This, to follow up the Borat AskMe. November 9, 2006 7:31 PM   Subscribe

This, to follow up the Borat AskMe.
posted by Arcaz Ino to MetaFilter-Related at 7:31 PM (97 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

That is one of the strangest legal complaints I have ever read. Looks like a joke.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:47 PM on November 9, 2006


If they signed a release, I'm guessing they're SOL.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:48 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


If they signed a release, I'm guessing they're SOL.

They claim they were drunk though and under false pretences.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:53 PM on November 9, 2006


Are the frat boys lame for suing?
Yes 81%
No 19%
Total Votes: 12,868

posted by crunchland at 7:57 PM on November 9, 2006


Won't somebody please think of the drunk, racist frat boys?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:00 PM on November 9, 2006 [2 favorites]


Yea, reading now.... Stupid. Completely stupid. They're claiming they said the things they said because they thought nobody in the US would see them. Nobody forced them to say what they said. I hope the judge laughs in their faces.

I am against these sort of filmmaking tactics (I won't support Michael Moore, this film, or any other film that uses them; I think it's mean and takes advantage of people), but people are always held accountable for the things they say (well, obviously they are, or we wouldn't have a lawsuit). To cry and say, oh, but we didn't mean it, because we were drunk and we thought only Europeans would see the film... too little, too late, unfortunately.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:00 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Won't somebody please think of the drunk, racist frat boys?

God knows they never think of themselves.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:01 PM on November 9, 2006


Well, if you read the slate article about people in the movie thinking about suing him, the producers of the movie do everything they can to get you to sign it without reading it. They show up late, they say it's just a formality, and the actual text basically insulates them from anything ever while also letting them make all the profit off you forever. I haven't seen it (I doubt I could sit through this cringe kind of comedy) but I suspect these guys acted like idiots and they probably don't have a legal leg to stand on, but the producers of the film do everything they can to hide who they are and what the film is for.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:05 PM on November 9, 2006


In related news --

The real 'Borat' is ready to sue.

'Real Borat' hopes to make film.
posted by ericb at 8:24 PM on November 9, 2006


To be honest, the Borat gag's a weak mashup of Latka Gravas, Jose Jimenez, Father Guido Sarducci, and Yakov Smirnoff. But for everyone under 40, it might as well be new material...
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:41 PM on November 9, 2006


What are "these sort of filmmaking tactics?" I don't get this.
What do people think a camera is for, when you point it in their face? Why have yourself recorded and catalogued forever if you don't want anyone to see it or your opinions.
It's like, "Unfair! I thought this film was going to be sympathetic to drunken homophobic assholes. You tricked me."
posted by chococat at 8:42 PM on November 9, 2006


Lawsuit for take money of glorious Kazakhstan
posted by brain_drain at 8:51 PM on November 9, 2006


some people will do anything to get a camera pointed at them ... and then they wonder why people with cameras take ruthless advantage of that

the magic words - "no, i don't want to be in a movie"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:56 PM on November 9, 2006


Personally, I hope they sue his ass off.

Unfair! I thought this film was going to be sympathetic to drunken homophobic assholes. You tricked me.

Though I'm not one to defend homophobes or assholes, the fact that they're homophobic and assholes is irrelevant if the truth is that they were told it was not going to screen in the USA, no? It's Cohen's tactics that are being challenged, not the opinions he solicited with them.

As for "these tactics" I'm always reminded of the instance where the guy was brought on a talk show under the pretense of X and was told "I love you" by his gay neighbor. Later, the man shot and killed the neighbor for embarassing him.

Do I think the talk show host responsible for the murder? No. But I do think she's liable, to some extent, and that her tactics should be illegal.

Yeah, yeah, I hate journalists, faux or not, so I'm biased.
posted by dobbs at 9:00 PM on November 9, 2006


Also, it says 2 frat boys are filing the suit. I won't see the movie, but have heard there are 3 in the scene. I'm curious if the Asker's friend is the one that opted-out. I assume so, based on the Ask followup.
posted by dobbs at 9:04 PM on November 9, 2006


Haven't the Girls Gone Wild lawsuits completely settled the legality of this?

I wonder how many GGW videos the frat boys own (or have downloaded)?
posted by Chuckles at 9:09 PM on November 9, 2006


I imagine it's settled the legality of the waiver part, but the drunk frat boys are trying to say they were tricked into what the movie was about. From all I've read (more than one feature article), Girls Gone Wild never lies about who they are. In fact, they usually go into a bar screaming WE'RE GIRLS GONE WILD SHOW US YOUR BOOBIES WOO WOO!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Look, if you were interviewed with freaking cameras in your face, you should know better.

It's called implicit consent. No hidden cameras. (Not like taxicab confessions)

I applaud this sort of lambasting. The only people who get upset by it, are the pompous, the racist, the people who behave badly.

