The flamboyant and widely acclaimed comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has once again taken center stage, not for his comedic antics, but for his goodwill gesture. This time, the inspiration was his infamous character, Borat, whose eccentric choice of beachwear – the lime green mankini, came back to the limelight in an unexpected way.
In a recent incident in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, six tourists from the Czech Republic found themselves on the wrong side of local law enforcement. The tourists, deeply inspired by Cohen’s iconic character, Borat, donned lime green mankinis – a garment forever associated with the fictional Kazakh TV presenter. However, their homage was not well-received by local authorities, who considered the attire inappropriate. Consequently, they were fined 22,500 Tenge (roughly US $67 each) for their ‘indecent’ behavior.
When news of this incident reached Sacha Baron Cohen, he expressed his appreciation for their tribute in a unique way. The comedian promptly offered to cover the fines incurred by the tourists. Via his Facebook page, Cohen announced his intention to assist, urging the affected individuals to provide him with their details and proof of their fines. His move not only brought him into the spotlight but also rekindled interest in his controversial character.
Despite the controversy, Borat has an intricate and tumultuous relationship with Kazakhstan. The character, notorious for his sexist and prejudiced views, often stirs trouble, especially during his fictitious travels around the USA. Even though the film includes a disclaimer asserting that Borat does not represent any actual beliefs, practices, or behavior associated with Kazakhstan, the movie attracted widespread debate, leading to threats of a lawsuit against Cohen from the Kazakh government.
However, the Borat phenomenon had unexpected positive consequences for the country. Following the film’s release in 2008, Kazakhstan saw a significant surge in tourism. By 2012, the country’s foreign minister even attributed this growth primarily to the film’s success. He openly expressed gratitude towards Borat for promoting Kazakhstan, showing the nuanced and complex impact of Cohen’s character on the nation’s international image.