The Daily Beast takes a closer look at the publicity for the new Sacha Baron Cohen movie, The Dictator, which, like the PR for his previous films, is being handled by the main character.
Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen has made a red carpet appearance at the Oscars, where he spilled Kim Jong-Il’s ashes on Ryan Seacreast; inspected Jon Stewart’s crotch on The Daily Show; and told Matt Lauer he knew about his affair with Ann Curry during a TODAY show interview. He’ll also be making a Cannes Film Festival appearance.
The Daily Beast ponders whether it’s too much of a gimmicky thing. Some say yes, Cohen should just appear as himself and really shock us. Others say it’s shrewd. We agree with the latter.
We immediately think of Stephen Colbert, who talks very little about his personal life — when he took time off from The Colbert Report in February, sources confirmed that it was due to his mom’s illness, but Colbert never did — and has even appeared before Congress in character. The power of Colbert’s satire is its unwavering nature coupled with obvious criticism of the ideas he claims to support.
A couple other examples are pop music’s leading ladies Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, who have created outrageous alter egos that exist throughout their performances and public appearances. Even if all they’re going to do is show up for a party, the media is ready to report on it because we know they’re going to play their personas to the max and give us all a little something to talk about.
Baron Cohen’s Dictator character is one that the public isn’t too familiar with, so we’re getting to know him in the lead-up to the movie’s premiere. The more exposure, the more we want to know about the story the movie tells, the more tickets are sold.
Moreover, because Baron Cohen fearlessly pushes the boundaries of good taste in a era when good taste is a rare commodity, we’re always interested to learn how low he can go. That equals PR stunt success.
And finally, if Borat and Bruno are any indication, this is a character that won’t stay with us as long as Stephen Colbert or Lady Gaga, so we have to get our fill while we can. Once the movie promotion is done, The Dictator will head back to his fake kingdom of Wadiya and fall silent. Unless there’s a sequel.