Be nice, and there's no controversy.
posted by filmgeek at 9:28 PM on November 9, 2006

The plaintiffs claim they suffered "humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community..." because the movie was indeed released in the U.S.
What a steaming pile of shit. They may well have suffered all of those things (although I doubt it), but it was not because the movie was released in the US, it was because they acted like a couple of mouth-breathing, bigoted arseholes. I don't think you can sue yourself, so don't see how they have any kind of case. Even if they do, they deserve all the humiliation they get. As has been mentioned previously, drunk people generally only let out what they usually hold back - alcohol doesn't change people's opinions, just their inhibitions about sharing them.
posted by dg at 9:30 PM on November 9, 2006


It's called implicit consent. No hidden cameras.

Yes, but when you get them drunk before the cameras come out things get a little different.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:31 PM on November 9, 2006


Saw the movie tonight. The frat boys are fucking idiots. If its not too late to sue their parents and their schools, that is who they should sue. Both let them down.

How did they get Pam Anderson to agree to the whole thing?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:41 PM on November 9, 2006


To be fair, I haven't seen the movie. I'm seeing it this weekend. But then neither have many people in this thread, it seems.
Ya, they were drunk but they knew they were going to be filmed before they were drunk, no? Not exactly the "Jenny Jones" scenario. Who knows what Cohen's people told them, until we hear from them.
Good luck with that lawsuit.
posted by chococat at 9:50 PM on November 9, 2006


I applaud this sort of lambasting. The only people who get upset by it, are the pompous, the racist, the people who behave badly.

You don't seem to be aware of the phenomenon of editing.

I'm not saying these guys DIDN'T behave disgustingly on camera, nor do I disagree that they get what they deserve. But you can't ignore that there is an understated, deceptive tactic to get them on camera, then an aggressive editing format to make them look as stupid as possible. There are times I wonder how many nights Sacha Baron Cohen has to spend with someone before they behave like an ass.

I doubt I could make it through my life for 3 days without saying something internationally scandalous.
posted by scarabic at 9:54 PM on November 9, 2006


Ya, they were drunk but they knew they were going to be filmed before they were drunk, no? Not exactly the "Jenny Jones" scenario.

I wasn't bringing up Jenny in regards to the sobriety of the subjects, but that they were told one thing before the cameras started rolling and then the filmmakers bait and switched.

I think journalists and documentarians should be held accountable for the bullshit they show. I don't know why so many people don't agree with this. With editing you can very easily "put words in the mouths" of your subjects--with that kind of power, these people should be held accountable for their actions.

On preview: what Scarabic said.
posted by dobbs at 10:00 PM on November 9, 2006


You don't seem to be aware of the phenomenon of editing.

Hardly a phenomenon...name a single television show or film that doesn't employ it?
Everyone seems to love The Daily Show and this is exactly the same.

I doubt I could make it through my life for 3 days without saying something internationally scandalous.

You probably shouldn't agree to be in a major motion picture, then.
posted by chococat at 10:03 PM on November 9, 2006


Ya, they were drunk but they knew they were going to be filmed before they were drunk, no? Not exactly the "Jenny Jones" scenario. Who knows what Cohen's people told them, until we hear from them.

Let's put it this way, and let me clarify, I do think these guys were stupid, however, if I promise to give you $200 if you will sign a contract with me and then I get you hammered before you sign that contract, then it turns out that the contract allows me to hit you in the nuts repeatedly with a hammer for 6 hours. Do you think that you are going to try and get out of said contract?

How about this one: I tell you, a 17 year old, lower middle class, c student, that I will pay for your college education and all you have to do is work for me for two years doing really cool xtreme sports type stuff for money! When the two years is almost up I make you do work that is really dangerous to your life and not nearly as fun and then tell you that you will have to work for me even longer according to a tiny clause on our earlier contract. Do you think that I may have coerced you to sign under false pretences?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:21 PM on November 9, 2006


Salon has a piece that rounds up information on a number of the people depicted in the film. Some of it I had read before, some of it I hadn't. One of the three frat boys is mentioned at the very end of the third page.

But I'm really just posting here to say that TPS has the most concise summary of Girls Gone Wild I've ever read. Not that I've seen them in action, but I got the same impression. And I think the WOO WOO part is pretty key to the GGW experience, too.
posted by anjamu at 10:25 PM on November 9, 2006


If you really don't want your antics to be shown in the US you get that in writing as part of the release. You don't just take their word for it as some kind of half ass verbal contract. Sheesh, don't they still teach kids to first read everything they sign?
posted by Rhomboid at 11:53 PM on November 9, 2006


Taking advantage of someone when they're drunk is just so the opposite of what Delta Xi stands for, for shame Sacha, for shame.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:02 AM on November 10, 2006 [3 favorites]


Yes, but when you get them drunk before the cameras come out things get a little different.

Let me introduce you to the phenomenon of "Girls Gone Wild."

The movie made them look stupid. The lawsuit proves it. If you misbehave on camera, apologize and own up to it. Don't behave like you're the victim.

But, of course, that was exactly the argument the frat boys were making in the film, wasn't it? That they are victims? That blacks and other minorities have things better than them?

