Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bad showing

Yesterday was a weird day.

First we heard that the U.S. has vowed to normalize relations with Cuba. Our strained relationship with the nation we can see from Florida's house has been disproportional for decades. I've never fully understood it beyond, "They're communists" and, "We've been this way for a long time." But we're friends with arguably worse regimes and inertia is always an indefensible reason to keep doing something. If we're so intent on winning hearts and minds on the other side of the world, maybe it wouldn't hurt to try it in a nearby nation whose people would probably be more receptive to it. That's got to work better than lingering spite against the aging leadership.

But in the finest tradition of "one step forward, two steps back," Sony announced the cancellation of The Interview. The Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy about an American shock-jock duo's interview/assassination mission on the leader of North Korea drew threats on theaters and a massive cyberattack on Sony from a group believed to be based in the nation. Numerous theaters dropped the film as a result, and Sony followed suit by canceling its showing entirely.

I can't believe this is a thing that happened in America in 2014 (well, maybe 2014, as regressive as this year has been, but I mean in general). 

I'm willing to bet that The Interview did not end with the mission accomplished. Chances are the Americans in it come off as bungling and arrogant as the bad guys (which is what the previews strongly suggested). No big-budget comedy would play this plot straight; even if funding and public relations weren't issues, it just wouldn't be funny that way. In fact, I'd bet that the movie humanizes the infamous dictator and has the guys second-guessing their motivations, and everyone involved becomes a little better as a result. 

But it just became harder to know, and that's disheartening.

(A few minutes after posting this, I saw a link to a clip that apparently depicts Kim Jong-un going in a way similar to Saddam Hussein in Hot Shots!, though said clip had already been removed. But maybe he's had a change of heart and then it happens. Or maybe it's just a bad attempt at comedy. Either way, the point's still the same.)

When I think back to the heavy-metal hearings of the 1980s and the flap by religious leaders over movies such as Life of Brian and The Last Temptation of Christ, I think, "Did grown, taxpaying adults really fret over the suggestive power of this stuff? What a weird age." One day, we'll all see The Interview and probably have the same reaction. The stakes may have been higher this time around, but that fact will put the movie in even greater perspective. It's often joked that people who protest films don't bother to see them first and miss the point completely as a result. And that such protests boost the movie's profile hundredfold, when it otherwise might have disappeared in the pack.

Never have the consequences of such misguided thinking been more clear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ian, have you read this piece in the BBC (A Comedy of Terrors-in four acts by Jon Sopel) I found it very insightful and well worth a good ponder.