Seems I was slow on the draw with this article that I actually wrote to post someplace newsy. I’m posting it here despite the fact that it’s not the typical style for this blog.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was looking forward to "The Interview," the new comedy from perennial stoners Seth Rogan and James Franco. But I’m gonna have to make new plans for Christmas Day, since it will no longer be showing in American theatres. Thanks Obama! Oh, I mean Thanks Sony!
What led up to this? Well, "The Interview" reportedly angered North Koreans since it…you know, openly mocks their leader. Kim Jong Un, of course, was rumored to have fed his own Uncle to wild dogs, has outlawed anyone having his name, and is generally a crazy cuckoo-pants. He also seriously needs to fire his stylist. Right before thanksgiving, it was believed that angry fans of "Dear Leader" hacked into Sony’s most secure servers. The hackers called themselves Guardians of Peace or "GOP." Embarrassing exposures ranged from the new James Bond script, to tons of private Emails and some bullcrap about Alex Trebek not wanting to reshoot Jeopardy around a kid’s temper tantrum. The massive hack left Sony angry and embarrassed. The FBI is still investigating.
Cut to December 17th, and several major theatre chains refused to show the film after GOP released a warning that included the message: "Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made…the world will be full of fear…remember the 11th of September 2001." Sony has since decided to indefinitely postpone the release of "The Interview." So I guess that means that the terrorists got exactly what they wanted.
Theatre chains declining to show the film include Regal, AMC, Carmike, Cineplex, and Bowtie. I imagine more would have joined this group if Sony had not decided to pull the film altogether. The statements from the theatres and from Sony all lamented the decision, reiterated their commitment to artistic freedom, and then said that safety was the most important thing. Odd, because usually when people talk about America, it’s the freedom that takes center stage. Would theatres or Sony Pictures be responsible for those hurt in a terrorist attack protesting "The Interview?" Of course not. The terrorists would be. But Sony is responsible for giving in to those who would use fear to gain control over others.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sony hack, ponderings that it may have been North Korea were quickly shouted down by both Sony and the FBI. In recent days, Gizmodo , CNN, and Kaspersky have all asserted North Korean involvement according to their own sources. Internet wags have wasted no time in pointing out other times American films have mocked world leaders. Team America: World Police spoofed Kim Jong Il relentlessly, causing controversy—but nothing that delayed the film’s release. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never been shy about ridiculing dictators from Osama Bin Laden, to Saddam Hussein, and even showing a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed back before people were routinely murdered for doing so.
Cynics are wondering aloud whether this is all some giant publicity stunt. I don’t see how. I also can’t see how a decision that will surely lead to massive illegal pirating could possibly be helpful to Sony. Does anybody honestly believe they’d allow the new James Bond script to be leaked to promote a Seth Rogan movie? No offense to Mr Rogen, but I don’t fucking think so.
Can a company truly support freedom of artistic expression if they’re pulling films because people are upset by the content? I don’t see how. Are we really a free society when humor is stifled at the behest of terrorists? Freer than some, perhaps, but not as free as we claim to be. I certainly hope Sony won’t keep "The Interview" under wraps for much longer. A Video-on-Demand release seems inevitable, yet no one has confirmed that anyone is even discussing it.
To some, a stoner comedy like "The Interview" may not be vital or important enough to warrant this kind of attention. But that’s not the point. It’s also not about whether you like James Franco, think Seth Rogan has a dumb laugh, or believe that mocking people is mean. If pioneering smut peddler Larry Flint has taught us anything, it’s that every form of expression needs to be protected, even those we don’t personally like—even under the threat of arrest, censure, or terrorist threat. Otherwise, we’re not protecting freedom. We’d just be sticking up for things we already like.