Ex-Panamanian dictator Noriega sues over video game portrayal (+video)

Manuel Noriega joins an ever-growing list of world leaders who are suing, banning, and making threats over video games and movies.

By , Staff writer

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smiles as he gives field guidance at the Chonapho Fishery Institute in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 17, 2014.
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Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is joining the league of world leaders and governments upset over their portrayals in movies and video games: He's suing the company behind the game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”

Mr. Noriega is suing Activision Blizzard Inc. for using his name and depiction without permission. The Los Angeles Times reported that the lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges he is portrayed as “a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state,” adding to “heightened sales” for Activision. The lawsuit seeks damages and lost profits.

Noriega held power from 1983 to 1989, before a US invasion removed him. He was imprisoned in the US on drug smuggling and racketeering charges and only returned to Panama in 2011. 

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Lampooning dictators and particularly colorful world leaders is regular fare for movies and video games. North Korea's Kim Jong-un declared “all-out war” against the US in June over the upcoming James Franco and Seth Rogen film, "The Interview." In the film, Mr. Kim is the target of a CIA assassination attempt. 

Kim’s ire over the film didn’t stop with the threat. North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song-nam, wrote a letter of protest to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon without mentioning the name of the movie:

“To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.”

The ruling family of the Hermit Kingdom has engendered its fair share of controversial portrayals. Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, was depicted as a wooden puppet in the 2004 film Team America: World Police, allegedly upsetting the leader, although he never commented on it. North Korean embassy officials in the Czech Republic tried unsuccessfully to block the film there.

Moving west to Malaysia, the 2001 comedy Zoolander featured a plotline to assassinate the prime minister. That was too much for the Malaysian government, which called it “definitely unsuitable.” (Zoolander star Owen Wilson actually met the real prime minister of Malaysia Najib Razak in 2012.)

Middle Eastern leaders haven’t been spared, either. Saddam Hussein was depicted in the 1993 "Hot Shots! Part Deux" film, playing a large role in the movie with memorable lines including, "Now I will kill you until you die from it!" The film wasn’t banned in Iraq

It was an event in Ukraine in 2004 that spawned a popular online game. Then-presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych was pelted by an egg, and his reaction made it appear that he had been shot. The video quickly went viral and was followed by the game.

So Noreiga can rest assured that he has company, and more surely to join soon.

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