Damn that Jew, Sasha Baron Cohen, for once again proving that rich white kids are powerless against clever minorities.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 AM on November 10, 2006


As discussed around here before, I'm not really on the side of making entertainment out of humiliating some poor sucker on the street. On the legal side, perhaps there's no legal argument to protect you when you sign a contract like this--perhaps not even the fact (if true) that the filmmakers misrepresented the nature of the agreement and used tactics to hide their true intentions. (That guy Frey caught a lot of hell for classifying his work of fiction as autobiography; the film guys here solicited participation in a documentary, not a live-action version of south park. Aside: as others have mentioned, I was never a fan of how Michael Moore did this, either; he was a bit too comfortable settling for humiliating the little guy when he couldn't get to the big fish he set out for.)

But the thing is: are people here overly comfortable with these guys' lack of legal standing simply because of the nature of their commentary/bigotry/whatever? I'm thinking in terms all all those click-through agreements I've accepted online over the past decade or so, and how many of us who haven't carefully read them would be willing to accept that in our overly rapid click-though we've unwittingly agreed to some kind of targeted humiliation--say, in the form of a less-than-ethical webmaster exposing the identity/proclivity surrounding a particularly embarrassing anonymous 'ask metafilter' post (which, by the apparently accepted standards, would be just dandy if such webmaster--in the absence of an airtight legal obligation otherwise--calculated such poster as being, on the blue, a particular brand of hypocrite).

It's interesting, because if it were cast here in terms of privacy with the same loose legal justifications, i think a lot of people here wouldn't buy the defense.

I'm also a bit curious as to how legitimate documentary filmmakers would view, or would be practically affected by, a growing distrust of their assurances or intentions, given that 'standard consent agreement' implies so much that one might as well just sign a blank check.
posted by troybob at 12:08 AM on November 10, 2006


But the thing is: are people here overly comfortable with these guys' lack of legal standing simply because of the nature of their commentary/bigotry/whatever?

I believe there is a significant difference between the content of a click-through license and the consent waiver discussed here, significant enough that I don't believe I should feel bad for ridiculing the frat boys for their bigotry. That they should have read the contract before signing only highlights their tragic, comical stupidity.

I'm also a bit curious as to how legitimate documentary filmmakers would view, or would be practically affected by, a growing distrust of their assurances or intentions, given that 'standard consent agreement' implies so much that one might as well just sign a blank check.

Borat is not a documentary film, it is (using the language in the waiver) a "documentary-style" film; specifically, a comedy about Americans (albeit with unavoidably tragic elements).

I am still comfortable consuming the occasional hamburger, although the Hormel Corporation sells a "meat-style" product called SPAM.

Likewise, I doubt very much that viewers of Borat purchased tickets for a non-fictional "slice of life" perspective that a typical documentary provides.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:45 AM on November 10, 2006


Stop it! You're pinching my white privilege. And it hurts!
posted by joe lisboa at 1:35 AM on November 10, 2006


I think the biggest issue here is that they're arguing that they only signed the contracts AFTER the filmmakers had gotten them drunk. I woulda thought that a signed contract wouldn't be binding if you were hammered when you signed it. *Particularly* if the person you were entering the agreement with is the one that got you drunk.
posted by antifuse at 1:37 AM on November 10, 2006


What is the difference between the unread consent waiver and the unread click-through license, if either can contain any manner of agreement out of bounds or even contrary to the nature of the agreement as represented by the one offering it. If you're saying that you carefully read through software licenses, then I applaud your efforts. But even then, if Microsoft or Apple or whatever entity can find a clever way to twist some ambiguous statement (amongst hundreds of statements) toward an interpretation that invites them to publicly announce your online porn-viewing habits--well, then we can argue that legally they're on solid ground, but we would be more generous than to call you comically stupid for it.

And perhaps I wasn't clear on the perspective with regard to documentary filmmakers, but I was referring to the participant, not the viewer. Those interviewed in the film were told that they were participating in a documentary film--not a comedy--utilizing an agreement labeled as a 'standard consent agreement.' (Even in the agreement, as you point to, the label 'documentary-style' could reasonably be interpreted as synonymous with 'documentary film.' Indeed, the efforts the filmmakers made to keep the participants in the dark relied on this ambiguity, amongst many ambiguities.) Documentary filmmakers have often relied upon the good will and generosity of those who participate; they might find it harder to find such cooperation if potential participants aren't up to the task of hiring a lawyer to ensure they aren't being served up for public humiliation--particularly now since this comedy 'breakthrough' is going to be imitated endlessly.

