Is 'The Dictator' Star Sacha Baron Cohen Getting Banned from the Oscars?

Rumor has it that Sacha Baron Cohen wants to attend the Oscars as his character from The Dictator-and that the Academy is considering banning him from the event for it. What's goin

Is ‘The Dictator’ Star Sacha Baron Cohen Getting Banned from the Oscars?

Rumor has it that Sacha Baron Cohen wants to attend the Oscars as his character from The Dictator—and that the Academy is considering banning him from the event for it. What’s going on here?

-Lucia Peters

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is well-known for the stunts he pulls during his public appearances. Who could forget his arrival at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival as Borat riding in a wagon pulled by “Kazakhstani peasant women?” Or that time that he attended the 2009 MTV VMAs as Bruno? Classic. Since he’s got this kind of track record, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that with the release of his next film, The Dictator, so close on the horizon, he’d want to attend at least one show during awards season as the movie’s titular dictator character, General Admiral Alladeen. However, it raised more than a few eyebrows when it was discovered that the show at which he wanted to pull this stunt was none other than the holy grail of awards season: The Oscars.

You can probably guess where this is going.

Yep: News broke yesterday that not only did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences say no to Sacha’s stunt, but actually banned him from attending the event entirely, according to Deadline. The Internet subsequently exploded. It exploded even more when people began to realize that Sach is both an Academy member and part of the cast of Hugo, which is up for a whole bunch of awards. Isn’t the Internet great?

The Academy, however, quickly backpedaled—sorry, “clarified”—and explained that they hadn’t yanked Sacha’s tickets. They just wanted the actor to know that his Dicatator stunt would be unwelcome. An Academy spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter, “We haven’t banned him. We’re just waiting to hear what he’s going to do.” The spokesperson continued, “We don’t think it’s appropriate.” To be fair, word on the street is that Sacha was only planning on arriving to the event as Alladeen; he was going to change into a tux an just be himself during the show itself. However, it appears that the Academy doesn’t take kindly to comedians hijacking the red carpet as publicity stunts.

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I’ve got mixed feelings about the whole thing. Sacha Baron Cohen’s brand of comedy is pretty polarizing; people tend to either think it’s genius or think it’s despicably offensive, but very rarely fall anywhere in between these two extremes. For my part, I find Borat to be extremely uncomfortable, but I also think Sacha has done amazing work in films like Sweeney Todd and Hugo (and for what it’s worth, he’s most likely going to be terrific as Thenardier in the Les Mis adaptation they’re currently working on). I also think he’s incredibly smart, and that even if I don’t always find his particular brand of humor funny, he’s always making a point with it—the uncomfortableness is part of it—and that alone earns him a healthy dose of respect. Furthermore, in the name of freedom of expression, why the heck shouldn’t he be allowed to hit the red carpet as his most recent character? After all, as Deadline pointed out, Trey Parker and Matt Stone cross-dressed down the red carpet as Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow in 2000.

At the same time, I kind of get where the Academy is coming from. They don’t want the show to turn into a gigantic plug for a specific movie. It also undoubtedly has something to do with the controversial nature of the film, which, as described by Paramount, will “tell the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.” Iffy? Maybe. Especially since the show is being broadcast to over 200 countries.

But, Academy? Lighten up. Sacha Baron Cohen is smart enough not to make a mockery of the entire evening. And most viewers are smart enough to take what they’re supposed to from this type of comedy—no more, no less. Just relax, okay? It’s going to be fun! The Oscars are all about celebrating the magic of the movies, and what better way is there to do it than by having a live performance on the red carpet?

Let it roll!

Tell us: Should Sacha Baron Cohen be banned from attending the Oscars? Or is the Academy totally overreacting?

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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