The Dictator: A Critique

written by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), with contributions made by Reem Al Harmi

Throughout history Hollywood has negatively portrayed every ethnic group, focusing on fears and generalizations that sell movies and ignite American stereotypes. Known for his style of mocking movie themes, Sacha Baron Cohen, is continuing to build his legacy and stay true to form through his new movie “The Dictator.” This time, Cohen has targeted Arabs. Surprised? Not really. Expected? Yes.

With anti-Arab sentiment at an all-time high, Hollywood has focused its efforts on the Arab community. As Jack Shaheen has stated, Arabs have notoriously been depicted as bombers, billionaires, or belly dancers – the three Bs. The categories were created pre-9/11. Over time, the portrayal of Arabs has not changed in the media and the movie industry. The same images exist – the same wealthy Arab drenched in gold, the terrorist Muslim/Arab willing to kill “infidels” through “jihad,” and the sexually objectified woman who is at the mercy of her controlling male counterpart.

After viewing “The Dictator,” the movie’s offensiveness was not surprising. It was full of negative stereotypes meant to illicit laughter. For example, the fictional North African Republic of Wadiya was symbolized by crescents and swords. The purpose is clear – the symbols are meant to represent Islam and violence. In another scene, while on a flight, the movie’s main character, General Haffaz Aladeen, speaks his version of Arabic and says only a few words in English, such as Empire State, Statue of Liberty, and 9/11. This particular scene incites and condones the fears that many Americans have today.

Another telling scene of the movie depicts Aladeen discussing the birth of a baby girl. Upon the delivery of the child, he inquired as to where she co