This also points to what is often overlooked (though commented upon above a bit), which is context. First, those being interviewed were invited to participate within a particular context (a documentary film about a foreign country) about which they were deceived. To parallel, you're not going to say or do the same kinds of things in your girlfriend's homemade S&M sex video that you are going to say or do in your corporate sexual harrassment video; to have the contents of one injected into the other, while perhaps comedic, is going to be easily misunderstood robbed of appropriate context. Also, just as you wouldn't buy my argument that Astro Zombie is anti-Semitic based on the comment 'Damn that Jew' made above, were I to have free reign to remove the surrounding comments, or to carefully select them, or interject them into a different discussion altogether, I might at least get some people to view AZ as somewhat of an ass. Drunk fratboys say stupid things; it's actually within the realm of what we would expect of drunk fratboys. (Drunk fratboys can be convinced to do quite a few things, but we wouldn't necessarily say they are gay because of it.) But you've got to admit that you're not seeing the full picture; you are satisfied that you are, because, after all, it's on film/video, so it must be true. But you don't know to what degree they were encouraged to go in a certain direction; you don't know what was edited out--what they might have said to contradict or explain or redeem their statements or behavior. Of course, you're not particularly interested to do so, any more than you would want to endure seeing the endless hours of setup and trial leading up to the three-minute car chase sequence in another brand of film.
posted by troybob at 1:40 AM on November 10, 2006


Drunk fratboys can be convinced to do quite a few things, but we wouldn't necessarily say they are gay because of it.

I'm totally straight, but...
posted by maxwelton at 2:12 AM on November 10, 2006


Documentary filmmakers have often relied upon the good will and generosity of those who participate; they might find it harder to find such cooperation if potential participants aren't up to the task of hiring a lawyer to ensure they aren't being served up for public humiliation--particularly now since this comedy 'breakthrough' is going to be imitated endlessly.

Participants in a documentary film are not the same as participants in a documentary-style film. I'm not eating meat when I bite into a loaf of SPAM, but rather I know I am eating a meat-style product.

Anyway, if I'm making a "documentary" that involves frat boys, maybe the participants have an idea it isn't exactly Hoop Dreams material, or would, if they weren't so mindblowingly dumb.

Unless these guys signed under duress, or can prove they were made intoxicated by the film crew before signing, given the terms of the contract they are probably out of luck.

I'm sorry, but I just can't work up much sympathy for bigots outing themselves voluntarily.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:48 AM on November 10, 2006


>I am against these sort of filmmaking tactics (I won't support Michael Moore, this film, or any other film that uses them;

Er, when did Michael Moore ever do something like that? He doesn't lie to people about who he is and what he's doing, and he doesn't get them drunk.

I think the case will come down to any third parties who saw them sign the waivers. If a barman can stand up in court and say he served them 20 tequila slammers each, then they signed the contract right in front of him and borrowed his pen to do it, maybe they have a case.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:26 AM on November 10, 2006


Participants in a documentary film are not the same as participants in a documentary-style film. I'm not eating meat when I bite into a loaf of SPAM, but rather I know I am eating a meat-style product.

This is a milestone in the history of hair-splitting. Mark your timelines.


I also wonder what Michael Moore ever did to warrant being accused of "these sort of filmmaking tactics." AFAIK, he's never told any of his subjects, "This will never be shown where you live."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:53 AM on November 10, 2006


Hahahaahhaaaha!

So, frat boys get 'conned' into doing something stoopid which they seem ashamed of later. To lessen that shame they publicise the whole thing even more by an ill-advised attempt to sue.

There so much irony in this you build a bridge out of it.

I can't wait to see this film now...and how long is it going to be until these two Johns get IDed? Heh.

Life advice: Don't trust the camera. Don't trust TV & film people. Don't trust journos.
posted by i_cola at 4:51 AM on November 10, 2006


Yes, I agree that filing a lawsuit and drawing additional attention to yourself is not exactly the best way to convince people that you really are a nice guy.
posted by TedW at 5:14 AM on November 10, 2006


These two stupid ass frat boys already had all the publicity they didn't want before they filed their suit. The suit will do no more harm. It will however net them a mid six figure nuisance settlement. So now they will be young, drunk, stupid and wealthy. A lethal combination.

If the boys are going to file these types of lawsuits, I still think they should sue their parents and schools for failing them at a younger age.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:31 AM on November 10, 2006


Really, Cohen et al shouldn't be blamed for this. They should be commended. The ludicrious lawsuit only furthers the entire point of the movie: laughing at America.
posted by The God Complex at 5:37 AM on November 10, 2006


I think getting an under-age kid drunk and getting him to sign a contract that you lied to his face about the contents there-of can't possibly be legal.
posted by empath at 5:43 AM on November 10, 2006


It's worked for military recruiters for centuries.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:49 AM on November 10, 2006


But you can't ignore that there is an understated, deceptive tactic to get them on camera, then an aggressive editing format to make them look as stupid as possible.

Amen, brother. Folks who let "The racists got what they deserved!" be their final word on the episode really, really need to address this point in some way. The tactic is horrid, regardless of who the target is. I laughed hysterically through much of the film (the fratboy scene, not so much; it was sad more than anything), but I'd never deny that Cohen and his people behaved like total assholes in filming some of it. Getting folks shitfaced before filming is a cheap shot that actually works *against* whatever larger point he's trying to make about the bigotry people keep inside themselves.
posted by mediareport at 7:26 AM on November 10, 2006


"from both sides of the isles" hahahahahah...
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2006


Though I'm not one to defend homophobes or assholes, the fact that they're homophobic and assholes is irrelevant if the truth is that they were told it was not going to screen in the USA, no? It's Cohen's tactics that are being challenged, not the opinions he solicited with them.

