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Film / The Dictator

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A 2012 movie starring Sacha Baron Cohen doing what he does best — pretending to be a guy from another country (this time ethnically non-specific) who makes fun of other people's ignorance regarding ethnic stereotypes.

In this film Sacha plays Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya, a fictional country in North Africa. Aladeen is pretty much the worst head of state this side of Pol Pot (in a funny way of course), but to him it's just everyday life. However when he's invited to give a speech at the United Nations in New York, his Treacherous Advisor Tamir (Ben Kingsley) arranges to have him kidnapped and murdered. Though Aladeen escapes, his captor shaved off his iconic beard, making him unrecognizable.

Now penniless and without status, Aladeen finds himself picked up by Zoey (Anna Faris), a kindly grocery store manager who offers him a job. Hilarity Ensues as Aladeen tries to find a way back to his throne, prevent a 'democratic' constitution being signed by a body double (part of Tamir's plans to sell Wadiya's oil to the highest bidder), and build weapons of mass destruction, all at once.

Not to be confused with the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator, or an aborted TV show concept from the late 80s called "The Dictator" starring Christopher Lloyd.

Tropes featured in The Dictator include:

  • Adam Westing: Megan Fox as a celebrity who prostitutes herself to powerful world leaders.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Guess who?
    • Clayton, Aladeen's would-be torturer and executioner, is both extremely personable and upfront about being a paid killer.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Nadal's pep talk to Aladeen:
    Nadal: You are the last great dictator! All of the others are gone! Qaddafi, Saddam, Kim Jong, Cheney.
    • The Western world condemns and wants to execute Osama bin Laden for terrorism. Aladeen hates bin Laden for overstaying at his guesthouse and ruining his bathroom.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: The birth scene. Soooo much wrong there. Though it is supposed to be funny, not medically accurate.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: When Aladeen and Nadal take their helicopter ride, they're speaking Hebrew, not "Wadiyan". Possibly a Stealth Pun, since Aladeen is virulently anti-Semitic (and also a Running Gag in Cohen's work).
  • Big Applesauce: Justified, as Aladeen has a perfect reason to go to New York (giving a speech in the UN).
  • Bilingual Bonus: As in Borat, "Wadiyan" is actually Hebrew. The greeting "Jachnoon" is actually a type of Yemenite Jewish pastry. Also, the description Aladeen gives of himself as like the mafrum fruit – which is actually a Libyan Jewish mincemeat dish – ("hard and spiky on the outside, but soft and really mushy on the in") is the same as the "Sabra" stereotype of Israelis.
  • Black Comedy: Tons. Many of the horrible things Aladeen does, like executing people for slight offenses, is Played for Laughs.
  • Body Double: The movie also reveals that Osama bin Laden used a body double that was killed by Seal Team 6; the real Osama is living in Aladeen's guest house.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Aladeen and Zoey get closer and closer. Aladeen finally confesses that he loves her and just after that he is the dictator Aladeen. Because of the latter confession, Zoey rejects him. In the end, Aladeen sees Zoey in the crowd as he is going to reject the democratic constitution. This makes him change his mind and he declares that he embraces democracy, so Zoey falls for him.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The Wadiyan people, who all live in an impoverished Third World country run by a brutal dictator who cares more about their allegiance than their economic and physical well-being.
  • The Cameo: Lots.
    • Megan Fox sleeps with Aladeen in the beginning.
    • John C. Reilly has a two-scene role as Clayton.
    • Garry Shandling as the health inspector.
    • Fred Armisen as the restaurant owner. Again.
    • Chris Elliott as hotel security.
    • Aasif Mandvi as the Wadiyan doctor.
    • Gad Elmaleh as a protestor.
    • In a huge Brick Joke payoff, Edward Norton is heavily implied to have committed homosexual acts for money.
  • Character Blog: The Republic of Wadiya site.
  • Character Filibuster: Aladeen's final speech about America totally not resembling a dictatorship.
    "Imagine if America was a dictatorship! You could let 1% of the people have all the nation's wealth! You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes, and bailing them out when they gamble and lose! You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education! Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family! You could wiretap phones! You could torture foreign prisoners! You could have rigged elections! You could lie about why you go to war! You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group, and no one would complain! You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests!"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The oil magnates ready to pounce upon Wadiyan oil.
  • Crapsack World: Wadiya is so worthless that the European colonial powers all played hot potato with one another for the ownership of the country because none of them wanted the hassle of actually running it. First the Italians claimed it, but they then they traded it to the Swiss for a truckload of cheese, who then outright bribed Imperial Germany to take it off their hands. The Germans then had to trick the people of Wadiya into declaring independence to be rid of it.
  • The Dictatorship: The Republic of Wadiya does not have an overly long name, but it deserves a mention for just now blatantly undemocratic it is. From the official site:
    Aladeen righteously declared his father Eternal President of the Republic and called for free elections to determine who would serve as Vice-President under his dead father. Aladeen won with only 99.999% of the vote. After an exhaustive government investigation, it was discovered that the one dissenting vote came from Aladeen himself, who deliberately misspelled his own name as an ingenious test of the system.
  • Eagleland: Aladeen makes no secret out of his disdain for the USA.
    Aladeen: Ah, America! Built by the blacks, owned by the Chinese!
    • The movie plays around with this trope. On the one hand, Aladeen gives a speech that is an (unintentional) indictment of America as a disguised dictatorship. On the other hand, Aladeen's victims have found refuge in the United States, so America's depiction as an asylum of liberty seems somewhat intact.
