By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Violent Middle Eastern drama misses the chance to educate.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The series paints the Middle East with a broad brush, generally depicting it in a negative light and relying on cultural stereotypes. Characters wade through murky moral questions but don't typically arrive at definitive answers.
Positive Role Models
A few secondary characters serve as moral touchstones, but most others function at a level that's somewhere in between. Although the main character's own motivations are shrouded in secrecy, his brother is unequivocally evil, regularly committing rape and other atrocities.
Violence & Scariness
Realistic violence includes shootings, explosions, executions, and savage beatings, in addition to torture, rape, and domestic violence. Some blood is shown, but it usually isn't excessive.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Simulated depictions of submissive and/or sexual acts as degrading, including oral sex, with partial nudity (bare buttocks and so on).
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Unbleeped language includes "s--t," plus words such as "prick" and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking, with some substance abuse (including drunk driving), but the behavior usually has negative consequences.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this mature drama set in a fictional Middle Eastern country goes full-throttle for realism when it comes to violence, featuring explosions, shootings, torture, executions, domestic violence, and rape. Sexual scenes are intense but stop just short of graphic, with only partial nudity (bare buttocks and the like) and simulated sex, and audible language includes words such as "s--t," "prick," and "hell." There's social drinking, too, including occasional substance abuse.
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Based on 3 parent reviews
Do not listen to commonsense media 2 star
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What's the Story?
After decades away from his Middle Eastern homeland, California pediatrician Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) reluctantly flies back with his family for his nephew's nuptials. But Barry's wife (Jennifer Finnigan) and children (Noah Silver and Anne Winters) know surprisingly little about his past, and they've never met their own estranged relatives, including Barry's TYRANT father (Nasser Faris) and sadistic brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), who's next in line for the presidency. The plot thickens when political turmoil forces the family to stay in the country indefinitely, unearthing painful memories for Barry and painful realties for those he loves.
Is It Any Good?
As a series, Tyrant carries a tumultuous history that includes winning -- and losing -- A-list director Ang Lee, who was ultimately replaced by Harry Potter director David Yates, among other production issues. Not as tumultuous, of course, as the history of the region it attempts to portray on-screen but tumultuous enough to leave visible scars, resulting in an intriguing yet ultimately flawed final product that, for most critics at least, plays like a very expensive mistake.
Tyrant does get points for trying to do what few other television shows have done before: take a politically complex story involving mostly Arab characters and make it appealing to mainstream America. But key decisions to set the series in the fictional Abbudin -- an overgeneralized amalgam of Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Libya, and Syria -- and have the actors speak in accented English, not to mention casting a non-Arab actor in the leading role, have undercut it's credibility considerably.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Tyrant's choice to portray Middle Eastern culture via a fictional country in turmoil rather than a real one. How does the series score in terms of cultural accuracy? How can you tell it was designed with American audiences in mind?
How does Barry measure up as a role model? Are we meant to sympathize with him, and can we still do so if he has significant flaws? Who's the real Tyrant in the show's title?
How are women portrayed in the series in terms of their power -- and submission? What comparisons is Tyrant drawing between American and Middle Eastern women, and are they fair?
- Premiere date: June 24, 2014
- Cast: Jennifer Finnigan, Adam Rayner, Ashraf Barhom
- Network: FX
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: October 14, 2022
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