Why you need to watch ‘Who is America?’ from Sacha Baron Cohen
The British actor, comedian, and producer Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his irreverent roles as Ali G and Borat Sagdiyev, has released his new satirical television series where he blurs the boundaries between reality and exaggeration in current American life.
Never has humor hurt so much.
In July, the British actor, comedian and producer Sacha Baron Cohen launched his new television series on Showtime in which he tries to answer the question we all ask ourselves: What has the United States become?
According to Deadline, Baron Cohen's series consists of seven episodes - three of which have already been released – that "explore the diverse individuals, from the infamous to the unknown across the political and cultural spectrum, who populate our unique nation.”
For Showtime’s CEO David Nevins, the comedian’s new proposal demonstrates his "audacity, bravery and inventiveness".
"He is the premier provocateur of our time," said Nevins. "But not for the sake of ‘gotcha’ moments. Behind the elaborate setup is a genuine quest for the truth about people, places, and politics. Nobody knows how to cause a stir like Sacha Baron Cohen, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch what happens when 'Who is America?' is launched into the world."
With characters that Baron Cohen himself portrays, this series puts on the table the most radical positions in the country at the moment, and easily summarizes the ideological poles that have estranged Americans from each other over the past 17 months.
One of them is Dr. Nira Cain-N'Degeocello, an academic obsessed with the inclusion and acceptance of "the 24 genders" that exist, who considers himself a Democrat and liberal activist seeking to "heal the divide.”
Nira intersperses in a chaotic way feminine rights, intersexuality, racial differences and the obsession with political correctness, all under the guise of a National Public Radio (NPR) t-shirt.
Another character is Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., a far-right conspiracy theorist who seeks to prove the existence of the "Fake News." Likewise, Rick Sherman is an ex-con turned into an artist who tries to convince a gallery to buy his works made with his own excrement, while Gio Monaldo is an Italian billionaire fashion photographer who produces his own series in which he tries to raise awareness about absurd charitable causes.
But perhaps the character that has made the most impact so far is Erran Morad, an Israeli expert in anti-terrorist strategies who belongs to the Israeli army. He believes that the solution to mass shootings in the United States is to arm children between 3 and 16 years old.
Any resemblance to the broad features of the American population is mere coincidence.
What is most striking about the series is Baron Cohen's ability to get his characters to sit down and converse with important political representatives and celebrities, blurring the lines between satire and reality.
From the first episode, in which Ruddick interviews Sen. Bernie Sanders, the stereotypes are strongly marked - between the extreme right-wing activist, the conservative family, the fascination with cultural elites, and the incongruity of Second Amendment activists.
Baron Cohen demonstrates how prejudices and cultural constructs have closed the spectrum of vision in American society to the point that the differences between Israelis and Muslims are only noticed when they are put into context.
Infamously, Jason Spencer, a representative of the Georgia General Assembly, dropped his pants in a segment on the show to demonstrate his willingness to "defend the United States," something that led him to resign his post the following day.
No, it’s not easy to watch "Who Is America?" The show makes us uncomfortable from minute one, and it is precisely that discomfort what proves that something is going horribly wrong.
Baron Cohen’s work - as it was with his role in "Borat" more than ten years ago - is meant to rub in our face a reality that we remain permissive to, even when we believe we are resisting it.