Sony officially postponed (canceled) the release of The Interview, a dark comedy about two fake reporters who are on a mission to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Why? After it became increasingly apparent an email hack of Sony Pictures’ was retaliation for the movie by the North Korean government, the threats levied against theaters that showed the movie became a lot more serious.
Not that I am at all unsympathetic to the cause of overthrowing the North Korean government, or that it fancies my animalistic instincts to kill the genocidal, torturous leadership of that country, but what the hell did Sony think was going to happen when they released a movie about assassinating a foreign leader?
There is a reason that James Bond rarely fought the Russians in his movies even at the height of the Cold War. Movies are a big deal and could always harm relations between two countries. US-USSR relations were always delicate. Both countries tried treading a line to make sure they didn’t antagonize each other too much or too blatantly. The propaganda was always there, but it always had this undrawn red line.
Past Depictions of North Korea in the Movies
In 2002, when MGM released Die Another Day, in which James Bond battles members of the North Korean government who are working to start a war with the South, even then the script tried to isolate the antagonists to extremists, implying North Korea’s fictional (and by extension, non-fictional) generals weren’t actually planning a destructive attack on the South. North Korea was still extremely angry about it, and South Koreans expressed anxiety about the North’s real-life reaction to the movie’s release, causing it to not be screened in many areas of South Korea (it might also have been annoying for Southerners that there were no strong South Korean protagonists in the movie and that only the white man could stop the North – I was offended that the British were as equally invested as the US in stopping the North, but split hairs).
I don’t know what the reaction was from the North to Team America: World Police in 2004. That one, where Kim Jong Il is the primary villain, probably didn’t go over so well either, but the premise might have been too ridiculous (especially with string puppets) to warrant a strong response.
What Sony did though was a lot sharper than these two movies. They didn’t make up a fictional Asian country that symbolized North Korea. they didn’t make up a different name for the dictator of said country or for fictional North Korea. They made a movie about killing the real leader of a foreign country. Now, like I implied before, it’s not too far off from making a movie about killing Saddam Hussein (which, is kind of like South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, so you might sense a pattern in the directors’ film plots). But let’s consider where this type of thing could lead other countries’ movies. The US is pretty good about staving off such explicit propaganda against specific political rivals. Other countries might not be, especially where governments are more controlling and have a strong guiding hand in their media. In Turkey, we are seeing really antagonistic movies about Israelis. I should be so inclined to suggest Israeli filmmakers retaliate with their own movies, but that won’t exactly do much for instilling value to the human lives of people who live under rival governments.
I might be too forgiving here of the North Korean reaction when considering that of all governments in the world, there are few who fairly are evaluated as being so uncompromisingly ruthless and barbaric. I wouldn’t even go so far with the Russians or Chinese that they are evil by virtue of being rivals with Western countries. North Korea is a special, rare case of evil, rare in that it is so indisputable.
Sony should have expected something though. NK doesn’t hold back on certain things. Their response, if limited to an email hack, is rather tame to be called terrorism. If the threats that went along with it were authentic against movie theaters who screened the movie, the responsibility that would fall on NK would also fall on Sony for blatantly threatening a foreign leader. Another studio might jump on the snowball that rolls down a slippery slope after this, where they make a movie about a country whose mere policies are not universally supported, despite the fact they don’t have mass executions like a country such as North Korea.
Sony, what the hell were you thinking?
Regardless, here are some pictures of Kim Jong Un thinking everything in North Korea is made of cake, because he is still a genocidal, spoiled brat.