I was going to put up a post about my experience working at NYC 311 this week, but something suddenly came up.
This week it was revealed that the upcoming comedy “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen (who also directed it) would be thrown in a box and buried somewhere, never to be seen by human eyes. The movie is a satire about two journalists who sneak into North Korea to assassinate current leader Kim Jung-Un, but because they aren’t professional killers, things go south, with humorous results.
(Yup, the stoners from Pineapple Express are back, as…journalists? Huh?)
It was all set for a Christmas release until last Tuesday when Sony pictures was threatened by a group of North Korean hackers who compromised personal data and business data . Then the hackers threatened the theaters with 9/11 level physical violence if they did screen the film. From there, a domino effect played out: First the major theater chains (Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, Cineplex and AMC Theatres) decided not to play the movie, wiping out any chance of the majority of Americans seeing the movie.
Then the cowardice spread back to the source: Sony Pictures themselves announced they would not release The Interview. And then, in no time flat, Sony broke out in tears, pissed itself, and with a shotgun in its mouth said it would not release the Interview in any form. Not through DVD, Blu-ray, streaming services, or video-on-demand.
The movie cost the studio $44,000,000.00 to make, but Sony will take the financial hit, in the interest of…of…appeasing who, exactly?
(They don’t actually look like this! You’re letting your imagination get the better of you, Sony!)
Since I’m heading to South Korea very soon (my work Visa is still being processed) I figured I’d weigh in with some of my opinions on the matter. First I want to establish that North and South Korea are two very different countries. I recommend watching the first few minutes of the History Channel video below for more info:
For those of you who can’t watch, I’ll give you a brief summary. There was a war back in 1950 that ended with a ceasefire in 1953 dividing Korea into two countries, and in the decades since, the southern part flourished and modernized, while the northern part descended into a communist regime, complete with a perverse culture worshiping whatever the current dictator is (to the point of viewing him as a deity) and a day to day toil that’s basically prison life set in the Bronze Age.
Now for us, living in the comforts of modern America, the North Korean regime is hard to imagine. ESPECIALLY since they only allow Americans into the country under very strict circumstances, and when they do, they are attended to by members of the military.
(No punchline here. Dennis Rodman is one of the few Americans that’s been allowed access to North Korea.)
But even though the North Korean culture and government is something out of a dystopian novel, and they’re crazy enough to threaten us, that does not mean that they should have ANY say in what entertainment we Americans are allowed to consume.
And film is a big one. The United States is primarily a service-based economy. We really manufacture and make very little here. But film is the pride of America and one of our highest grossing products both domestic and international (along with computers). So for another country to come along and shut down production of one of America’s hallmark products, what kind of example does that send?
(Hold on a sec, Mom and Dad. Did you ask the communist dictator 6,700 miles away if you can watch Scandal this week?)
Let’s use another country as an example: Germany.
I get my last name of Seegitz from my grandfather Frederick (who fought for the Americans during World War II) and while I haven’t been to Germany yet, I met a couple of them while I was studying abroad in Europe two years ago. They have a vibrant, healthy economy, and even though their country is the size of New Mexico, they had a GDP of 3.635 trillion USD in 2013 and are ranked #4 worldwide.
One of their chief products is the car. These are the people who produce and distribute cars from Mercedes-Benz (who founders invented the autombobile, for crying out loud), BMW, and Audi, to name a few. So imagine if one of these German companies was creating a car that North Korea had a problem with.
(Anything more advanced than this would probably qualify as offensive.)
Maybe the car model sounds suspiciously like a Korean curse word. Maybe the front of the car looks like a demon from their culture. Or maybe, bolstered by their victory of strong-arming the US into submission, they just decide to vilify the car for no legitimate reason at all.
Now I ask you…how do you think Germany would respond?
(See what I did there?)
Hard to say, but I doubt they’d roll over as quickly as America. But the main issue here is the precedent it sets. Filmmakers / artists have a hard enough time courting the big studios to get their films made and distributed without having to worry about whether or not North Korea will give it a thumbs-up or a “Destroy America” death threat.
Do terrorists (whether they be hackers or suicide bombers) have so much pull now? Is no one going to make an informative documentary about the evils of terrorist group ISIS because Hollywood and the theater chains fear any sort of hypothetical retaliation?
(The screenplay practically writes itself. Where is this movie?)
Last time I checked, many wars were fought on and off American soil to give us the right to free speech and freedom of expression. “The Interview” is an American movie intended for an American audience, and we should be allowed to exercise our constitutional rights by viewing.
But what if the movie is released on Christmas day? (There’s still time!) And supposing North Korea does attack? Well, that is why our government spends millions of dollars on the military instead of providing stuff like healthcare and food to all, right? Didn’t we all take that deal?
(This guy certainly did.)
Now, unlike most Staten Islanders, I actually like President Obama (although I do have my issues with him) and heard that he has made a promise to respond to this situation. I certainly hope so, because there’s more at stake here than a fun night out at the ol’ cinema.
It’s about freedom.
(Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.)
That’s all for now. If you liked what I had to say please leave a comment below and as always be sure to SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL so you’ll be notified every time I post, which should be getting more frequent as I get closer and closer to departure.
See you next time,
J. F. Seegitz
P.S. One of my favorite channels to watch about teaching in South Korea is the Red Dragon Diaries, and this week Tom posted his thoughts on the cyber attack as well.