Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba who was an antagonist to 11 U.S. presidential administrations, died on Friday. He was occasionally a character or figure in American popular culture, nearly always the villain. His last cameo, in 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops, kicked up enough of a fuss as to warrant a state-level response.
For those who don't recall it, Castro was the target of an assassination attempt by the U.S. (as he was many times in real life). In it, the fictitious Alex Mason carries out the mission as intended, only to discover he'd shot a body double. (Mason's then captured and shipped off to a Soviet Gulag.)
It’s the first mission in the game, so it was noticed in the mainstream immediately. The day after the game's launch, Cuba's state-run Cubadebate called it a "perverse" piece of American propaganda and jabbed at Washington for its repeated failures to eliminate the dictator.
"What the United States couldn't accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually," Cubadebate said. It added, for good measure, that Call of Duty: Black Ops "stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents."
Something similar happened the year before in 2009’s The Godfather 2. The player goes to Cuba to assassinate Castro on behalf of Hyman Roth. Yet no matter what kind of shot the player lines up on Castro, it's never fatal.
Cuban state media didn't have anything to say about that, probably because The Godfather 2 was a pretty crappy game, whereas Call of Duty is a global brand and a symbol of American military heroism.
Still, one might figure that if this really was pro-U.S. propaganda, Castro would bite the dust every time. You could also argue that instead, it reinforces the United States' serial impotence when it came to ousting or assassinating Castro. Indeed, among living heads of state, only Queen Elizabeth II has held power longer than Castro did over Cuba.
Anyway, Castro did make a return in Call of Duty: Black Ops — helping John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Robert McNamara, inside the Pentagon, fight off hordes of zombies. If Castro should have been insulted by anything, it's a setup that ridiculous, but within the anything-goes nature of the Zombies mode, it sorta worked.