As we discussed last week, Who Is America? is, in no way, shape, or form, a bipartisan piece of entertainment. Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest foray into guerilla satire is voraciously intent on humiliating the American right-wing, with Baron Cohen’s Erran Morad serving as a shockingly effective vehicle for guiding shameless Republicans into scenes of brazen, racially motivated humiliation. We get plenty of Morad in this week’s episode, but we also get some blunt, on-point satire of the intellectual left-wing, with “self-hating white male” Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello proving just how out of touch the party of the progressive can be.
We first see Cain-N’Degeocello conducting a dual interview with Chip Limehouse, “a wretched white politican from South Carolina,” and Bone Crusher, “a genius gangsta rapper from Atlanta,” and, unlike in the professor’s previous segments, the satire rests firmly on the shoulders of Baron Cohen’s character. With all the grace of a Krassenstein twin, Nira fetishizes Bone Crusher’s racial identity, criticizing Limehouse for touching the rapper’s shoulder (“Are you okay?” he asks Bone Crusher) before shaming him for not having seen the Oscar-winning Moonlight (hilariously, Bone Crusher reveals he’s also not seen the movie). The joke, of course, is that Cain-N’Degeocello believes he understands the “afrodiasporic community” more than those within that community, even as he claims that he’s there to understand why they “didn’t vote for Hillary.” Limehouse, a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives who’s also really into the Confederate flag, comes out of the interview relatively unscathed, though there is something revolting about the way he childishly scoots his chair away from Cain-N’Degeocello after he reveals he slept with a Syrian man.
Bone Crusher, meanwhile, reacts accordingly...
What ties the interview to Cain-N’Degeocello’s other segment in this episode—a rap battle in which the professor squares off against a local champ—is the idea that an intellectual understanding of social injustice can stand in for the experience of being marginalized. In both segments, Baron Cohen’s character foists his own learned approaches to equality and sexuality onto his guests, subjecting them to a rigid interpretation of their own identity to which the character selfishly, hilariously assumes they will appreciate. It’s a fierce critique of left-wing Twitter, where you’ll routinely see white cis males deciding what is and isn’t offensive for the women and people of color they’ve chosen to so bravely protect. By setting intellectual arguments for social justice against the casual milieu of a local rap battle, Baron Cohen succeeds in showing just how little the average American cares about the myriad writings and dissertations regarding equal rights; they’re there to have fun, not have their own culture exploited.
There’s another culture that Baron Cohen has no trouble exploiting, however, and that’s that of the old, white male Trump supporter. As Morad, the performer recruits a trio of “patriotic” good ‘ol boys in a plot to “trap illegal Mexicans” at a quinceañera. A quinceañera, if you’re unaware, is a Latin American tradition celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday, though the men Morad has recruited sum it up thusly: “Pussy. Pussy. Young girls. Young pussy. That’s what they want.” Surely such an interpretation can’t be born of their own issues.
Again showing just how stunningly easy it is to get racist Trump supporters to debase themselves in the service of disenfranchising minorities, Baron Cohen’s Morad gets one of the fools to dress up as a gown-clad 15-year old and another to hide inside a quinceañera cake with a camera. Beforehand, he encourages them to sheathe their hands and faces in condoms and K-Y Jelly so they won’t “get diseases” when fighting the Mexicans, and informs them he spiked the guacamole with Rohypnol (the “date rape drug”) so they’ll be easier to subdue. None of this is strange to them. His plan all along, of course, was to confront the guys with cops rather than Mexicans, then watch the pair try and talk themselves out of the situation. Surprise, watching a racist, macho 50-year old man in a wig, dress, and makeup explain why he’s wearing a pair of “pussy panties” to a couple of hardened cops is very, very satisfying.
You know what else is satisfying? Watching Roy Moore squirm. Moore, if you’ve forgotten (and we’re so, so envious if you have), is the one-time Alabama Senate candidate who, despite being heavily endorsed by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, lost to Democrat Doug Jones after being accused of being a serial pedophile by eight different women. In a more innocent time, Moore represented everything immoral and corrupt about the modern, Trump-led Republican party, so it was a genuine delight to watch Morad “accidentally” use “science” to prove Moore’s tendencies via a new piece of Israeli technology. “I’ve never had an accusation of such things,” Moore very, very inaccurately says when Morad’s gadget begins identifying him as a pedophile. Soon, he ends the interview altogether. “Maybe Israeli technology has not been developed properly,” he huffs, sounding like the most guilty man that has ever lived.
Nothing here was as newsworthy as Kinderguardians or Jason Spencer screaming the n-word with his ass out (he resigned, by the way), nor did these stunts do anything more than humiliate their targets. Still, the episode manages to satisfy as a slice of vengeful cringe comedy, and Baron Cohen leaning into a critique of performative liberalism is refreshing, even if those particular segments still treat their guests as nothing more than mere props.
With each new episode, Who Is America? makes the answer to its titular question that much more clear: America is a monster, and perhaps the only way to live with it is to laugh at it.
- It’s the little moments, like watching three 50-something men gladly rub a pair of “pussy panties” while remarking that they’re “a little dry.”
- “He’s referring, of course, to the Wild Wild West of where he was brought up in the streets of Compton.” William “Will” Smith was born in Philly, Nira, but nice try.
- “Please wave your hands in the air if you do care about women’s rights.” Cain-N’Degeocello is a substandard battle rapper, though his lyric about listening to podcasts while other men sleep with his “partner” was an especially delicious bit of business.
- Also, try and catch Bodied if you can. Excellent, gasp-inducing comedy about battle rap.
- Waiting for the Sarah Palin episode is starting to feel like waiting for the fireworks factory.