Sacha Baron Cohen considers himself quite the funny man, but for many, his jokes are all tragic. The latest group to place him on their bad side is Arab Americans.
The Dictator will release in theaters tonight, but Sacha Baron Cohen shouldn’t count on his Arab American fans (if he has any) to be filling up the seats. Taking on his role as The Dictator way too seriously, he has single handedly pissed off almost an entire culture.
Many Arab Americans have spoken out about how his role has become an offensively poor portrayal of their culture that simply makes fun of them. They believe he has gone too far in showing discrimination against the Muslim community.
The Director of the National Network for Arab American Communities, Nadia Tovona, criticized Sacha Baron Cohen herself.
“I have not seen the film, but based on the trailer and interviews that I have seen him do in character, it really seems to be that it##Q##s perpetuating a negative stereotype against Arabs and therefore Arab Americans,” Tonova told E! News. “And I feel it##Q##s harmful to the discourse, especially these days when we are seeing the number of profiling incidents here in the U.S. against Arab Americans.”
Other Arab American public figures have backed Tovona’s stance. Comedian Dean Obeidallah compared the issue to one for a different culture in a statement on CNN.com.
“What would the reaction be if a white actor in blackface mocked African-American culture,” questioned Obeidallah. “Or if an actor of Arab heritage pitched a movie about the leader of a fictitious Jewish state in which he would portray the Jewish leader and showcase the worst stereotypes of Jews? Is there any chance that film would get the green light from a Hollywood studio?”
Sacha Baron Cohen was asked about why he chose to depict the real-world view of his role as The Dictator during certain times such as during press conferences and events.
“Well, firstly it##Q##s a comedy movie, so the movie is there to be as funny as it can be,” said Cohen to E! News correspondent Ann Curry. “But the subjects of the satire are these preposterous dictators who are feared in their own countries and rule using violence and oppression but are ludicrous characters. And the great thing is at the moment, they##Q##re being overthrown. So anything you can do to mock them and undermine that kind of false authority I think is a positive thing.”
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