Sacha Baron Cohen enrages town with fake plans to build mosque
Sacha Baron Cohen first made his name with Da Ali G Show where he adopted the character of Ali G to interview unsuspecting guests, convincing them that his ridiculous caricature was genuine and poking fun at public figures. The award-winning show saw guests such as Buzz Aldrin, David Beckham, and even the current President of the United States...
In the following years, he brought new characters to the stage, including Brüno and Borat, but eventually made the move to Hollywood, bringing some of his characters to the big screen before embarking on fictional escapades. However, it seems that now he's going back to his origins, with a new satirical TV show called 'Who Is America?'
The show, now a few episodes in, is completely bonkers. Cohen's characters are as strange as you would expect, but his interviews with American government officials and other figures of significant power has shown the US has plenty of genuine absurdity of its own.
In one recent sketch, Cohen posed as a far-left-wing man visiting the town of Kingman, Arizona. 21 of the town's citizens gathered for his presentation, in which he unveiled the (fake) multi-million dollar plans to boost their tourism... through building a gigantic mosque.
Fooling the audience with his disguise and slowly ramping up the absurdity of his pitch, Cohen soon whips the room up into a frenzy - with the audience spouting out racist and xenophobic language from the get-go:
"When I think of the word 'mosque', I think of terrorism," one man says, while another literally says the words "I am racist towards muslims" without a drop of irony. "This town’s lucky to have black people in it," one said, with another clarifying, “he’s saying there are black people in Kingman who aren’t welcome either, but we tolerate them.”
In the aftermath of this segment of the show, the town of Kingman isn't happy. While most viewers were focused on the ridiculous response that certainly represents the worldview of a particular kind of American, the town claimed that this group does not represent the area, and criticised the show for "baiting" them into their remarks.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Kingman Mayor Monica Gates said that she "didn't recognize a soul in that video," but admitted it showed they need to make some changes. "The comments in the show, fairly or unfairly, show that we still have more work to do," she said, before detailing their plans to support National Hispanic Heritage Month, Martin Luther King Junior Day, and to develop the community’s first Diversity Commission.
The response on their Facebook page was a little more strongly worded, referring to the show as "lowly rated" despite the fact it more than doubled its audience in a week.
"Every city has resident voices that challenge respect and dignity for others. They are wrong and unfortunate. That was no exception on Sunday’s ‘Who Is America?’ show on Showtime in which an actor baited purported residents to vociferously oppose a fictitious, supersized mosque in our city.
"Another in the audience also stated negative feelings towards African-Americans. No matter the instigation or that numerous ‘focus group’ participants don’t even live in Kingman, the show’s characterization in the words of one member of our Kingman City Council ‘broke her heart.’"
"Why? Because our community has made great strides to erase previous perceptions. We do have a mosque. We do have a robust Latino community. We do welcome tourists from all over the world, especially more and more from Asia fascinated by our Route 66 history. We do have African-Americans applying for leadership positions with the city. This is the Kingman of today, not of yesterday."
It seems that regardless of the steps they have made, Kingman (and many other areas of the US) still have some way to go.