The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At The Party
According to insiders, a group of wealthy republicans are working on a new super pac campaign that would use a “extremely literate African American” to attack President Obama.
The group did have someone in mind but had to start their search over when they found out Carlton Banks was fictional.
- Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live, 19 May 2012
I know I’m a little late on this but as I’m sure most of you know, Sacha Baron Cohen stopped by SNL this weekend to do an in-character promotion of his new film The Dictator. Around the time of the Oscars, when Baron Cohen released this video in response to being banned from the event and after he pulled this stunt on the red carpet, where he pretended to spill the recently deceased Kim Jong Il’s ashes on Ryan Seacrest, I briefly spoke out about how Baron Cohen’s character and his new film are extremely problematic and racist and why this is concerning even though it’s all “just for comedy.”
As the film’s release date nears, Baron Cohen and the cast are increasingly doing promotional appearances, including the video I’ve posted from SNL’s Weekend Update segment. Perhaps I’m looking in all of the wrong places but where’s the substantive discussion about how problematic this film and recent SNL appearance are? In this clip, Baron Cohen greets Seth Meyers, who may or may not be Jewish (I can’t get a definitive answer), by calling him a “Zionist,” playing into the misconception and stereotype that all non-Jewish Middle Eastern individuals blindly regard all Jews and Westerners as Zionists, as if the joke is that Zionism is actually a good thing. (It should also be noted that Sacha Baron Cohen is an Ashkenazi Jew with an Israeli mother.)
“Death to the West,” Baron Cohen’s character, Admiral General Aladeen, then declares, because, clearly, all Middle Eastern leaders, even the “good” ones, are stuck in some cage match against the West. The Middle East and the West are vehemently opposed to one another and those who denounce the West are “crazy” and “irrational.” Just look at Admiral General Aladeen. He seems pretty Middle Eastern and backwards, right?
Baron Cohen’s character goes on to reveal a kidnapped Martin Scorsese, film critic Roger Ebert’s severed thumbs, and reads a blood-splattered review from a “tortured” New York Times journalist, playing, of course, on the stereotype that the Middle East is inherently violent and its residents are violent, demanding terrorists. The Middle East is all about solving problems with bombs and that violent, backwards, “radical Islam,” the latter of which Baron Cohen jokingly alludes to as his character reiterates some of his previous films, “The 14-year-old Virgin” and “The 7-year-old Virgin.”
As if the Xenophobic anti-Arab and anti-Muslim climate in the West didn’t make the premise of The Dictator problematic enough, Baron Cohen’s character Admiral General Aladeen hails from a fictional republic in North Africa, where we’ve been witnessing historic revolutions take place. Call me oversensitive but it seems to me that generalizing a very diverse region to mock a culture and peoples at such a vulnerable moment for the purposes of Western entertainment is just highly inappropriate and insensitive. It might be good fun to mock some of the dictatorial Middle Eastern leaders but lest we forget precisely who propped them up, even directly installing others, and helped create the conditions many of the people of the Middle East face today.
Where’s the discussion about how problematic all of this is? Or are the laughs Western entertainment brings more important than the stigma engendered by racist frat boy depictions of a very diverse populace already demonized by Western media and politics?
My favorite one out of those duets.
M.I.A knows a white guy creeping around ain’t up to no good.