YouTube Video: Ali G on Feminism!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Final Blog Post: Audiences and Ali G

Audiences are the people that watch television shows or movies. There are various groups that watch these aspects of the media, and have contrasting interpretations and opinions on the media content; these various groups include genders, ethnic groups, and general viewers sharing different opinions. “Members of distinct genders, classes, races, nations, regions, sexual preferences, and political ideologies are going to read texts differently, and cultural studies can illuminate why diverse audiences interpret…in various, sometimes conflicting ways.” Much of the content on the Ali G Show is extremely controversial. However, the show is meant to be a comedy, so much of the scandalous content is overlooked due to the fact that it is all in good humor. Even so, various groups in the audience experience different reactions when watching the Ali G Show.

The first group that comes to mind is women. Speaking from personal experience, I feel that women are affected differently than men while watching the Ali G Show and internalizing the messages the show is conveying to the audience. As one can see after reading previous blog posts, women are frequently the source of ridicule and harassment. Ali G and Borat are constantly making fun of women throughout the episode. For example, in one episode Ali G jokes that one bad thing that could come out of sex with a woman is a relationship. Borat is constantly making jokes that humiliate and degrade women. For example, he frequently discusses his beautiful sister, who happens to be the number one prostitute in Kazahkstan. Also, both Ali G and Borat interview feminist scholars on two different occasions. They succeed in humiliating and angering the women they interview by asking them offensive questions and making sexist comments such as stating women cannot drive well.

While all these jokes about women are supposed to be amusing, for a woman, it is offensive, even for those women who do find it funny and laugh along. I, for example, watch the show and laugh at the many jokes made about women, but then on second thought, I realize how degrading they are to women. It would be less offensive if I knew that the audience definitely did not agree with the stereotypes being enforced in the show. But in reality, society finds truth in the stereotypes from which the female jokes on the Ali G Show sprout. Stereotypes such as women are bad drivers, or are a pain to deal with in a relationship, or are mere objects of sexual desire, are all stereotypes that manifest our culture to this day. Therefore, these jokes, while they may seem harmless to the male audience, the female audience still finds them to be an attack on their gender, even though at surface value, they too find the content amusing.

Another group of audience that may interpret the Ali G Show differently than other groups of audience is different ethnic groups that are the source of mockery. For example, Jews are constantly made fun of by the character Borat. What is interesting, however, is that Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of the Ali G Show, is Jewish himself. So while this may be of some consolation to Jewish audience members, the truth is that the jokes made can be considered offensive and hurtful to Jews. However jokes about Jews appear to be more satirical than joke about females. For example, in one episode, Borat goes to a bar located in Tucson, Arizona. He sings a karaoke song about Jews. The lyrics were as follows: “Throw the Jew down the well, so my country can be free, you must grab him by his horns, and then we’ll all have a big party.” The people in the bar begin to sing along with Borat, and the scene is amusing, not because of the offensive song, but because the people in the bar look like complete fools blindly singing along to this ridiculous song. But an episode like this could be interpreted as either extremely degrading to Jews, or as a mockery of those who blindly believe that Jews are not good people.

The two final contrasting groups of audience differ in terms of simple opinions about the Ali G Show. There are those who believe that the show should be taken for face value; it is a controversial, yet hilarious show that should not be viewed through an analytical lens. While it indeed discusses risqué subject matter, such as females, sex, ethnic groups, drugs, etc., people should not feel threatened by these stereotypical, sexist, racist jokes. However, on the other hand, there are those who feel that shows like this are enforcing stereotypes that are damaging society. These stereotypes that society is trying to overcome, such as racism and sexism, are simply being reinforced and internalized by society once again like the Ali G Show. I find myself somewhere in between; I feel that responsible members of society can watch a show like the Ali G Show and be able to laugh at the jokes made, but be able to draw the line between jokes in a satirical show and reality. But it is true that many members in society cannot be trusted to successfully draw this line between television and reality.

Kellner, Douglas. A Cultural Studies Approach.


Jessie said...

Nice job wrapping up the blog for the semester- I think you've hit the key with it transformative when a vast subset of the audience won't 'get' the satirical message? You've done a nice job weaving in the course reading and the uneasy role of satire in pop culture. I wonder if a case can be made for responsible satire? :o)

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