When Sony Pictures canceled the release of “The Interview” on Dec. 17, 2014, what was just a crude and satirical film became an issue of global politics and the safety of the American public. Although the film was recently re-released in select American movie theaters, there is still much controversy over whether the filmmakers took their political humor too far.
“The Interview” is a fictional comedy that centers around a CIA plot to kill North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The CIA officers, portrayed by Seth Rogen and James Franco, are bumbling and tactless, as is the movie’s portrayal of Kim Jong Un. Despite the fact that the characters’ over-the-top antics are clearly satire, a group of anonymous hackers leaked Sony information and threatened anyone in the US who might go and see the movie in theaters in protest of its release. Sony promptly canceled the movie premier and turned investigation of the hackers over to the FBI.
After investigations, the FBI traced the threats to North Korea, where the movie is still censored and banned from public viewing. In an official statement released on Dec. 19, the FBI took the threats seriously, saying, “We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there. Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE [Sony Pictures Entertainment] reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States.”
Contrary to the FBI’s concern, President Obama downplayed the significance of the threats to the American public. He disagreed with Sony’s initial decision to cancel the movie release, saying, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”
Regardless of government opinions, thousands of American citizens flocked to the movie theaters that chose to screen showings of “The Interview”. Bolstered by media attention and controversy, the film has grossed $36 million as of January 13. Viewers cited their freedoms of speech and press, along with the banal entertainment of the film, as reasons for spending Christmas day watching the assassination of Kim Jong Un on big screens across America. For many others, the film still crosses a line of decency and respect, but until action is taken on North Korea’s threats, it’s just another Hollywood hit that considers no price too high to pay for a few cheap laughs.