The Interview: Cinematic Controversy


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Mary Rose Bernal, Community Editor

On December 16, 2014, Sony received anonymous terrorist threats against their political comedy The Interview, demanding that the company remove its film from all theaters or risk attacks against the individual cinemas.  This news promptly became widespread across media outlets and Sony responded by canceling its release.  However, the film is advertised and widely available on online sites and most recently Netflix and has accrued $15 million according to Forbes Magazine.

So what did the film portray to deserve such a serious response?  The plot centers around television host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer and close companion Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen).  While utterly ridiculous, the opening shows promise: Rapoport is tired of capturing celebrity gossip and wants to cover a more important story.  More specifically, he wants to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Through some miracle only accomplished in the cinematic world, the duo lands the interview–and the attention of the CIA, who are interested in more than just the opinion of the authoritative leader.  Skylark and Rapoport quickly find themselves in the midst of a national scheme to assassinate Kim Jong-un, and their incompetence leaves the audience wondering if they can pull it off.

As a political comedy, The Interview has plenty of opportunities to draw attention to the very real circumstances that go on in North Korea.  And they do skim over a few: Skylark confronts Kim about the famine that has caused the deaths of 3.5 million citizens after he is offended that he has been deceived by a fake grocery store with a fat boy standing outside.  He also mentions concentration camps, both of which the fictional Kim Jong-un denies.

The unfunny truth according to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights is that “North Korea has committed crimes against humanity. The commission investigated issues regarding the right to food, prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement, and enforced disappearances, including abductions of other citizens.”

Instead of drawing light to the serious problems that are a part of people’s daily lives, The Interview chose to focus their attention on joking about homosexuality, recreational drugs and alcohol, sex and objectification, and, of course, Kim.  The film intentionally belittles him by joking about things such as how he cannot defecate (a fictional claim) and is emotionally troubled about the pressure to live up to his deceased father’s expectations.

And while this may seem like a trivial waste of film, there may be a point after all.  When Skylark conducts the interview with Kim, the intention is to humiliate him to show the people of North Korea that he isn’t the god they are led to believe he is.

While incredibly raunchy and all-around nonsensical, the movie has a strong point to make: people should not be afraid of Kim Jong-un.  He runs a nation entirely off of fear, and without that authority he is only a man.  The writers of The Interview expressed their right to free speech with this film, and that has intimidated terrorist groups to the point of threats.  Though they may have succeeded in removing the movie from theaters, they did not succeed in stopping an inflammatory idea from being spread.