A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
It's short but clearly points out key conditions by which someone can rise to absolute power over a country or community, and breaks down what has to be done to maintain it. Offers some biographical history of different dictators, information about what made them who they are.
To raise awareness about how people can become dictators, it shows how history repeats itself when oppressive rulers rise to power because they all use the same methods. These issues are discussed from a Western and democratic point of view.
Positive Role Models
Dictators and dictatorial regimes are presented as ruthless, cruel, brutal, exploitative. Populations who follow them are described as people susceptible to these types of rulers thanks to living in and struggling with difficult conditions. Dictators discussed are from different countries around the world.
Violence & Scariness
Many anecdotes about dictators and their regimes' violent, brutal acts, ranging from ways people are kidnapped, stalked, injured, tortured, or killed to the psychological tactics used to subvert opposition. Guns and rifles are shown being brandished and shot. Quick clips taken from archive footage of people being shot at, tortured, etc., as well as some dead bodies, but most bloody injuries and limited graphic violence are shown in animated form. Hate speech, bullying, scapegoating discussed. Military violence shown. Some fictional movie footage depicting dramatically violent moments.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief references to imposing dress codes, allowing child marriages, forced divorces, other themes as they relate to the systemic changes imposed by dictators.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Archive footage shows people smoking cigarettes and cigars, being served or drinking alcohol. Regimes are also responsible for banning the use of both.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that How to Become a Tyrant is a unique, informative docuseries about how dictators throughout history rose to power and exercised absolute rule over the masses. The series is composed of archive images of some of history's most brutal leaders along with anecdotes of the atrocities committed by their regimes. Guns, rifles, and other weapons are visible, and there are violent images of people shooting or being shot at, being brutally attacked, or getting killed; the more graphic moments and bloody injuries are shown in animated form. Topics like child brides, forced divorces, and banning alcohol and smoking are briefly talked about in some episodes, while smoking and drinking are visible in others. All of this is presented in a historical context.
Is It Any Good?
The unique series combines history, international politics, and sarcasm to showcase the factors that have led to some of the most powerful dictatorships of the last 80+ years. How to Become a Tyrant notes that democratic rulers have historically not been the norm; rather, dictators like Adolf Hitler, former Ugandan leader Idi Amin, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, and many others have risen to power due to their ability to convince the masses during difficult times that they alone can fix their problems. It shows how these leaders transformed their countries by scapegoating and eliminating their opponents, implementing systematic changes, and launching disinformation and propaganda campaigns, all of which facilitated the suppression of civil liberties. Also highlighted are the personal characteristics that potential dictators need to possess to be successful: an unshakable belief that they are destined to rule, a willingness to be brutal, greediness, and the ability to create a public image that makes them appear more humble and caring than they really are.
The discussions about each regime's brutal practices are extensive, but visually How to Become a Tyrant relies on quick-moving montages and animated scenes, rather than ongoing, detailed footage of atrocities being committed, to make its points. Meanwhile, it also offers quick but clear visual references to contemporary political leaders, hate groups, and news outlets (including some in the United States). But while each of the 25-minute segments offers lots of examples of how this "playbook" works, the overall discussions are too brief to go into a lot of depth. Nonetheless, it's the quirky delivery of this information that gives How to Become a Tyrant an entertainment-like quality. Some may take issue with this narrative style, given the subject matter. Nonetheless, it offers a creative way of introducing viewers to the concepts associated with dictatorship and tyranny. More importantly, it reminds viewers of how easy it is for ordinary people, living anywhere in the world, to be seduced by someone who understands how to exploit their weaknesses in order to rise to absolute power.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.