Written by: Teresa España
Last evening I saw Sacha Baron Cohen’s current movie, “The Dictator.” The film satirizes racism, bigotry, and hypocrisy.
Satire is tricky to convey. The term’s defined as “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.” If the material is not well-written or -delivered, it can offend.
The “dictator,” played by Baron Cohen, is characterized as a bumbling, idiotic Middle Eastern tyrant whose minions have been ordered to build a nuclear weapon. Stereotypes traffic the entire movie, pigeonholing, denigrating, and misrepresenting cultural groups. The antics in the movie are so outrageous that it can be read as satire for exposing and mocking prejudice.
This movie helped me understand the discomfort I feel around “Cultural Heritage Nights” at baseball stadiums. These functions are similar in nature to Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) fiestas in restaurants and bars. Both events use stereotypical symbols to represent, fix, and impose identities that don’t exist.
At Cinco de Mayo parties, bars and restaurants offer “authentic” experiences by serving plenty of Mexican beer and food (taquitos, guacamole), and filling the room with Mexican music (mariachis). The owners decorate their establishments with colorful placards that include images of sarapes (ponchos), sombreros (large hats), acoustic guitars, and “lazy” Mexicans sleeping against cacti.
I am a 51-year old, third-generation American of Mexican descent and have never worn a sarape or sombrero, nor found myself napping against a cactus in the desert.