How to Become a Tyrant is a Netflix documentary series based on The Dictator’s Handbook and narrated by Peter Dinklage. The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics is a 2011 non-fiction book by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, published by the company PublicAffairs.
How to Become a Tyrant features six 30 minute episodes which makes the documentary series highly binge-worthy, and primarily focuses on notorious dictators like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Il-sung, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein. Presumably, the allure of this series is akin to the true crime obsession, numerous folks have with real-life serial killers.
The choice of Dinklage as narrator presumably has to do with his role as Tyrion Lannister in the Game of Thrones series. The linkage is tenuous but one can certainly see the logic, from a studio executives’ perspective. A bit on the money too much but nothing to jarring or awkward.
The tone of How to Become a Tyrant is semi-serious and at times comes across like a dark comedy. The fact that the atrocities committed by these dictators are very very real is ultimately disturbing and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. So perhaps think of this as Machiavelli-lite and all the torture and murder might be easier to swallow.
In the final analysis, How to Become a Tyrant is a sad indictment on human nature, no matter how entertaining the presentation is, and entertaining it certainly is. With aid of snappy monologue, engaging graphics and appropriate footage, the series is able to draw in anyone remotely interested in history and the lessons mankind can never learn from it. We seem to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Highly recommended.
Now streaming on Netflix.
… still there’s more …