The countless number of superhero fiends who dropped cash to see The Avengers this past weekend were first greeted to a few racially charged laughs, courtesy of the full-length trailer for the new comedy The Dictator.
There’s a great chance that the biggest guffaws in each theater came from the preview’s final moment, when the titular North African general turned stateside whipping boy (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) and his thick-bearded sidekick (comedian Jason Mantzoukas) are riding in a helicopter with a visibly shook white couple. Speaking to each other in their native tongue, the stereotypically terrorist-looking friends make fake explosions with their hands and utter incomprehensible jargon aside from “Empire State Building.” The honkeys, naturally, scream in sheer panic, thinking the chopper is going down. Audience members, as is desired by Cohen and company, laugh boisterously.
All audience members except the more humorless Muslims in attendance or close-minded tight-asses, that is. In essence, The Dictator’s designedly funny sequence does little more than perpetuate a specific type of prejudice that’s been prevalent since 9/11, and which Cohen used to his advantage brilliantly in the 2006 comedic revelation Borat; six years later, though, his shtick doesn’t feel nearly as fresh.
Yet, if you think lampooning Americans’ fears or terrorism is bad business, wait until you get a load of the varying kinds of insensitivities on display in The 50 Most Racist Movies, films that even Mr. Cohen could take issue with while out of his Dictator character.