I agree. And for another thing, drunken rambling may not be something you really believe. I

Haven't the Girls Gone Wild lawsuits completely settled the legality of this?

Not exactly, and remember that many of those lawsuits succeeded. GGW had to change their tactics to make sure that releases were signed and everything. Now they have people sign releases before they even get into the venues, and before they start drinking.

And unlike Borat, everyone knows exactly what GGW is and how and where it's marketed.

From what I understand of contract law, a contract isn't actually valid unless the signer reads and understands it. If you sign a contract without knowing it's a contract it's really not valid.

On the other hand, maybe these frat-boys now know what it’s like for the girls they get drunk and bang. Not that I’m trading in stereotypes or anything...
posted by delmoi at 8:07 AM on November 10, 2006


I sincerely hope that once this all through the first google result for both of their names is a page documenting what awful whiny bitches they are.

These guys have no sack.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:17 AM on November 10, 2006


"How about this one: I tell you, a 17 year old, lower middle class, c student, that I will pay for your college education and all you have to do is work for me for two years doing really cool xtreme sports type stuff for money! When the two years is almost up I make you do work that is really dangerous to your life and not nearly as fun and then tell you that you will have to work for me even longer according to a tiny clause on our earlier contract. Do you think that I may have coerced you to sign under false pretences?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:21 PM MST on November 9

...

It's worked for military recruiters for centuries.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:49 AM MST on November 10"



I was wondering how long it would take.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:30 AM on November 10, 2006


I am against these sort of filmmaking tactics

Me too. Which is why they should be punished.

The issue isn't whether the frat boys were jerks. The issue is consent.

The frat boys consented to be in a documentary about the US for Khazakstan, or for Belarus. They didn't consent to be in a comedy making fun of them for the US market.

And the filmmakers knew that, of course. They didn't say "Will you consent to be in our film in which the star does repulsive things to get a rise out of you, so that everyone can laugh at your reaction,?" because who the hell would consent to that?

So they lied to people. Not in any innocent way that we can wink at after the fact, but in order to trick them into apparently consenting to something that they didn't actually consent to. They engaged in an organized program of deception in order to get people to perform actions that benefited them financially and that they would not give their consent to perform.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2006


Everyone seems to love The Daily Show and this is exactly the same.

AFAIK, The Daily Show says "We're from The Daily Show and we'd like to interview you."

That ain't equivalent, because there's no lie. I'm not fond of something that approaches a lie by omission, but that's much less than what the Borat people did.

The equivalent would be if The Daily Show said "We're from Sixty Minutes and would like to interview you" -- if they actually, positively lied to people in order to get their interviews.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:36 AM on November 10, 2006


So one of the arguments is that they were sober before and then the producers got them drunk. Three frat guys, in Winnebago, driving across country. Sober. Yeah right.

If they were smart (big if) they would realize, "Hey, maybe my stereotypes and misconceptions about minorities are wrong" and then speak out against that. Otherwise more publicity via lawsuit just draws more attention to how stupid they are.

Loved the movie. Definitely made me think about some things. And cry hysterically.
posted by Big_B at 8:37 AM on November 10, 2006


From what I understand of contract law, a contract isn't actually valid unless the signer reads and understands it. If you sign a contract without knowing it's a contract it's really not valid.

While that statement is not true, it is true that at the time you enter into a contract you must have the capacity to do so. This means you have to be free of duress, of legal age, of sufficient mental competence, etc.

It is a basic rule of contract law that if a person is sufficiently intoxicated he or she lacks the requisite capacity to enter into a contract. That should make the contract voidable at the discretion of the intoxicated person. This would seem to be particularly true where the other party to the contract had reason to know that the signer was intoxicated when entering into the contract, and took advantage of that fact. This is particularly particularly true where the other party to the contract provides the alcohol that makes the signer intoxicated.

The frat boys will have the burden of proving these facts, of course. And voiding the contract does not automatically win them the case. And while their releases may be voidable, they are idiots nonetheless.

(If you are interested, you can see the release at Slate.com.)
posted by AgentRocket at 8:39 AM on November 10, 2006


So they lied to people. Not in any innocent way that we can wink at after the fact, but in order to trick them into apparently consenting to something that they didn't actually consent to. They engaged in an organized program of deception in order to get people to perform actions that benefited them financially and that they would not give their consent to perform.

Yeah, but the film's producers gave them a release form to read and sign.

Presumably, they read it before they signed it.

If they didn't read it before they signed it, for whatever reason, tough shit.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 9:06 AM on November 10, 2006


What I think it interesting about the debate itself is that the kind of things the filmmakers did here are tactics that, were they employed by, say, a corporation employing deception for the purpose of exploiting any of us, many of those telling the fratboys to suck it up wouldn't be so dismissive. The difference, I think, amounts to (1) the degree to which one wants to justify being entertained by a deception one would otherwise find unacceptable, (2) the fact that the target is someone else and not us, and (3) the self-satisfaction that the participants here are supposedly morally bankrupt anyway, and thus deserve this treatment.

