglasses, a do-rag, yellow baggy jogging suit, “bling”), and he is constantly misusing and confusing words with others (monogyny/mahogany, feminism/lesbianism, Mormon/moron). This satirized portrayal of this typical masculine figure is contradicting hegemonic messages. Also, during the Feminist interview, Ali G asks if there will ever be a Female Prime Minister; the woman tells him that there has been one. He is clueless when it comes to politics of his own country, while the female is worldly and knowledgeable about a topic of interest that stereotypically is solely a concern for men. A final example in the show that conveys a counter-hegemonic message is Ali G’s confusion concerning feminism and lesbianism. While this also served as a source of hegemony, it also shows the stereotypical male’s failure to understand the concept of feminism.
The Ali G show is unique in that it both reaffirms and challenges social norms and stereotypes concerning gender. The examples of hegemonic messages in the show mentioned earlier generally reaffirm these stereotypes about females. However, depending on the viewer, one can argue that even the examples previously mentioned do not reaffirm, but emphasize and satirize the irrationality behind these gender stereotypes. In my own opinion, I believe it could be interpreted either way; it depends on the viewer. For example, a young teenage boy watching the show would internalize the degrading female stereotypes and consider them true. However, a knowledgeable college student aware of the falseness in these stereotypes would interpret the hegemonic comments as simply satirical. But it seems that majority of viewers would simply find it funny, yet not necessarily realize that the female stereotypes touched upon in the show are false and degrading. Therefore the majority of society is unconsciously exposing themselves to and internalizing these stereotypes, condoning their presence in American popular culture.
Messner, Michael A. Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities.
Sabo, Don. The Myth of the Sexual Athlete.
"There’s been some talk in the cab of late about Borat the movie. For me, the character Borat is simply the consummate idiot, a crasser Jerry Lewis. I can’t wait to see the movie and from the trailers it appears his character repeats the style of his TV routines, albeit with a flimsy premise.
However whilst many regard Borat as the most ‘wrong’ movie ever, i.e. totally non-politically correct, strangely, many vocal adherents of political correctness are willingly subjecting themselves to the movie and loving it.
Last night an inner city passenger around forty years of age revealed she had just seen Borat. When I asked her what she thought of the movie she expressed an opinion prevalent amongst various reviewers. ‘Well, it has a huge cringe factor’, she explained, ‘but it’s an important satire on deep-seated American racism and sexism’.
This is what puzzles me about acceptance of Borat’s humour from otherwise hyper-sensitive viewers. Previously I hadn’t seen social commentary in Borat’s TV skits, on the Ali G show. He was basically having a bit of fun by foisting his ridiculous character upon unwitting subjects, a la Norman Gunston. That he could be so audacious in public is what I found hilarious."
-Excerpt from Borat 101
I agree with Adrian's analysis in that Borat’s movie is not a film produced with the intention to inform and expose society to the perils of gender, racial and religious stereotypes. It simply is a film that thrives on the controversy it creates over its scandalous, yet entertaining content. In a society obsessed over political correctness, Americans are attracted to the risqué jokes and stereotyping that are generally considered taboo to talk or joke about. However, like Adrian mentioned in his blog, people feel guilty about finding racist, religious, and sexist jokes entertaining. By society, particularly the media, altering the purpose of the film, stating that the movie’s purpose is to expose the ridiculous stereotypes that Americans accept and believe to be true, guilty Americans have a legitimate excuse to laugh out loud at the movie. I suppose I am guilty of this as well; when I watch the Ali G Show, I laugh at the controversial jokes, but I know they’re wrong and hurtful toward the groups of people they make fun of.
When jokes are directed towards women, I feel uncomfortable and sometimes even disturbed by the messages these jokes send to other viewers, especially those who do believe in the female stereotypes. For example, in the movie, Borat is surprised to learn that women have freedom
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