The Dictator and Orientalism

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In the beginning of the quarter, we discussed Said Edwards book, Orientalism. This book, I believe, is the foundation of our class. The movies we watched in class displayed the arguments Said Edwards has in his book. The movie The Dictator shows the idea of West vs. the East. The East, in Edward’s book, is any culture or country that is not part of the Western countries, such as countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. The West or, as Edward Said calls them, the Occident, has this misconception and imagination of the East. The Occident views the East as a magical, exotic place, where the society is backwards and primitive. I argue that The Dictator constructs generalizations of Eastern societies such as the low status of women, primitive culture and the non-existent democratic state. The Dictator is a movie about a dictator whose name is Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen, who rules an imaginary nation called Wadiya in North Africa. He is anti-western and anti-Semitic. The country’s main source of income is oil and Admiral General has plans of developing nuclear weapons. Admiral General does not want his oil to be sold internationally and is considered by the UN a “troubled” leader. Admiral General’s uncle wants to kill him, so the oil can be sold internationally. A hit man kidnapped Admiral General and while Admiral General is escaping his kidnapper, his beard was shaved while through the process of escaping. Now without his signature beard, no one can recognize him. At the end of the movie, Admiral General meets Zoey, marries her, and eventually regains power of his country.

The beginning of the movie shows Wadiya located in the African desert. The architecture of the building is very “Middle Eastern” with domes on top of the building that resemble the architecture of the Ottoman Empire period. The country has no modern building. This scene is the first manifestation of Orientalism. The movie sets the scene by telling the audience that this country is not progressive, but primitive, by showing one style of architecture and no modern buildings in a country that is in the 21th-centurary. The setting of the movie implies something about the culture, that the viewer is led to believe. The viewer is led to believe that the culture is unsophisticated. As a viewer, the view of Wadiya has created a mindset that the East does not have modern buildings and has only one type of architectural style. This mentality is not true because there are some nations such as United Arab Emirate and Qatar who have very modernized buildings. Those countries’ architecture is modern or even more cutting edge than the West. An example of a modern building in the East is the Etihad Towers in Abu Dubai In The Dictator, the status of women was a theme. The women in Wadiya are mistreated and are considered lower than men. In the beginning of the movie immediately after giving birth, Admiral General mother was killed by the doctor. Admiral’s father ordered for her to be killed. This scene shows the status of the women in the Wadiya society. The women are not considered a person and their life is not valued. The scene of his mom getting killed by the doctor is a parallel of the stories of honor killing that we hear in the West. Many of the honor killing stories we hear are women killed because the father or male figure in their life felt his woman was jeopardizing his honor. So instead of the men ignoring their feelings they decided to kill their women so their honor is still kept. In our society, we consider this barbaric and inhumane. So as a viewer, the movie made me think that the women of the East are victims of their culture. The notion that the women of the East are victims of their culture is an idea that Occident has. This notion is used by Western governments to intervene into countries that they feel the women in that society do not have rights. Another example of the status of women in the movie is when...
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