Should Hollywood make movies about assassinating world leaders?
Sony Pictures was just hacked and a tremendous amount of damaging information was made public. It is suspected the hacking was tied to the release of the movie "The Interview". This movie is allegedly a comedy in which two American idiots travel to North Korea to interview the Dear Chubby Leader and then work to assassinate him after having been instructed by the CIA to do so. The reviews of the movie have been terrible but the publicity can help the movie sell well. My reservation about considering movies like this "an artistic expression" (rather than another cookie-cutter run-of-the-mill half-baked commercial product) notwithstanding, the question is should there be any limits an artist must observe or can anything go in the name of artistic freedom of expression?
I'm all for artistic freedom. What I am about to say does not mean I believe in self-censorship or any other type of muting artistic expressions. I have dabbled in mocking world leaders, including Kim Jong Un. And since I'm such a world-renowned "artist" it has made a huge impact. I think so far 10 people have read it.
I am, however, for thinking before speaking.
It's a fact that Hollywood is powerful and its products can influence the world. If the same crap that Hollywood churns out on a daily basis is churned out by another country it ordinarily does not have the same impact because no other film industry has the reach and power of Hollywood. According to an important person's grandma "with great power comes great responsibility". That person is Spiderman whose grandma made that speech, which is very remarkable for a superhero's family member. Unlike Spiderman, Superman's grandma didn't say nothing, and Batman's said even less. Hollowood's power, therefore, adds to the responsibility of its film-makers. I doubt the hacking would have happened if the leaders of North Korea didn't feel this movie damages their brand and threatens their absolute power, and they have utilized what power they have to fight back Hollywood and in the process issue a warning to all the rest.
The Manchurian Candidate
Eerily enough, about fifty years ago there was another movie with a similar theme but its target was reversed. In 1962's "Manchurian Candidate", a captured U.S. sergeant is brainwashed by CIA's arch-rivals from the Eastern Bloc and sent by North Koreans and Soviets to assassinate the American president. There are several differences, however, that invalidate the comparison. For one, the movie was not made by North Korea. In the movie the assassin does not go through with the assassination despite his rigorous conditioning. The movie does not mock JFK. And overall it was a respectably made film that glorifies Americans. The same can not be said about The interview.
So, what's the problem?
Now, imagine if other countries made movies in which their idiots are brainwashed by their secret service, sent over here to interview our president and after much mockery of him they blow off his head in a hilarious fashion. While a few people who didn't vote for the current president might actually find that idea laughable, the great majority of Americans would take offence. Admittedly, I doubt it would do much beyond annoying us. Nevertheless, we would find it rather crass and tasteless. It's not so much the person of the president that the Americans hold in high esteem. It is the office of the president as the symbol of our freedoms and the institution of democracy we hold in sacred regard.
It's with that mindset that you could understand not everyone on this planet would find the assassination of their figures a matter of knee-slapping humor. Take that to another level, that of an absolute dictatorship which conditions its population with such fear and oppression that they have no choice but to feel forced to pledge unconditional allegiance to their tormentor, and then becomes easier to see how they would find such movies threatening.
Last week it was announced that Sony Pictures systems had been hacked on a massive scale, personal and corporate data stolen, emails opened and reviewed, and then a constant stream of very damaging information began to flow. Suddenly, Hollywood has realized that there is potentially a great price to pay for its attempt to milk profits from mocking despotic regimes in movies. It's not certain it was the North Koreans who did the hacking but there are several strong hints.
My suspicion is movies like "The Interview" are not going to be made as often in the future because, when the dust finally settles, the cost of this movie to the studio in terms of the hacking will far exceed the revenues. Already relationships have been damaged through the released internal emails, personal data has been exposed, and perhaps proprietary intellectual property has been stolen. The risk analysis in the future will favor changing such movies to be about fictitious leaders in made-up countries (even though they may be based on real characters). Despite all its claims, Hollywood is a business and is about making profits, not political stands or furthering artistic limits.
The Interview trailer
If the trailer is any indication, this movie is as bad as Team America, full of all the sophomoric crass crudeness that barely get a chuckle by anyone who's not a drunk college student at a frat party. I never finished watching that one.