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Borat and The Fish

(reproducted from 503-2007)

Borat vs. Big Fish 

Borat is truly a love story. 

I was reflecting just the other day on the use of the movie Big Fish as a technology mediated learning tool, and I was wondering if perhaps it could/should be replaced next year in the program with something a little more appropriate to the age.  Of Aquarius, that is, as opposed to the Piscean era which has passed. 

It seems a good idea to me, when one also considers the reactions of learners to the two movies, and the context and storylines within.  For example, Big Fish viewers, for some reason totally lost on me, have a tendency to weep openly in the latter part of the show, whilst Borat learners have a tendency to laugh uproariously throughout the film.  I base this observation on personal experience.  So the question is, which has more value, humour or sadness?  MacKeracher (2004) states that laughter is very effective in making learning easier and more fun, by producing a synchronous response in the two cerebral hemispheres.  This response encourages memory as well (p.92).  On the other hand, “Learners who are anxious, angry, fearful, or depressed don’t learn” (MacKeracher, 2004, p. 138).  Let’s go with the humour then. 

Content is the next issue to examine.  Big Fish left much to desire from my perspective, being a failed documentary on hunting for fish.  And all that crying after.  I don’t get it.  All I know is, I remember almost every scene in Borat, while all I recall of Big Fish is a large carp and a dead guy.  Wait, wasn’t Dorothy in there too, and the Tin Man? 

Moreover, Borat is incredible in its depth of examination, and breadth of subject matters covered.   

One storyline involves the serendipitous discovery of Borat’s true love, Luenell, while he seemingly is following his heart in the quest for Pamela. During this quest there is the symbolic journey of leaving his homeland, his comfort zone, and traveling through a new world,  experiencing new things, all in the process of self-development, learning and teaching.   

A second storyline concerns the return home to where he truly belongs, and the loving effects of his return, and the help he can offer his old friends (new arm for Doltan). 

This movie really does have it all:   acceptance of alternative lifestyles (sister Natalia the prostitute – #4 in all of Kazakhstan, Borat proudly reports!),  rampant consumerism and competition (neighbour keeping up with Borat), difficulty of assimilation and cultural differences between 1st and 3rd world countries, feminism and its attack, religious issues etc.  There is a tragic moment when Borat loses his first wife Oksana.  And male bonding is covered off nicely in his relationship with Azamat Bagatov.  Animal rights issues are demonstrated throught the use of the pet bear. 

Oh, I’ve heard that some are offended by this movie.  I’ve even heard it described as a horror film (thanks c-k). I respect those views.  However, I like to think of it as having educational value, including an interactivity not normally found in asynchronous digital multimedia productions.  Using Bates and Poole’s (2003, p.55), classification table, I assign it to the communication area, instead of broadcast area where DVD’s have been located by the authors.  I do this because of the intense crowd reaction during the movie (personally experienced) and the almost tangible sensations of odour and taste during the nude wrestling scenes.  I vote for its inclusion in next years’ program.  Borat is truly a love story.  

How do you vote? 


Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

MacKeracher, D. (2004). Making sense of adult learning (2nd ed.). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press.





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