Sure, The Dictator sprinkles in a joke here and there about 9/11, but the film never cuts you deep inside, never lets you become unsettled or shocked by its message. In fact, it goes against itself by having the dictator give in to democracy, which just feels completely wrong. We never see the repercussions or watch it poke fun of having a democracy suddenly forced onto another country. To me, it feels like a compromised vision with a Hollywood ending, and it’s just false. Which is a shame because you’d think with a films premise like this there’d be fights with the ratings board to make a hardcore jab at terrorism and fascism. The only thing this movie probably fought for was to keep an arbitrary gag of the inside of a woman’s vagina. By comparison to South Park, the value of what The Dictator has to say is very little, and it only serves to hold itself back. It gives in too easily at the last second and misses out on something that could have been so much more. Saddam Hussain in bed with Satan already says so much more about a dictator than The Dictator could ever say for itself.
I think great satire is often misunderstood in this country, and there are so few shows or movies that manage to use it in such a cutting way. It’s a shame that other animation series don’t use it in such a strong degree. The Simpson’s used it so well in the first seven years of its run until South Park came along. Where would we be without satire to tear down such big institutions as the government, the war in the Middle East, the TSA, Walmart, The Academy Awards, Brooke Sheilds…all just ripe for plucking. We need more shows and films like South park, not simply to make fun off these institutions, but to say something about the absurdity and outrageousness of it all. But in most cases artists have to be courageous enough with their work to really take a stand and cut deep with the truth of their comedy.
The South Park movie serves as a reminder of studio executives and the MPAA acting like big parents when it comes to the content of film, allowing themselves to be scared of religious groups and the PTA who believe their films will damage their children. The South Park movie sends the perfect message that it’s up to parents to monitor what their children see, not the job of Hollywood executives. The film endures the test of time because of the strength and power of its message. It goes to show that when you really have something important to say, you should be allowed to say it uncensored and without holding back. And the message shouldn’t always have to be safe, or neutered because of angry parents. That’s just a lot of noise.
South Park reaffirms the power of freedom of speech time and time again, and its a blessing that we have it as an outlet for all the fucked up things that happen in this country. The South Park movie still serves as one of the greatest, most offensive and vulgar animated films ever made, as few films ever manage to get away with it and still go on to be successful. If you ever feel you have something to say but are afraid to let it out, you can always pop in the South Park movie, let Parker and Stone inspire you, and then let your voice be heard.