  • Faking the Dead: The "Osama bin Laden" killed by Seal Team 6 was actually a Body Double. The real Osama is mooching off Aladeen and messing up his bathroom
  • Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics: After being shaved of his beard and abandoned by his cronies, Aladeen wanders New York to an Arabic-language cover of MC Rai's 'Everybody Hurts.'
  • Five-Aces Cheater: Aladeen's "Olympic Games" make no pretense of fairness, especially since he participates in the events. The only one we see, the hundred-meter dash, has him not only being the one to fire the starting pistol despite being a runner, but also shooting another competitor and even a few bystanders with it.
  • Funny Foreigner: Cohen's preferred shtick, it would seem.
  • The Generalissimo: Aladeen embodies the exaggerated version of this.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: In the middle of kidnapping and torturing Aladeen, Clayton also has a genial conversation with him about Billy Elliot.
  • Good News, Bad News: After Aladeen changes numerous words to "Aladeen", even if they are contradictory, we get this conversation between a doctor and his patient:
    Doctor: Do you want the Aladeen news or the Aladeen news?
    Patient: The Aladeen news.
    Doctor: You are HIV-Aladeen.
    [patient switches between joyous and fearful expressions]
  • Historical In-Joke: SEAL Team Six did not shoot Osama bin Laden, but a double. The real one is hiding in Aladeen's guesthouse being a sloppy, freeloading guest who won't leave.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Aladeen has gone from being a feared dictator to a poor refugee working at a grocery store.
  • Ignored Aesop: Played for Laughs at the end of the film. Aladeen is led by his Straw Feminist Love Interest to the conclusion that Democracy Is Flawed rather than Democracy Is Bad, and swears to draft a real constitution and hold elections. It then immediately shows him rigging the elections by using tanks to intimidate the voters. However, it's implied that he Took a Level in Kindness (at least slightly) and stopped trying to have people killed left and right.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Aladeen ordered many civilians and his own scientists and generals to be executed for very selfish, trivial reasons (i.e. disagreements over what shape the nuclear warheads should be, jealousy over a cereal toy prize, blocking his path on a staircase) but he does nothing against Osama bin Laden for squatting at his guesthouse (let alone ruining the bathroom there) other than complain about it.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Nadal shows up when Aladeen is going to kill himself. He talks to him so that Aladeen gives up his project.
  • It's All About Me: Aladeen madafakas!
  • Jerkass: Double subverted. Aladeen eventually thinks he has become a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, at least. Nadal knows better.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: A Running Gag. Aladeen keeps comparing Zoey to a boy.
  • Let the Bully Win: In the games he organized, Aladeen won all medals, but he is shown shooting some of his competitors (and random people) during a race.
  • N-Word Privileges: Invoked and parodied, much like in Borat.
  • "Nations of the World" Montage: There is one when Aladeen is going to sign a democratic constitution. The people of the world are watching the signature ceremony live on TV.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers got a lot of mileage out of this exchange between Megan Fox and Aladeen (which never made the final film):
    Megan: What's this, a ruby? Is that a joke? What do I look like, a Kardashian?
    Aladeen: No, of course not, you are much less hairy.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Discussed between Aladeen and Nadal. Aladeen, being an idiot, is proven wrong.
  • Psycho for Hire: Clayton, Aladeen's kidnapper and (almost) executioner, is upfront about wanting to torture Aladeen before killing him.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Aladeen's ideas on how bombs work comes from watching Daffy Duck cartoons.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Nadal has no real love for Aladeen: he just wants to help his boss return to power to get his more dignified job in Wadiya back.
  • Qurac: Wadiya. You can see at the beginning that Wadiya is where Eritrea should be.
  • Released to Elsewhere: Inverted; while Aladeen thinks he's had hundreds of people executed for the most trivial reasons, the royal executioner is part of La Résistance and has actually been smuggling the condemned to America, where they've been living quite happily.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The Republic of Wadiya website mentions that Aladeen appointed his father (who was obviously assassinated by his own son) to the position of "Eternal President", while "merely" bestowing upon himself the position of "Vice-President" under his deceased father. "Eternal President" is in fact the actual office currently "held" by the first dictator of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. North Korea's laws even mandate that Il-Sung still be referred to in the present tense even though he died in 1994.
    • Aladeen has ordered that a great number of words in the Wadyian language be replaced with "Aladeen", including contradictory terms like "positive" and "negative", and "open" and "closed", causing a lot of confusion.
      Physician: Do you want the Aladeen news or the Aladeen news?
      Man: The... uh, Aladeen news.
      Physician: You are HIV... Aladeen.
      Man switches through happy and concerned facial expressions multiple times.
    • Crosses over with Unusual Euphemism with regard to why Katy Perry got a diamond watch, unlike Megan Fox.
  • Stock Footage: Stock footage of Barack Obama is used to introduce the fact that the world is worried about the nuclear programme of Wadiya.
  • Take That!: A BIG one at the US, when Aladeen states everything that a tyrant state does, the US has been doing, leading, to Aladeen to say this at the end.
    • Among MANY other examples of this, the list of previous dictators that Nadal recounts to Aladeen concludes with "Cheney."
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: After Osama bin Laden's double got shot by SEAL Team Six, the real Osama moved into Aladeen's guesthouse and ruined his bathroom. Curiously, Aladeen never considered ordering bin Laden to be executed.