One can argue that the argument of the issues surrounding particular case is trivial outside those directly involved. But when you take the factors at play--the deceptive use of legal technicality inconsistent with the statement or spirit of intention and purpose; the willingness to suspend the legal grounding of a claimant based on claimant's perceived immorality or vulgarity--then it's not hard to see why an administration can get away with playing clever, hairsplitting legal games with something like the definition of torture employed against who are presumably terrorists because, well, they say so.
posted by troybob at 9:33 AM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Another perspective on Borat.
posted by timeistight at 9:47 AM on November 10, 2006


Seems like you just can't trust film producers not to screw you boilerplate-stylee anymore.

Sad.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:04 AM on November 10, 2006


alcohol doesn't change people's opinions, just their inhibitions about sharing them.

Exactly. Mel Gibson showed us that.
posted by ericb at 11:01 AM on November 10, 2006


The frat boys consented to be in a documentary about the US for Khazakstan, or for Belarus. They didn't consent to be in a comedy making fun of them for the US market.

The waivers the frat boys signed say little about the documentary-style film makers intent and nothing about the nationality of its audience.

...the willingness to suspend the legal grounding of a claimant based on claimant's perceived immorality or vulgarity--then it's not hard to see why an administration can get away with playing clever, hairsplitting legal games with something like the definition of torture employed against who are presumably terrorists because, well, they say so.

Before the rhetoric is Godwinized for your protection, consider that the electoral progress elected the Bush administration at least once (possibly twice) as well as twelve years of Republican control of Congress. "They say so", or decide the meaning of words, only with the fiat of the public. So it has been argued time and again that American voters got what they deserved, insofar as you knew what you were getting yourself into when you pulled the voting lever for the GOP. Maybe centrist voters are like those poor frat boys, sobering up twelve years after the fact.

Anyway, it seems that a lot of people who don't like the ugliness in the film are straining for any excuse for these two bigots to succeed in court. It's too bad, but either way their sad behavior will be adjudicated and on the public record — and it looks like only whether they were forced to be intoxicated before signing will determine if their contracts are voidable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 PM on November 10, 2006


The waivers the frat boys signed say little about the documentary-style film makers intent and nothing about the nationality of its audience.

Well, yes. That's how this scam works. I tell you that you're agreeing to one thing, when in fact you're signing something else.

I am not a lawyer, and they might well have no legal leg to stand on at all because they did, after all, sign.

All I am saying is that in a just world, they would. If I consistently and intentionally lie to you in order to get you to sign an agreement to something, I should be punished and you should be released from the agreement, because consent is important. Not bullshit apparent consent, "Oh he signed a release," but real, no-shit, actual consent to the thing that you're being asked to do. Just because fraud skirts the narrow edge of the law doesn't make it right, proper, or moral, and we should condemn people who can only get their business done by fraud and deception.

Anyway, it seems that a lot of people who don't like the ugliness in the film are straining for any excuse for these two bigots to succeed in court.

I haven't seen it, and don't plan to. I don't really give a shit what "ugliness" it reveals. I care about businesses being forced to obtain actual, real, no-kidding, unforced consent for the things that they want to do to people. That applies to racist shitheads as well as anyone else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:55 PM on November 10, 2006


only with the fiat of the public

That's my point. To accept the film's premise as legitimate is to accept that the filmmakers' tactics were ethical (if not necessarily legal). With torture, there is the larger debate on what we are willing to trade away for the sake of security, or the illusion thereof. With this film, it's apparent that its acceptance is overwhelming. I just happen to think that its entertainment value and the overstatement of its groundbreaking-comedy nature is a poor tradeoff for the kind of hostile, dehumanizing, and exploitative trend that is herein given our implicit, if not explicit, approval.
posted by troybob at 12:56 PM on November 10, 2006


"humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community..."

They are guilty of vastly overestimating the general populace of Columbia, SC, if nothing else. I can hear far worse things said with zero repercussions in any bar in Five Points on any given evening after the patrons have progressed to the same "relaxed" state.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:01 PM on November 10, 2006


All I am saying is that in a just world, they would. If I consistently and intentionally lie to you in order to get you to sign an agreement to something, I should be punished and you should be released from the agreement, because consent is important. Not bullshit apparent consent, "Oh he signed a release," but real, no-shit, actual consent to the thing that you're being asked to do. Just because fraud skirts the narrow edge of the law doesn't make it right, proper, or moral, and we should condemn people who can only get their business done by fraud and deception.

Well put!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:13 PM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Just because fraud skirts the narrow edge of the law doesn't make it right, proper, or moral, and we should condemn people who can only get their business done by fraud and deception.

You're begging the question: the courts will decide if fraud or deception took place, which invalidates the contract.

