A 2021 Film Journey: Day 20

Today’s entry is going to be a little different. I did watch a new-to-me film today, but the reason I chose to watch it given the happenings in the US today are so prominent that rather than just talk about the film in depth, it makes sense to also talk about why I chose the film.

The Great Dictator (1940, Dir. Charlie Chaplin)

The Great Dictator | Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

After a four-year flirtation with a fascist dictator of our own, it only made sense to put on a film famous for its biting satire against one of the worst fascists to ever rule a country. These years had been difficult for me. As a trans woman, the relative stability I found my first year after transition under the Obama administration was stolen from me as the Tr*mp administration did everything it could to deny trans people protections under sex discrimination. As such, these last few years were ones without a lot of laughter for me.

Watching one of the slapstick greats bumble around in mockery of the classic dictator served as a great bit of catharsis. The Dictator Hynkel’s (Chaplin) speeches all being vaguely German gibberish were funnier now than I believe they would have been to me 5 years ago. Now that I’ve seen our very own blabbering dictator Chaplin’s performance seems all the more jabbing despite being from 80 years prior. The other satirical scene that seems even more pertinent is the scenes between the two dictators Hynkel and Napaloni (Jack Oakie). The grandiose blustering of the two ridiculous men is comical while not ring untrue to how we’ve seen thin skinned nationalist leaders behave recently.

The arguable greatest lasting impact from The Great Dictator is Chaplin’s closing monologue as the Jewish barber mistaken for Hynkel. This scene unlocked something important for me today. My personal politics land far left of our personal dictator’s successor. I was frustrated this morning watching the people I follow on twitter become increasingly horny for Biden; it felt like a betrayal of the real fight. I’m still jaded and pessimistic that Biden will actually fight for the working class, but after Chaplin’s monologue I’m personally more accepting of the benefit to having hope.

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