Sacha Cohen's Who Is America is fuelled by bigots, controversy & unforgettable moments

Monday 3rd September 2018 | Jake

During the title sequence Sacha Baron Cohen’s freshly complete Showtime series, the brain behind Borat and Ali G promises the audience that “unique voices will reveal who is America”.

Who Is America? does somewhat deliver on that promise, but it wasn’t the earth-shattering series some had predicted it would be. It’s impossible for six episodes lasting twenty minutes each to provide an extensively detailed account on the people of America, but the show does a pretty superb job of exhibiting the disconnects between various groups in society, and the tribal toxicity that is so prevalent in the states today.

In particular, Cohen is focused on revealing the nature of Trump supporters. The results are equally funny and terrifying. Disguised as six equally absurd characters, Cohen wanted to infiltrate groups and win over their confidence, in order to reveal exactly who they were. This worked to great effect with the gun-toting men he convinced to dress in Quinceañera garb, in order to lure the paedophile Mexicans they were convinced had invaded their neighbourhood.

Cohen would also affect a personality so at odds with people’s views that the character provided a platform for the people to air their abhorrent views and irritable nature. This character, ‘Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello’, and his engage-the-opposition methods provided arguably the highlight of the series when convincing attendees at a town meeting he arranged that the town was to play host to the largest mosque outside of the middle-east.

However, the greatest character has to be the Israeli, ex-Mossad, raging macho-man Colonel Erran Morad. The ‘anti terror expert’ was the shows champion by basically all metrics. The funniest character, as well as the most successful in terms of displaying the nature of many high-profile Americans. That Cohen managed to get a Georgia state lawmaker to actually drop his trousers, then his pants, and then get him to scream the n-word at the top of his lungs was shocking. That Cohen’s series forced the lawmaker, Jason Spencer, to resign was evidence of the impact the show had.

This impact was not as keenly felt as many had hoped though. Part of the problem was that the targets felt slightly easy. Was it very surprising, for instance, to see a man proclaim himself a racist at the town meeting proudly? No, not really, over 60,000,000 people voted for Donald Trump in 2016, which was a pretty strong proclamation in itself.

Maybe the show wasn’t groundbreaking, and some characters weren’t particularly enlightening, nor entertaining. But Who is America? succeeded in showing up stupid racists for who they were, which is always fun, while also shedding light on some of the villainous people involved (previously and presently) in American politics, from pro-gun lobbyists to Dick Cheney. The show was also a career resurrection for its creator, after a dismal spell in Hollywood post-Borat.