There might be the perception of fraud, but actual fraud has yet to be established.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2006


I think it goes without saying that judging the character of the plaintiffs based on how they behaved when they were incredibly drunk is unfair, never mind that we don't know if they were "fed" the ideas or not. Consider: in a segment edited out, Borat makes a bunch of "I wish I had slaves" jokes. Drunken frat boys repeat, and that's left in. We can't, of course, know what happened, but automatically judging them based on what you see after editing and while they were drunk? Especially when Baron Cohen is totally playing the viewers as well -- exploiting a stereotype about fraternities so as to make the joke go down easy without all that critical thinking that'd make the joke fail...
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:19 PM on November 10, 2006


Nicely said, eustacescrubb. It's not as if he's holding up a camera to some hypocrisy and just waiting for it to show itself. And it's not just whatever off-screen stuff is there, but his behavior itself is intended to be so absurd and context-shattering that it creates a situational disorientation in order to provoke a reaction--a technique that probably failed more often than it succeeded. It's unfair to put someone in that situation and then classify their reaction as typical of their normal behavior, particularly when the behavior doesn't exist absent the provocation.
posted by troybob at 2:52 PM on November 10, 2006


You're begging the question: the courts will decide if fraud or deception took place, which invalidates the contract.

No, fraud or deception indisputably took place. It happened when they lied to people about the nature of the film and the filmmakers in order to secure their participation in the film. The only question is whether the fraud is legally actionable or not.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:41 PM on November 10, 2006


Haven't seen the film, but thank goodness Borat wasn't an actual Kazakh filming an actual documentary about actual people in America. The frat boys should be relieved that their drunken opinions were framed in the context of a comedy.

Their best defense would have been, "Yeah, of course we knew it was the Borat from that Ali G show. We were just fucking around so we could be in the movie."
posted by Durhey at 3:53 PM on November 10, 2006


Will they be found in contempt if it is discovered that their lawsuit is little more than crafty viral marketing?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:29 PM on November 10, 2006


Getting folks shitfaced before filming is a cheap shot that actually works *against* whatever larger point he's trying to make about the bigotry people keep inside themselves.

What's all this nonsense about 'getting folks shitfaced'?

Presumably, he bought them drinks. If they were under age, presumably he'd be prosecuted. So we're talking about adult men, of age, who -- of their own voilition, consumed too much alcohol, and than made poor decisions afterwards?

Tough titty. Unless Cohen tied them down and poured the booze down their necks, they've got nobody but themselves to blame.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:49 PM on November 10, 2006


I don't think they have a real chance, but I hate stuff like Borat so in a way I hope they actually win. OTOH, bigoted frat boys are hard to root for.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 6:25 PM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Their best defense would have been, "Yeah, of course we knew it was the Borat from that Ali G show. We were just fucking around so we could be in the movie."

not bad, but their BEST defense is, "hey, we just spoke the lines they told us to speak"
posted by pyramid termite at 7:08 PM on November 10, 2006


I'm disappointed that names are not being named.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 PM on November 10, 2006


bigoted frat boys are hard to root for

Just ask George Allen.
posted by emelenjr at 8:51 PM on November 10, 2006


No, fraud or deception indisputably took place. It happened when they lied to people about the nature of the film and the filmmakers in order to secure their participation in the film. The only question is whether the fraud is legally actionable or not.

I didn't realize it was indisputable: why even have court cases--just ask ROU_Xenophobe what happened. Have the filmmakers actually come out and admitted that all of what is claimed is true? The linked article doesn't suggest that. If they haven't, then your righteous indignation is just hot air.
posted by The God Complex at 10:01 PM on November 10, 2006


Personally, if someone said to me, "I'm making a film about fuzzy bunnies and I need you to hold a bunny for me. It will only be shown in the Eastern Bloc," or whatever, I would say NO. Becuase we have the internet. And no matter what, whether the film was shown in the farthest corner of the icy, dead tundra, someone there will have an internet connection, and they will have heard of YouTube.

Don't be a moron. Don't say dumb shit in front of a camera.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:19 PM on November 10, 2006


No, fraud or deception indisputably took place.

You could not possibly know this unless you were one of the frat guys.
posted by j.edwards at 1:36 AM on November 11, 2006


And then you'd be drunk, so why would we believe you?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:53 AM on November 11, 2006


It appears as if the frat boy mentioning in the askme is the one NOT pressing charges.
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2006


"He kind of challenged us to shock him."

See? Seeds were planted. They really should have stuck with "he told us to say that" defense.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:01 PM on November 11, 2006


sad, really
posted by troybob at 3:38 PM on November 11, 2006


sad, really

The best part is how the outrage is immediately followed by complaints about how little they were paid. No one would seem to have minded being called rapists and prostitutes on-camera, if only the pay was better.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:16 PM on November 11, 2006


Yeah, cynicism if fun when it keeps you from examining that, given your own jaded scenario, they would be desperate enough to put a price on their humiliation. That article was heartbreaking, and it says a great deal that even after reading you'll find a way to excuse the exploitation. To make the assessment that 'no one would seem to have minded' is as dishonest as your tendency here to address only the arguments you can make an excuse for while igoring those you cannot.
posted by troybob at 6:43 PM on November 11, 2006


I mean, yeah, it's quite constructive to take a community of people who have less than nothing and attribute to them the values of a 'fear factor' contestant...
posted by troybob at 6:46 PM on November 11, 2006


Yeah, cynicism if fun when it keeps you from examining that, given your own jaded scenario, they would be desperate enough to put a price on their humiliation.

