For months now a single Hollywood film has been at the center of tensions between North Korea and The United States of America, Sony’s The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. Essentially the plot revolves around a TV talk show host and his producer being recruited to kill the leader of North Korea after they are invited to interview the dictator. Honestly I can see why North Korea would be a little more than annoyed by the movie but it’s Hollywood, its insulted and patronized many a people in its long history. Today the controversy leaped to a whole new level that really speaks of America and its self-confidence.
After receiving anonymous threats from hackers that any theaters showing The Interview would be attacked, with no specification as to how, five major theater chains decided that they would not be showing the film. AMC Theaters, Regal Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, and Cineplex Entertainment announced that they would not show the film after Sony said they would respect any theater chains wishes not to show the film after the terrorist threats were made. Sony soon came out with a statement saying that they were canceling the release of the film in order to protect moviegoers from any attack. They also stated that many of their employees and people associated with Sony and the film could be at risk from the hackers/terrorists.
Months ago, when we first heard that North Korea had problems with this film Sony and Hollywood scoffed at their displeasure and moved forward with their plans for the film. A decision I admired, even though many believe Hollywood is out to do nothing more than make money I feel it is still trying to make art, commercialized art but art. I felt that Sony and Hollywood were protecting their and our right as a country to make art. Even though North Korea will never admit to hiring the hackers; however the FBI have officially accused North Korea of being apart of if not involved with the cyber attacks. The hackers have caused many headaches for Sony by releasing copyrighted material, along with internal and personal emails of its employees to the public, but Sony still stood firm to releasing the film, protecting its art and its first amendment right to freedom of speech.
Only until the hackers had threatened bodily harm did Sony and the Theater chains decide to back down, which again I can completely understand. My biggest problem with it though is that Homeland Security announced there was no credible evidence of such a threat. It really is hard to believe that there would be radical North Korean terrorists here in America but with all the immigration problems it is probable. Many have voiced their anger at Sony for deciding not to release the film but with the theater chains deciding not to show it, very few independent theater houses would be the only place to distribute the film. I am sure that this wasn’t an easy decision for Sony considering they are going to take a $90 million lose by not releasing the film; I commend them for wanting to protect their patrons and employees.
Some theaters in Texas decided that in place of showing The Interview they would instead play Paramount’s Team America: World Police, the 2004 hit by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In Team America, super-marionettes of an elite American Team fight terrorism in a satirical action comedy featuring North Korea’s former leader Kim Jung Il as the central villain. However, Paramount released a statement to the theaters in Texas that they would not permit the showing of the film as a replacement for The Interview with no reason given. I felt it was an obvious move to shy away from any repercussions the current situation holds. Ten years ago Paramount did not care what North Korea would think or the rest of the world, yes the film made fun of America and its sense of “World Policing” but it made fun of everyone else as well. I think people should be more outraged at Paramount for their cowardice when no pressure was put on them.
Though Sony let the hackers win the first cyber battle, there is still hope that we can show strength and resolve in our rights to freedom of expression. Many people, both moviegoers and makers have expressed their desire to fight back and show the film. This is the first time in a long while that Hollywood is pushing for a film to be made not for profit but for patriotism and a sense of defiance to a foreign power. Everyone from George Clooney to George R.R. Martin have asked Sony to release the film on the internet free of charge, to show North Korea and these hackers that we will not be bullied into submission, or denied the rights provided by our first amendment. We as a country should stand against the demands of foreign dictation and I feel Sony could have made that statement better then any one else by releasing this movie to the public.
George Clooney went further in an interview saying that the real people who failed are the press and their decision to focus on the hacking and not the threat behind the hacking until it became all too real and too late for Sony to do anything but submit. Clooney says all the people he reached out to, to get help for Sony, ran in the other direction. He blames the theater chains for deciding to abandon the film all because they feared a lawsuit if they were attacked. The theater chains decided that their bank accounts and public image mattered more than basic principles. Clooney goes on to say that the last person that should tell us what we should be allowed to watch is North Korea’s Dictator Kim Jung Un. A statement I agree with fully.
Sony has since come out also blaming the theater chains for the cancellation of the film due to not having any venues to show it, but they could still easily release the film on the internet, Netflix, VOD, and many more options. Hopefully they still do. Perhaps they will do one better and take up George R.R. Martin’s offer to use his theater house to show the film and any other independent theaters and let the people decide if they will risk their lives to see the film. I won’t hesitate in saying I would go see it in a heart beat and as many times as my bank account will afford me too.
The biggest question in all this was “where is our Government?” Fortunately President Obama answered that question this morning with his End of the Year progress report. President Obama came out stating that he wished that Sony would have come to him before deciding to cancel The Interview. In his address Obama stated “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.” We feel the President is right on the money, it’s only a small step from a dictator saying we can’t make or watch satirical films, to them banning us from showing documentaries that portray their country in a negative light or show news reports that condemn their actions. No other country should hold that kind of sway over another country. Even though President Obama may have a limited choice of retaliation to North Korea he did come out and state “We’ll respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”
On Friday, the hackers sent a message to Sony applauding their decision to not release the film and said they would cause no more problems for them as long as the film is never released. I can understand Sony not wanting anymore damage from all this but I truly hope they hear America’s call to stand and decide to be a Martyr if it comes to that and release the film, it doesn’t have to be free of charge but release it and watch as the rest of America stands behind you. It isn’t very often that Hollywood has a chance to make history in a global or political way but at this moment everything that Sony, Paramount and the rest of Hollywood does will go down in a history book. Let’s hope what is written keeps in line with our defiant and patriotic past that built this country.
– Joseph Murillo