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Humor in The Film The Great Dictator by Charles Chaplin

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Ray Bradbury stated: “the only answer to most of the destruction and dishonor and dissolution of the world is a sense of humor. …So when you are faced by the totalitarian regimes and the madness they inflict on the world, courage isn’t enough, you have to be able to laugh to their face, throw back your head and say, “You don’t count, I discount you this way, I give you the laugh of all the time. The great laugh of acceptance which melts you down”. I agree with her, because using humor as a way to call attention to such situation was the best way, and the best example is The Great Dictator. The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, ‘The Great Dictator’), is a comedy film where Chaplin used humor as a way to deliver situation or history. Chaplin forced the audience to face the Nazi reality, and it was a way calling attention to the rise of fascism in Europe. Comedy used to evoke sympathy, and it’s the best way to attack anything like a dictator regime, they can’t stand it and people can laugh at it. Courage doesn’t do it but laughing would. Many anti-fascists offered serious arguments against Hitler, but Charlie Chaplin responded to the mortal threat that the Nazis posed in a different way, he used humor to highlight the absurdity and hypocrisy of the message. Where on the other hand, the historian Gitta Sereny, thinks that associating humor with people like Hitler and diminish them is dangerous and we shouldn’t do it, and said that Hitler, was a very serious man and well, so Chaplin shouldn’t have done something like The Great Dictator.

Author Robert Cole’s, stated: “When Chaplin began The Great Dictator in 1937 he was convinced that fascism was moving Europe toward war. However, opinion in Britain and the United States still believed war could be avoided, in the former by appeasing the fascist dictators and in the latter by following a policy of isolationism. Moreover, political propaganda remained in bad odor from its abuse during the First World War, and censors on both sides of the Atlantic discouraged any overt propaganda content in films. From the start, Chaplin was under pressure either to render the images and message of his film inoffensive to Hitler and Mussolini, which meant eliminating any anti-fascist propaganda element, or else to drop the project altogether”. Chaplin’s was aware of the situation at that time and understood the elements of mass persuasion, and how comedy can manipulate the viewer’s emotions and believes. Chaplin’s goal was to target the viewers in Germany and Italy, but especially Germany under Hitler. Chaplin’s understood the power of comedy and cinema as designed for mass audiences. Using the barber and dictator to represent the duality of good and evil. Chaplin painted the characters in a tedious way so would be no mistaking the distinction of good from evil.

All the scenes in The Great Dictator evoked so many different emotions fear, love, hate, and humor, these emotions elaborated the central purpose of Chaplin’s taking sides in the conflict of good against evil. The film was filled with heroes and villains whom were fighting evil. As an example, the life in the ghetto chapter, the barber’s girlfriend helping him by hitting the soldier using the pan, it’s a comedy but gave us an idea of how we can distinguish the good from evil. These visuals, like the life in the ghetto chapter, were an example to emphasize the appeal to emotions which is the essence of film propaganda. Comedy role in films to bring humor and induce laughter. The primary role of comedy is to amuse and entertain the audience, while it also portrays social organizations and persons as corrupt, and ridicules them through different forms. Comedy in The Great Dictator was used also to evoke sympathy for the victims of the dictator’s brutality. The Ghetto people were good people, good-humored, and harmless, capable of violence only when it was thrust upon them. The audience was meant to laugh with them, not at them, but in some parts, in the film, we couldn’t decide if we should laugh at the evil or the good people. Chaplin a political filmmaker and committed citizen, Chaplin made another film called Shoulder Arm. Chaplin’s absolute weapon was laughter, he used humor to show how these regimes targeting the Jewish population especially the Nazi party. In The Great Dictator Hannah is one of the characters Chaplin used to show us the good side, courage, and the spirit of liberty, she is the one who dreams of a better world. On the other side, we see the actor who comes with ideas to Hitler about the parashot, device for protection from bullets, and gas to kill everyone. When you watch you laugh most of the time but it was absolute propaganda. The globe scene is one of the most brilliant scenes in the film, there is a powerful idea about dictatorship and the reaction to this dictatorship. The drama because dictators want to have the world under their control. Chaplin plays with the balloon like he’s in love with it, and at the same time, this love move to the horror of someone wants to manipulate the earth this way.

Many scenes in The Great Dictator felt very unsettling and had a casual mix of horror and humor, even the music made us feel that way. Every time the music change we feel something sad or happy going to happen like his speech at the end. Also, a few scenes of the barber in the ghetto the music changed based on the level of action. Scenes like when Hitler dance with the world as a balloon was very unsettling, as a viewer I couldn’t decide if I should smile or fear Hitler, by end of the day the movie showed us that Hitler goal is the Jews are to be punished or destroyed as punishment for anyone being a Jewish. The dictator or Hitler doesn’t like brunettes, but his adviser recommends going after the Jews first too. The dictator delivers a speech it’s very loud and so many words, but the Tramp or Chaplin himself is calm and slow, so the film from the beginning until the end was like going on a trip that has many beautiful landscapes but has many challenges on the road.

The Tramp returning back to the ghetto part is an example of unsettling emotions. The Tramp, is a Jewish barber, returning to a Jewish ghetto in the European nation of Tomania after 20 years in the hospital to find the country ruled by anti-Semitic tyrant Adenoid Hynkel. We go through many different feelings in this scene fear, hate, and humor. We see JEW painted on the shops, and then the tramp tries to clean it until the soldier comes and stops him. We see the lady hitting the soldiers on their head using a pan and by mistake hit the tramp, Chaplin uses his style and dance. From a quiet and calm neighborhood to scary and unsettling place. The tramp was almost going to die when the soldiers were hanging him.

The final speech, the music, Chaplin’s body language and everything in that scene made the audience more close to him, this cinematic way eliminates everything and made the scene around him. Chaplin delivered a message to humanity, asking for a better world. And that was the best end in my opinion because we saw Chaplin the good citizen who is looking for a better world.

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Humor In The Film The Great Dictator By Charles Chaplin. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from
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