As the saying goes, the true test of character is what you do when you think no one's watching.
Though the people pranked in Sacha Baron Cohen movies do know that someone's watching, of course, it is always under false pretenses.
They don't know it's a Sacha Baron Cohen movie - they're often told it's a training movie, foreign documentary, or some other false context, encouraging them to feel free to be their true selves.
In this way, though on camera, you often get to see who people really are, in a set certain context, in brilliant social psychological experiment - to an embarrassing degree (cough, cough, Giuliani).
I don't know if you've seen "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" AKA "Borat 2" - and it's not for everybody - though I wish everyone would watch it, you'd learn more about who some people really are in 2 hours, than you ever would watching the news 24/7.
And though he sometimes goes too far, I personally generally find Sacha Baron Cohen hilarious :)
This sequel, however, was - a little different. And by that, I don't mean in the usual SBC "different" way.
Yes, it's true, he wore a bulletproof vest while filming, and there was a scary moment where a gun was momentarily drawn and he was nearly mobbed at a right-wing rally. To be fair, he was encouraging the crowd to sing racist songs to see if they'd go along with it.
Now, if you listen to/believe what right-wingers present at the rally say, they'll tell you they attacked him because he was singing racist songs.
However, as Sacha tells it, the reason they attacked was somebody blew his cover. The person who blew his cover was actually a BLM protester, as BLM protestors were attending the far-right rally to protest, and the person said loudly, "OMG, is that Sacha Baron Cohen, under there? Hilarious!" - to a group of about 5 or 6 people. Word traveled fast, and the group attacked.
(In fact, here's a link to his Twitter page with footage not released in the film, of him being mobbed and desperately holding his trailer door shut, asking the driver to go, drive now.)
Yes, there's also the now infamous, incredibly creepy, and (hopefully) career-destroying Rudy Giuliani scene, where he lies down on a bed with Borat's 15-year-old daughter and puts his hands down his pants.
But those things are SBC's usual - erm - differences lol.
No, what I mean by "a little different" is that this particular SBL film has a hidden heart - a few of them, actually.
In fact, it's somehow simultaneously hilarious, shockingly and necessarily uncomfortable, and surprisingly heartwarming.
One of the biggest hidden hearts of the movie is Jeanise Jones, whom Borat hires to babysit his daughter, Tutar. Jeanise was told that they were filming a foreign documentary on child brides.
Jeanise handles the situation like no one else could have, not knowing it was a Sacha Baron Cohen prank movie - and like a grandmother would - quietly just listening to Tutar, and counseling her with love, helping her find her value and appreciate her natural beauty, that she was beautiful already, without needing the scheduled plastic surgery, and being sure marrying an older American man was what she really wanted to do.
While watching the movie, I said:
"That woman has such a beautiful soul, what a wonderful person, despite having no idea she's being pranked!"
"See, that has been my personal experience with people of color - their greater capacity to show mercy and kindness, despite it all."
"They extended God's grace and mercy to me, welcoming me and praying with me, during the roughest time in my life and struggling - when other white people just judged me without knowing the full story. They didn't even know my situation either, just that I was struggling, that's all they needed to know and that was enough to hug and pray with me - just like Christ. It's a divine gift."
"I just wish other white people would get close enough to people of color to ever know what a blessing that having people of color as friends can be, as everyday people, rather than just basing their opinions about people of color on those that make the news."
Now - Sacha Baron Cohen doesn't typically pay the people he pranks in his movies, but had paid her as the babysitter of course, and just donated $100,000 to the GoFundMe page, set up by her church pastor.
The pastor says the unemployed grandmother didn't know it was a prank, and their church had been praying for the poor girl, until the movie came out - and it's okay Sacha pranked them, the messages of what's really going on in this country are more important - but that Jeanise was the heart of the movie, and struggling, as were others in her community.
Thus, Sacha Baron Cohen just donated $100,000 to it and the pastor has reassured both him, and the public, that the money will go to her and their community outreach program, which now includes those affected by the recent Oklahoma City ice storm and COVID.
We also just donated to Jeanise - well, not $100,000, of course - and you can too - HERE, at the GoFundMe page Jeanise's pastor, Derrick Scobey, set up :)
YOU are beautiful, Jeanise, what a beautiful soul - we see you, and so does he - (he meaning God, not Sacha Baron Cohen, lest anyone confuse the two lol) :)
"Let us not grow weary in our well doing ..."
Another hidden heart/powerful gem in the movie, was Judith Dim Evans, a holocaust survivor, who welcomes in, hugs, kissed on the cheek, and feeds Borat in the temple - though he's dressed in ridiculous anti-semitic propaganda garb!
Once again, a prime example of how often the people who have suffered the most, often have the biggest hearts - suffering can sanctify - if you allow it to :)
In fact, growing up in suburban Cincinnati, I went to a public high school that was about 25% Jewish - and it was my Jewish friends who taught me it's okay to be angry, but never to hate back or you become like those who hate you - it's a remarkable gift they gave me - and a hard to do! :)
My husband said:
"That's amazing, she welcomed him in like that. Look at that stupid shit he's wearing, a big nose and bat wings and asking if she's going to eat him, my God, I would've beaten his ass."
I said ...
"But you see, that would only worsen the hatred, and make honest people of liars. This is the best way to combat the liars. Self-defense, even anger is okay, but like Paul said, 'Be angry, but do not sin - don't let the sun go down on your anger,' don't let it brew into hatred and fear, which cause you to sin."
"See what I mean about what my Jewish friends taught me, long ago, and why I strive for that? It's not weakness or a character flaw, it's a divine gift from God, how not to hate back others who hate you. "
"Christ added that we should bless those who curse us, pray for those who despitefully use us. That doesn't fit in with some human base nature or current so-called 'Christian' political ideas, but that IS what Jesus said - and what HE did - like when commanding Peter to drop his sword, telling him "Those who live by the sword will die by it," and then healing the centurion's ear after Peter cut it, when arresting Jesus."
"He never said that would be easy, but that IS what Christ said to do - I'm sorry Christians don't like it, ignore it, justify NOT doing it, and find so many other things to make Christianity about other than what Christ actually said, missing the main tenet of Christianity - preferring oftentimes the exact opposite of what Christ said,"
"Also, he never said not to seek justice - in fact, he said we should - but also to not to let our hearts hate back, those who hate us, in the process."
"Amazing and powerful, isn't it, that despite all she went through, she still welcomes in and loves those who hate her - what a truly amazing lady she is! Her soul just shines!"
Some sad news, however - unfortunately, Judith died before the film was released :(
Also unfortunately, her daughter, during her grief, initially tried to sue Sacha Baron Cohen to remove her mother from the film, before the film's release, fearing the prank would dishonor her mother after death - but she has since dropped the lawsuit unconditionally.
(Apparently, she realized the movie actually honored who her mother truly was, and that though we all want someone to blame when a loved one dies, suing people won't bring them back, and most importantly, what she was doing was the diametric opposite of what her mother did in the film and would do? ;)
So we won't hold that against her daughter - IMO, grief is the most powerful emotion, and people aren't themselves while grieving, grief can literally drive a person at least temporarily insane, I've seen it - and I also understand why she feared SBC would dishonor her mother because of his history of pranking everybody - however, the exact opposite happened - she was perhaps the most powerful moment in the film and became a legend :)