Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Interview: We Should be Blaming Obama, Not Sony, For Caving In

Several weeks ago, I was in a movie theater awaiting a screening of Brad Pitt's Fury when I saw a trailer for The Interview. The plot seemed to be this: James Franco and Seth Rogen play a pair of middle-aged bums who are hired by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, supreme leader in North Korea.

Oh boy, 
I thought. This is going to be good.

While I was expecting furor, I didn't realize quite how much of a stir the film would create. From The Washington Post:

Hours after an announcement that U.S. authorities determined North Korea was behind the recent cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, the entertainment company announced it was pulling the film The Interview.
In an attempt to make up for this stunning lack of backbone by the Japan-based company, many theaters decided to show Team America: World Police instead. But Paramount Pictures, a Hollywood-based company, has canceled those showings, giving up a chance to cash in on Sony's cowardice.

This is now about far more than a dumb comedy. 

Just to be clear, I don't think anyone's sympathies are with Kim Jong-Un - the callous dictator who routinely brutalizes his own people. Of course not. They'd never be that blind. Right.

seth-rogen-the-interview-movie-imageMaybe Hollywood is just being sensitive to the fact that people don't like living public leaders assassinated on film. Yeah, well. Honestly, all of this probably comes down to the fact that both companies are afraid of being sued by Americans, should anything go wrong. As Mark Steyn writes“Hollywood prefers to make ‘controversial’ films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won.”

Regardless, that's beside the point. I have a feeling The Interview is a terrible movie, but the great thing about America is that we have a right to make terrible movies without being blackmailed by foreign hackers and the specter of lawsuits. It's Obama's responsibility to ensure that, not Sony's.

Have our first amendment rights vanished? No. But if we're too scared to use them, it might come down to the same thing. Ultimately, despite the fact that this must puncture Hollywood's holier-than-thou act once and for all, Sony's lack of moral fiber is their own concern. It's our government's non-reaction which should be the problem. Wars are fought on battlefields, but they're also fought on silver screens. And right now, our image is one of indifference. The world is watching, and if the world knows it can push around, say, a bunch of Dutch cartoonists, then it will do so.

There was a time when Hollywood was less afraid of foreign despots. I'm watching Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator with my younger siblings right now. It began filming in September 1939, one week after the start of World War II. Chaplin plays three characters: himself, a ludicrous German dictator named Hinkel, and an endearing Jewish barber. This thinly veiled, scathing satire of Hitler is still massively effective. And it's a darn good movie, too.

Something tells me that if Hitler had taken the time to put pressure on his slapstick look-alike, Mr. Churchill would not have looked the other way. Winston promised us "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." Barack Obama has offered a "proportional response" - whatever the heck that means. Of course, he also promised to close Guantanamo. North Korea has thrown down the gauntlet. Your move, Mr. President.


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