The movie is full of jokes throughout the plot, some innocent and some meant to upset modern realities. General Aladeen has a signature “head chop” signal to his guards to execute anyone he doesn’t agree with or like. In other instances, he changes over 300 Wadiya words, including positive and negative, to his name, and he crookedly wins every gold medal in the Olympics by shooting competitors and having the finish-line tape brought to him. The explanation that he is building uranium-enriched nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes is also comical. Other instances include when his double (Sacha Baron) walks past the podium and drinks his urine while addressing the UN General Assembly in New York. Although some might find the jokes offensive, one is bound to get away with a few laughs as some of them hit so close to home.
Sacha Baron writes the movie as a stereotypical political satire meant to represent, upset and challenge modern-day democracies and autocracies. The Magnificent, President Prime, Supreme Leader of All, General Aladeen is a comical dictator who likes hanging around with terrorists including Osama Bin Laden, ruling, rigging elections and games, having sex, and financing terrorism, among others. When addressing the UN, the General accurately and hilariously attacks Western democracies, including their views on taxation, wealth distribution, human rights, and media freedom. Apart from contrasting democracy to what others call attempts at modern-day colonization, Baron paints a picture of many dictatorships in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, etc.
Lastly, TheDictator hurtfully and stereotypically mocks the Arab culture and religion through misplaced humor. Many people might consider the movie to perpetuate a negative perspective against Arabs, especially those living in Western countries. The negative stereotypes, reinforced by the movie’s context and storyline, can be particularly harmful when racial profiling is common in many western countries. Apart from Baron portraying General Aladeen as a terrorism sympathizer, a bigot, and a wasteful dictator, he provides a setting, an oil-rich country located in a desert in the Middle East. The context might reinforce the existing perceptions that some North African and Middle Eastern countries are violently and oppressively ruled. One might argue that a similar portrayal of the Black Americans living in the West would have caused a lot of condemnation. Although many might not pick out the racial undertones, Baron negatively profiles the Arabs in The Dictator.
In conclusion, The Dictator is must watch for viewers who want a good dose of humor coupled with political satire. Sacha Baron Cohen writes and stars in a comedy that skillfully explores the clash of cultures, contrasting two modern realities—democracy and aristocracy. The story of General Aladeen and the people of Wadiya can be viewed as representing former and modern-day dictators like Muammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-Un II. While addressing the UN, Aladeen’s look-alike (Baron) humorously questions modern-day democratic values and highlights a new way of looking at democracy. However, the movie stereotypically profiles the Arabs and can open them to ridicule and false perceptions. The Dictator is one of those comedies you don’t want to watch in public; you cannot risk the attention when laughing.
Cohen, Sacha, Director. The Dictator. Paramount Pictures, 2012.