The Problem (We Should Have) With The Interview

imagesIn full disclosure, I should say that I have not seen The Interview, nor do I have any plans to do so. But then again, I haven’t seen Titanic. Do I really need to see a movie to know I wouldn’t like it? Why should I? We all know I would hate it so why make any of us sit through 2 hours of formulaic media merchandising?

Similarly, with The Interview, I’m not sure you have to see the movie to have a fairly accurate idea of what’s in it. I mean, come on. Seth Rogen. James Franco, and the justification for the “R” rating being:

“R (for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence)”.

I’m sure there are some fart jokes, some marijuana references and lots of genital jokes. Do I really need to sit through it to know that I wouldn’t like it? I mean, if you’ve seen it and say I’m way off base here and the artistic merits of the exploration of themes surrounding the struggle against dictatorial leadership outweigh the fart jokes, then maybe I’ll see the movie (After all, Bob Mondello saw it so I don’t have to!).

But until then, I’m un-nerved at the response to the brewhaha surrounding this (otherwise would-have-been forgotten) film and the ensuing events. As we all know by now, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un denounced the movie before it was released, (securing the PR bonanza // in fact, NPR reported that initial versions of the script did not name Kim Jong Un but that it was later added. Why name a specific person other than to spark controversy? I wonder how Obama would respond to a movie depicting his state-sponsored execution?), which depicts his US-sponsored assassination. He might have used some bloated language calling the movie an “act of war“, but hey, would you want a movie made in which you are the villain to be assassinated?

Then, Sony movie people had their information technology security breached and someone dumped a bunch of internal documents, e-mails and such. Though it is debated whether or not North Korea was actually behind the hack-attacks, there were physical threats that began to appear for any theater that did screen the movie. Sony, thusly blaming a lack of distribution, pulled the 12/25/14 release of the movie, to the public scorn of President Obama, who is ever at the ready to defend our rights to project our fart jokes on the rest of the world. Or was Obama using this sophomoric movie to send a political message, thus once again propelling this inane movie it into the Pop Culture Universe to heights never before imagined? After all, the movie depicts the US sanctioned execution of Kim Jong Un. And Obama chastised Sony for not releasing it. Or maybe I’ve just stepped into conspiracy theorist territory.

But wait, our drama isn’t over yet. In a sudden change of heart, Sony Pictures decides to screen the movie in limited-release theaters and in some streaming formats, garnering far more publicity than this movie ever could have hoped for had things been any other way. In fact, The Interview has now set sales records for Sony.

So here we are, entering a new year. Looking back on one which saw the Leader of the Free World defending a crass, lowest-common-denominator fart-joke movie as some sort of political expression. We have seen a movie that otherwise would have come and gone relatively unnoticed, garner international spectacle.

In The Day of the Doctor, faced with the possibility of Americans having a time machine, one character warns: “Americans with the ability to rewrite history?! You’ve seen their movies.” No one is claiming that The Interview is thoughtful or a meaningful statement. In fact, it seems to be middle-of-the-road, if not lowest-common-denominator fare that struck a media zeitgeist.

By rushing to defend “liberty”, we have found ourselves rushing to defend a society in which people put plagiarized stickers of Calvin peeing on the “other brand” because, hey, FREE SPEECH, SUCKAH! I might not like what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it, right?! I mean, am I right?

So now we have the chosen leader of the free world going to go to bat for a movie full of fart jokes? Seth Rogen says that if you are going to see the movie, you’re a patriot. We have a chance to step on to the world stage and say something meaningful concerning dictatorial rule and human rights and this is what we put forward as some sort of statement? You tell me that I’m supporting freedom by going to this movie?

We have so confused what’s worth fighting for that we’re willing to fight for things that end up embarrassing us. In the end, I wonder if our rush to defend The Interview reveals more about what we value than we’d like it to?