The Interview: The Politics Of A Popcorn Movie

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It seems that this country should be concerned, not just about increasingly questionable ingredients in their food, but in Hollywood movies as well. And it’s not just the biopics and historical dramas taking outrageous liberties with the facts or by omission, that appear to be on the rise. Humor can also provide a convenient cover.

And in the case of the controversial presidential assassination comedy, The Interview, the sobering question presents itself: How much was this a script by committee, or instead consultation with the US government about exploiting the film as cover, to bring a foreign government down. Which would then beg the question, when are legitimate claims of free speech and against censorship as issues forfeited as bogus with a movie – and propaganda begins – when the studio heads strategize with the US State Department, as is the case with The Interview. With the State Department then eagerly insisting on not removing the assassination scene of the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un from the script, because it could hopefully bring down the DPRK government.

Not to mention that this is not the first time there was evidence of the alarming progression of the Military Hollywood Complex, along with potentially quid pro quo access to US military hardware for props in movies. Sony huddled with the CIA just last year to film their other political assassination movie involving illegally invading another country, Zero Dark Thirty.

And though smaller theaters jumped at the opportunity to show The Interview, following the refusal of larger chains to do so after elusive threats of violence against them if they did – and in the wake of Sony’s withdrawal and then about-face concerning the release – let’s not cheer on freedom of speech just yet. And it’s not just because technical experts theorize a Sony inside job by disgruntled staff, and not unsubstantiated DPRK threats being hawked by the media. That is, all theaters did get amnesia about censorship issues last year, refusing to show another assassination movie – German director Uwe Boll’s Assault On Wall Street. In which Wall Street robber barons get blown away, in the heat of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

And while it seems just fine to make fun of a national ruler that you don’t happen to like, while getting his head blown off and burned to death in a movie, theaters appear to think Americans need to be shielded from the scandalous notion of doing the very same thing to Wall Street capitalists. On the other hand as a colleague pointed out, Wall Street honchos are in effect the rulers of this country, and mulling harm against our own rulers even as fictional characters, unlike Jong-un, is apparently a no-no. Same theoretically goes for a comedy featuring, say, the lynching of Obama from a tree for laughs. Such a filmmaker would be lucky to avoid charges of terrorist threats and incarceration.

Back to the contradictions inherent in The Interview. James Franco as Dave and writer/director and co-star Seth Rogen as Aaron, are a tabloid television entertainment host and his producer respectively, who receive an invitation from DPRK leader Kim Jong-un to travel there to interview him for a segment – since Jong-un happens to be a fan of that, well, news actor, Dave. Meanwhile, the CIA makes them an offer they seemingly can’t refuse – to assassinate Jong-un during the visit.

But Dave eventually balks more when told exactly what he’s allowed to ask during the televised interview. Which actually sets in motion all the unintended humor to come. Specifically, that entertainment journalists here happen to be ordered around in this country by film publicists all the time, as to exactly what they can and cannot ask actors and directors like Franco and Rogen. And if they defy those orders, those reporters will, rest assured, be blacklisted by Hollywood in the future.

Then there’s the notion of setting up journalists as CIA operatives, as if this movie came up with that fabulous idea in the first place. Apparently that’s not counting all the reporters who are paid by the CIA to promote their propaganda, or carry out their orders primarily as covert spies all around the world. And the over 600 CIA attempts to murder Fidel Castro, including via exploding mollusk shells, a lethal fungus infected diving suit, poisonous pens, exploding cigars, and bacterial poisons designed to be dissolved in his coffee or tea. And the former Cuban leader is apparently not alone – the CIA has attempted to assassinate more than fifty foreign leaders, and been successful at least half the time. How many of those operatives were posing as journalists, has yet to be tabulated.

And references in Obama’s televised reactions to the controversy concerning Internet breaches surrounding Sony hacked emails and other material, should be scrutinized as well. Especially with some claims that the whole matter may actually be an orchestrated Sony publicity stunt, to help promote bills in Congress destroying net neutrality and advancing corporate economic control over the Internet. Not so far fetched, considering Sony’s lost legal battle following their scandalous invention of that fictitious film critic applauding their movies, David Manning.

There are, however, several revealing moments in The Interview, ironic as they may be. When Dave goes off script on camera and demands to know why North Koreans are starving, Jong-un brings up the subject of ‘sanctions.’ A subject which a clueless, perplexed Dave – and likely the US population in general – have been kept in the dark about. And which refers to the United States imposing an economic blockade against North Korea these many decades, attempting to starve the country into submission. And perhaps as a vendetta as well, for the US not winning that other war in Asia – the Korean War. Another subject which Jong-un brings up, blaming the United States. Though the fact that the US killed one tenth of the population there – 290,000 North Korean soldiers and nearly three million civilians – is conveniently omitted from the film.

Last but hardly least in this David and Goliath demonization, is Sony’s closing credits disclaimer. Asserting that “Any similarity or identification…or name, character, or history of any person…is entirely coincidental or unintentional.” Now where’s that Brooklyn Bridge…

Wait, there’s more – on the subject of attacks on any living thing in The Interview: “No animals were harmed.” Whew, what a relief.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.