Sunday, November 05, 2006

American Niceness and Borat

John Derbyshire of NRO has seen Borat (Larry Charles, 2006), and though I generally don't agree with him on ANYTHING, I think he's got a great point about Americans as seen in the movie:

I think native Americans might be more at ease with this movie than I am. Imbedded in it is a critique of American niceness. Coming from the Old World, where people are much less nice, I am a bit of a fan of American niceness, and perhaps can't laugh at it as easily as someone who grew up with it.

Niceness is of course a matter of balance. Niceness can hypertrophy into the horrors of Political Correctness—speech codes, hate crimes, litigation over mild insults or compliments, etc. The opposite danger, the one SBC's style of humor points to, is that too much deconstructing of niceness might lead to a state of affairs where niceness vanishes. What's that Nadezhda Mandelshtam quote? Something like: "Once there were kind people, and even people who weren't kind, pretended to be, because that was the way to be. Then people began to scoff at this hypocrisy, to make fun of it, to expose it. The result we now see: there are no more kind people now." She was writing from the depths of Stalin's USSR. No, SBC isn't going to drag us down into totalitarianism, of course not. I do hope, though, very much, that he won't make Americans ashamed of their niceness.

Full post here

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