When I saw in my social media feeds that The Interview was available for download/streaming I immediately bought a copy.
At that point, I kind of felt like it was my duty as an American. No gang of thugs, be they sponsored by North Korea or independently-operating rogues, is going to dictate to me what movies I watch.
I watched the movie late last night, after Santa Claus paid his visit and my wife and I finished our traditional Christmas Eve viewing of A Christmas Story.
I’m honestly not sure what all the fuss was about.
In the grand tradition of subversive political satire, The Interview is a forgettable effort. Dick and fart jokes, even when aimed at a political target, are still dick and fart jokes.
The irony here, as is often the case, is that the overreaction from those being skewered (I think it’s safe to say that North Korea really has been behind it all) is what elevated the film from a rote exercise in low-brow humor into a memorable chapter in that country’s strange history.
Seth Rogen plays a television producer who aspires to hard-hitting journalism but is stuck working on a very popular celebrity gossip show. James Franco is the host of said show. After an embarrassing run-in with a college classmate who now works in journalism and looks down his nose at Franco’s show, Rogen’s character convinces his boss to go after more substantive stories.
When a news article mentions that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un likes Franco’s show they have their in. They set up an interview with the reclusive dictator, travel to North Korea where they’re treated to Communist propaganda (complete with a fake grocery store which serves as a Potemkin village, perhaps the films most intellectual moment), and ultimately become heroes when they get the murderous political figure to poop his pants on television.
They save their mockery for safe targets. Like Republicans and Christians and people living in fly-over states. They usually don’t like hitting people who hit back.
I don’t think anyone expected the backlash from North Korea, that absurd Stalinist relic from another age, and there’s little question in my mind that this movie never would have been made had Sony seen it coming.
Releasing this movie via the internet was the right move, coming as it does after the cowardice on display when Sony initially announced that the movie wouldn’t be released at all. While caution is prudent, Americans have no business censoring themselves at the behest of thugs.
But I have a hard time lionizing the creators. A couple of stoners inspiring a dictator to shart on television is not exactly satire for the ages.
Gulliver’s Travels this is not. In fact, it would be an insult to the legacy of masterful satirists like Jonathan Swift if we added the likes of Franco and Rogen to their ranks. Humor can be an effective weapon against tyranny when wielded by a master, but only thing which elevated The Interview into that realm was North Korea’s overreaction.
On a related note, I’m hearing a lot of people almost sort of defending the hackers who were able to block this film’s theatrical release. “What if North Korea made a film about murdering the American President?” they ask.
For one thing the American President is not, despite our nation’s imperfections, a dictator. It is an elected office held in check (not often enough, I’d argue) by two other branches of our federal government and the governments of 50 sovereign states. The communist dictators of North Korea have earned a level of revulsion from the international community that the American president has not.
But that aside, if someone did make a film about murdering our sitting President (and someone did, an American in fact) Americans would be free to express their feelings on the subject whatever they are, and certainly our government wouldn’t engage in attempts at censorship.
And if our government did, I hope that the public would react by voting the bums out. Because there’s this little thing called the 1st amendment which doesn’t exist just so that we can talk about the weather, but also about things which some may find deeply offensive.