Full disclaimer: For those who don’t know, I am not a fan of Seth Rogen or his brand of humor. As I’ve stated ad nauseam, I am so tired of the raunchy comedy, and Hollywood (as it so often does) drowns us with anything that tastes slightly successful. The vast majority of comedies these days fit into this category. The genre has become a dead zone for people who don’t find humor in the antics of Rogen and company. This is why I won’t miss “The Interview” from an entertainment perspective. But what about the precedent set by Sony’s recent actions.
For those who don’t know, Sony has decided not to screen Rogen and James Franco’s movie about assassinating North Korea’s leader. This comes after information which seems to indicate North Korea was behind the Sony hackings which released tons of personal information, emails, upcoming projects, full-length movies, and more. More serious threats surfaced, major theater chains withdrew the film, and soon Sony pulled the plug. Naturally this has drawn all kinds of reactions. But is there a clear-cut answer to who’s right and who’s wrong in this controversy?
The main player under the public microscope is Sony. Was their act spineless and cowardly? Is this some backhanded way to get more attention for the film? These are just some of the questions being asked and I tend to think it’s a little of both. In some ways Sony has modeled this climate of appeasement that we often see in our government today. It’s caving in to a threat without weighing the repercussions. But on the other hand we live in a different world. In this day and age retaliation can go well beyond hacking into a database and stealing some movies. Was this on Sony’s mind when they made this decision?
Or could it be that Sony was embracing the old adage “there is no bad press”. Is it beyond reason to think that this may have played a role in Sony’s decision? I mean look around on blogs, websites, and news shows. Everyone’s talking about “The Interview”. And how do Sony’s financial woes fit into the equation? Are they drawing attention to the film because they need it to bring in a lot of money? Are they pulling the film in hopes of not potentially losing more money?
But Rogen and Franco shouldn’t escape the microscope. They have a significant role to play in this as well. Look, I get the whole idea about creative expression and the freedoms of an ‘artist’. I’m thankful for that ideal, otherwise we would have missed out on a number of great films throughout the years. But I can’t help questioning the wisdom behind making “The Interview”. I mean we aren’t just talking about mocking a nation’s sitting leader. We’re talking about assassinating him. Regardless of how bad the leader may be or how threatening his policies are, you’re obviously pushing boundaries that are going to elicit responses, some a lot more severe than hacking a computer.
But then I think about their freedoms to creatively express themselves. Does this send the ball rolling down a hill that could squash any future project which might be deemed dangerous or controversial? And isn’t it good that this precedent hasn’t already existed? I automatically think back to “The Great Dictator”, a film by Charlie Chaplin poking fun at and critiquing the fascist and antisemitic regime of Adolf Hitler. It’s a great movie and it is rightly viewed as a classic. But there were concerns about the adverse effects of “The Great Dictator”, and it didn’t push things as far as “The Interview”. In fact, several years after its release Charlie Chaplin said he never would have made the film had he known more at the time.
So is there a cut-and-dry right answer to this? Is Sony cowardly for giving in to the pressures? Was it wise for Rogen and Franco to make a movie that could have serious repercussions for many people other than themselves? Is this one of the most shrewd and shameless marketing ploys ever used for a movie? Is the creative license subject to any boundaries? Personally I think this controversy has asked more compelling questions worthy of conversation than most people think.