Parents' Guide to

How to Become a Tyrant

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Unique, violent docu shows how despots rise to power.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 1 parent review

age 15+

Quick and dirty dictators

Had higher hopes for this series when it began but after watching the whole season it does not necessarily live up to what I wish the series was. Dinklage does a great job with his narration, but the show recedes into snark a bit too often considering it's heavy subject matter and the snark is to the detriment of the gravitas of the series. However, the clips and especially the animation are the show's best assets.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (5 ):

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.

TV Details

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