‘Who Is America?’ Is Hilarious, But Beyond Terrifying
Who Is America? is more than just a TV show made to mock people. As the title suggests, its purpose is to reveal what people in the United States are really like. Unfiltered, unapologetic, and shocking, the series shows a side of the United States that some, would prefer to be kept hidden. Helmed by master comedian and character chameleon Sacha Baron Cohen, the series follows Cohen as he goes undercover to catch various celebrities, politicians and everyday people in their most unflattering forms. No one is safe from Cohen’s satire and he does his best to cover all walks of life, engaging with both conservatives and liberals, as well as the top one percent and the other ninety-nine. To do so Cohen adopts various guises, which allow him to assimilate himself into different social statuses and cultures in order to reveal people’s true natures.
Cohen’s most prominent character that appears in the series is Erran Morad an Israeli anti-terrorist expert. Cohen plays Morad as an extremely right-winged man that is very pro-guns and quite racist. He uses this character to reassure politicians and everyday people in their beliefs and tells them what they want to hear. It never ceases to amaze, how easily Sacha Baron Cohen is able to disarm those around him as Erran Morad. He will say the most ludicrous things imaginable, but people buy into it because his beliefs mostly align with their own. He even managed to make a grown man wear a dress and pretend to be a fifteen-year-old Mexican girl in an attempt to lure in illegal immigrants. Many of the show’s targets claim to have been tricked by Cohen, but while Cohen may not have been who he claimed to be, it’s hard to believe anyone could be tricked into doing or saying some of the things that these people do. In order to shoot a promotional video for training toddlers to use guns, you have to believe in the idea to some degree. As evidenced in one clip, Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida didn’t fall for Cohen’s tricks and refused to support his fictitious program, proving that if a person would just apply the smallest amount of common sense, Cohen’s schemes fall instantly apart. Cohen doesn’t have some magic ability to trick people into saying stupid things, no, he just makes his guests feel comfortable enough that they no longer feel the need to censor themselves. Scarier though, is that many of the people mocked on the series are actively leading our country. Anyone who could be so easily duped into supporting a program they know nothing about, should not be allowed in office.
Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr. is another conservative character and describes himself as a citizen journalist who is looking to dismantle fake news. With Ruddick, Cohen does his best to try and provoke reactions out of liberals. Unlike Morad, Cohen doesn’t try to find common ground and brings up the most ridiculous conspiracies he can think of. While Cohen does look to be trying to trick these leaders into agreeing with something stupid, his methods are nowhere near as effective as when he plays Morad. Democratic and liberal leaders like Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Barney Frank don’t fall for Cohen’s attempts to discredit them in the least bit. While they do appear frustrated at times, they all end up leaving the show looking credible. Perhaps Cohen’s point was to show how ridiculous the more extreme conservatives ideas are, when the smallest amount of logic is applied. It also may serve the purpose of showing how level-headed liberal leaders are. Either way, they are some of the only people who are interviewed in the series and don’t look like complete buffoons.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Dr. Nira Cain-N'Degeocello who is an extremely liberal gender studies lecturer who looks to heal the divide between the political spectrums. This character serves the same purpose as Ruddick, but instead of antagonizing the conservatives with his almost neo-liberal ideas, he annoys them with political correctness and the latest in left-wing jargon. His attempts to be politically correct are so misguided, that he refers to giving birth as a sexist act, and claims it’s racist to refer to African Americans as black. Nira’s suggestion to put a mosque in Kingman Arizona result in the people attending his presentation to openly admit their racist against Muslims and only tolerate the black citizens that live there. Unlike Ruddick, Nira is much more successful in getting a rise out of people. Though conservative Americans aren’t his only target, he also mocks the more extreme liberals, like the spiritual healer he gets to agree to support him through his mock birth from his anus.
Rick Sherman is an ex-convict who attempts to break into the entertainment industry with his prison-themed artwork. Sherman is used to show how shallow the art community is, and how people jump in on a trend if they believe it is what’s currently popular. Here Cohen mocks both industry professionals and normal people alike as they both easily fall victim and play right into Cohen’s hands. At the apex of Cohen’s ex-convict character Rick Sherman, Cohen had people cheering for murderers. A nightclub crowd even responded “yeah” when Cohen asked if they think murderers should stop being shamed. They then raved to Cohen’s prison mixtape of prisoners vomiting, peeing and stabbing. Only the sounds of Cohen shagging were enough to get people to question the mix, but as soon as that part was over they were back to dancing. If that’s not enough, Cohen gets food critic Bill Jilla to eat what he thinks is human flesh, after which Jilla compliments how it melts in his mouth. He then goes to thank the family of the deceased man he just consumed. It’s disgusting and vile, but it perfectly captures how shallow people are and how quickly people will jump on trends if they think it’s what everyone else is into.
Another character that proved some extremely scary results was Italian billionaire photographer Gio Monaldo. As Monaldo Cohen revealed a lot of corruption in the world of the wealthy, like with the yacht broker and with the two celebrities he did photoshoots with. As Monaldo he discovered that if you’re rich enough some yacht companies are willing to build you anything you want. Whether it be yachts that contain areas for storing humans you plan on selling, or installing weapons to be used against refugees, as long as you have the money, they’ll do it. On top of this Cohen showed what celebrities were willing to do for good PR and how low they’d sink for fame. In a mock interview with Corinne Olympios, who is best known for being on the bachelor, Olympios agreed to pretend to have stopped a warlord from committing a massacre when he recognized her. In an attempt to sell the lie, she even went as far as to say that the same warlord that was about to commit a massacre was nice. If that’s not insane enough, a founder of Genius, showed zero shame in being photoshopped into photos of charity work and taking credit for things that had no part in. They don’t even question it when Cohen has them hold various items for product placement in their photoshopped charity pictures. It just goes to show what people are willing to do in the name of fame.
Cohen’s last and least frequently used character is OMGWhizzBoyOMG! a Finish YouTuber who does unboxing videos while discussing various political issues. Perhaps this is why the character was only used twice, but I found OMGWhizzBoyOMG! to be the least interesting and most ineffective of all of Cohen’s characters. While Cohen was able to make both sheriffs on the show look silly, by talking to Shopkins figures, considering one would assume OMGWhizzBoyOMG!’s channel was aimed at kids, it hardly made either sheriff look that bad. Now, Cohen doesn’t have to make these people look bad, as they already do a pretty good job at doing so themselves, I don’t see what the point of the unboxing character gimmick was. If it was to make the sheriffs look out of touch, he failed as the show makes his character look far sillier than either sheriff ever did. Cohen did manage to get David Clarke to discuss how he would have dealt with the antifascists in Germany in the thirties, which was a good jab, but I can’t help but wonder if he could have gotten more out of the two with a better-suited character like Erran Morad. In the end, with little screen time and lackluster results, the character felt like a waste of time more than anything else.
Overall, Who Is America? is exactly what any fan of Sacha Baron Cohen’s earlier characters like Ali G, Borat, and Brüno could want. The series, while hilarious, also helps wake up people to the corruption and incompetence that currently plagues our country. Not every sketch is a home run, even from Cohen’s most effective character Erran Morad, while it was gratifying to see Roy Moore get mocked for being a pedophile, I would have much rather preferred a more tactical approach that could’ve potentially led to Moore admitting guilt. Either way, there are plenty more great segments than there are bad in Who Is America? Hopefully, this show will help motivate those who watch to be a little more mindful and lot warier when it comes to following trends, blindly listening to what others say and instantly believing in ideas just because they align with your own political standings. Knowledge is power but means very little if the vast majority of people refuse to educate themselves and open up their minds.