To quote the article:

They made us look like primitives, like uncivilised savages. Now they're making millions but have only paid us 15 lei [around £3].

Their anger is not in the portrayal as such, so much as not getting paid adequately for it, after the fact. I mean, that has to be said as a consideration. I'm not putting words in their mouths.

Had the movie not been as (financially) successful, self-image would not be issues for either the frat boys or these villagers, I suspect.

Whether that's down to my cynicism (or what they are actually saying when the journalist asks them) is up to you.

To be truthful I'm more cynical about a movie studio going out of its way to pay a fair wage to anyone, whether it is Borat or any other film, than anything else.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:20 PM on November 11, 2006


Did you read the full article? They do talk about how much they were given, but nowhere in the article do they imply that their treatment was acceptable for any amount of money. The quote you provide is a vivid illustration: the greater the difference between what the filmmakers take and what they paid the villagers, the greater the scale of the exploitation (similar the common parallel between CEO pay and the minimum wage).

In another part of the article:

He said he was ashamed, confessing that he only agreed to be filmed because he hoped to top up his £70-a-month salary - although in the end he was paid just £3.

Here the amount he was paid is mentioned in comparison to his monthly pay, and implies actually that he expected more. It does not indicate at all that he would have given informed consent at any price that:

...a rubber sex toy in the shape of a fist was attached to the stump of his missing arm - but he had no idea what it was.

The thing is that the mention of how much the villagers got paid is not in the context that they would have been willing to give consent to be portrayed as such were more money offered, but is an illustration made by the journalist that shows the depth of the insult toward them by the filmmakers. It's like saying that a man was murdered by a thief for only $10 in his wallet.

Not to mention that, were there no mention in this article of how much the villagers were paid, I bet that you would be here assuring us that whatever humliation these people endured, they were probably well paid for it; it's consistent not only with the other assumptions you've carelessly tossed around, but with your seemingly deliberate--and distasteful--misreading of the point of this article.

What you're not addressing, incidentally, is the fact that this article undermines your earlier argument that the film's participants were comically stupid for not reading the contracts, as presumably they should have known better. The villagers here not only got the same degree of deception as that fratboys--probably far worse--but there is certainly less expectation of their making the distinction between 'documentary' and 'documentary-style' that you argued (rather weakly) as the basis for a lack of legal justification to sue.
posted by troybob at 8:00 PM on November 11, 2006


it's consistent not only with the other assumptions you've carelessly tossed around

Obviously you feel very strongly about this enough to paint me with a certain brush, regardless of what I have actually said. But in the end it doesn't really matter what either of us think, as the courts will work out whether fraud took place or not.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:29 PM on November 11, 2006


Seems like lots of folks are making assumptions about what really happened.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:19 PM on November 11, 2006


It is true that I'm at my worst on Metafilter when I'm arguing personality rather than an issue, and it's a lesson I've learned here before. And certainly I can see that what I might view as a disingenuous attempt at reframing an argument toward triviality is nothing more than a sort of casual commentary on an issue that, indeed, I've given excessive attention to--particularly given the basically dead-thread status it's got now. So I apologize for the over-seriousness and simply not letting it go, and for losing perspective as a result, if that's the case.

I will say, though, that I believe it does matter what we think. Saying that something can be proven technically legal is not the same as assuring that it is ethical, after all. And in the big picture, we probably do live in a time, place, and culture that have achieved the highest quality of fairness for the most people. But it just happens to be a disheartening and scary thing to me the conditions under which we'll suspend our humanity or sense of fairness. We know better.
posted by troybob at 10:59 PM on November 11, 2006


But it just happens to be a disheartening and scary thing to me the conditions under which we'll suspend our humanity or sense of fairness. We know better.

I reserve my outrage over suspension of humanity and fairness for far more important things than hilarious documentary-style comic romps. I sure as hell don't get up in arms when The Daily Show edits the $* out of some segment to make Joe Politician look like an idiot.
posted by The God Complex at 3:09 AM on November 12, 2006


I'd also like to take this opportunity to point out that I FPPed the Borat rodeo incident back in January 2005. Just for the record.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2006


troybob's link:

They claim film-makers lied to them about the true nature of the project, which they believed would be a documentary about their hardship, rather than a comedy mocking their poverty and isolation.

These contracts were lies. "Consent" is void. This whole movie was illegal, needs to be illegal (not watching it, but the makers need to pay up and/or serve some jail time).

It feels like the law is looking the other way in the name of "entertainment" for Daily Show-like bloopers. This has to be disastrous for society. Consent needs to mean consent, period.
posted by dgaicun at 9:18 PM on November 12, 2006


O joy!
posted by mwhybark at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2006


Borat spanked by angry Yank
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2006


AP: Humiliation, job loss for ‘Borat’ victims.
posted by ericb at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2006




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