I have a strange fascination with a certain North Korean dictator. Maybe it’s because he’s barely eight years older than me, hangs out with Dennis Rodman, and tyrannically rules a country of 25 million people with a combination of a cult-of-personality and sheer terror.
Like I said, fascinating.
So naturally I was really looking forward to The Interview. I had passes to a preview of it on Thursday and was all set. Only, it turns out, North Korea was really mad about it and, a hack and couple terrorist threats later, and it’s been pulled from cinematic distribution. And I’m bummed.
Because The Interview is satire and satire is important. Because North Korea is terrifying; for there to be a country that, well, crazy is scary. But that’s the thing: we make fun of what scares us.
Satire takes away the teeth. It’s why The Great Dictator exists, why videos about Iraqi loyalists like this exist, and, of course, what makes The Interview funny. But what’s worth noting is that The Interview, like that video about subtitles and terrorists, seemed ready to make as much fun of the ‘good guys.’
The comedy of the subtitles video comes not out of how the reporter (and, by extension the media) treats the soldiers, that is her insistent condescension to them. The Interview’s comedy, based on the trailers, looks to stem from the bumbling antics of Seth Rogen and James Franco in a place where they really shouldn’t be. Plus, Kim Jong Un and all of his eccentricities makes for great fodder. Taking the mickey out of him with a movie like that doesn’t diminish his status as a threat, one that everyone is aware of, but reminds us that he’s still human. ‘cuz Supreme Leaders are people too.
But now I didn’t get to go to my screening and theater chains won’t be showing it. Granted, there’s some justification in not wanting to incur the wrath of North Korea, but it’s the precedent that’s worrisome. Another film about North Korea in production, Pyongyang, has been canceled for much of the same reason. There’s a weird sort of fear that’s stifling satire and fiction. Which, again, is a shame. Without it we wouldn’t have The Colbert Report taking shots at everything from terrifyingly conservative politicians to, of course, North Korea.
Now, there’s a distinction here to be sure. We make fun of the part that scares us, not what saddens us. There’s no comedy about those dying under the Kim regime, just as Jon Stewart couldn’t find anything funny to say in the wake of the grand jury’s decision on Eric Garner. There’s a line between the amusing and the not. Kim Jong Un exists on that line, almost caricature that he is. He’s an easy target, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking the shot.
So I’m of the opinion that The Interview shouldn’t have been canceled. Even if it’s cinematic release has been pulled, then at the very least there should have been plans made for an immediate digital release. It doesn’t make sense for the Hermit Kingdom to be the one calling the shots on what gets released in a different country. If anything, this has also upped the hype for the movie more than an advertising campaign could.
Because, hey, what gets a public’s attention more than an international incident?