So I watched The Interview last weekend. I was not necessarily going to watch it, in theatres or not, having my own reservations about the audacity of Sony even making such a film. But, after reading that so many people who had viewed the film claimed it had the potential to be some sort of game changer in North Korean dictatorial policy, I decided that it was time to watch the film. For I would not have a leg to stand on otherwise if I had not actually seen it.
And it was stupid. Sorry (not sorry). I can’t really come up with a better description of the film than that. It was stupid, it was offensive, and it was not worth the time I spent watching it.
It is no surprise that when Sony, a private company that had every right to do so, pulled the film from theatres for a variety of different reasons, everyone and their mum wanted to see the film. What’s the old adage – you always want what you can’t have? But then we were told that we could have it, and damn if we weren’t going to get it after being told we couldn’t have it! Online, in independent theatres, you name it, you can watch The Interview practically anywhere – so long as it’s not at a major movie theatre. But that doesn’t matter (no, really, it doesn’t), and that’s not what I am here to talk about.
At the bare minimum, The Interview is simply a blue comedy. The only part of the film I found remotely comedic, however, was during the very beginning of the film when Dave Skylark (James Franco) interviews Eminem on his talk show, Skylark Tonight, and Eminem reveals that he is gay. “I’ve basically been leaving a trail of gay breadcrumbs,” says Eminem about his rap music and his homosexuality, something that made me giggle. And at that point we are only moments into the film. After that I don’t recall smiling once. Well, maybe a slight smirk during the scene where Dave Skylark and Kim Jong-Un parade around in a tank to the tune of Firework by Katy Perry.
It’s not that I didn’t think it was funny because I am some sort of robot incapable of laughter. It’s because the film as a comedy wasn’t really all that funny. And it’s hard to laugh about a situation that is not funny at all. North Korea is not a joke. At least, not in the sense that there should be a comedy film made about it. Some might (and do) fire back at me with “well North Korea is not a joke but the regime that rules the country is.” I vehemently disagree with that, because it is the regime that is responsible for keeping its citizens in a constant state of famine, destitution, and fear. And that is something I would argue should not be taken lightly.
I am writing this blog not as a review of how stupid I think the film is, but to debunk some of the claims made by those that were so adamant that the film is a huge stepping stone in taking down the North Korean regime. The film itself probably won’t raise awareness with governments or people around the world to “do something” about the current human rights violations occurring within the country. And believe me, those human rights violations are vast. It would be a lie for anyone to state that the purpose of this film was to create a real discussion and raise awareness about the current state of affairs in North Korea. The purpose of this film, in my opinion after watching it, was to make shitty racist jokes about Asian accents and eating dog, cheap laughs with physical humour, and dick and fart jokes. I don’t think that if someone from North Korea (who was still currently living in North Korea) saw this film they would suddenly think “hey, they’re right, the regime is bad and dear leader is bad.” It is unfair and idiotic of us a world away to make the assumption that the people within North Korea don’t know their own government is bad. Many defectors recall scenes of death and famine practically everywhere before they escaped, not to mention whispers of dissent among average North Koreans. Joo Il Kim, a North Korean defector who watched the film, had this to say:
“North Koreans are always portrayed as obedient robots. So with all the vulgar words, it’s like there is a subtext which demeans Korean people. In this movie it looks like we are too stupid to realise our government is bad.”
And he is on point, of course. Not everyone in North Korea is brainwashed by this idea of North Koreans having nothing to envy in the world. And not everyone in North Korea is loyal to the leader. Indeed, when your friends and relatives are being snatched up and hauled off to labour camps for years at a time for the most minimal crimes, and when you know that you cannot trust your neighbours and friends because they might be snitches, it isn’t hard to see why people in North Korea are defecting. It is complete nonsense to argue that this film could be an eyeopener for North Koreans.
Additionally, the very existence of the film is not a “fuck you” to North Korea’s leadership. It takes no courage to make a film satirising a dictator when there are no direct repercussions because you live a world away. Those party cadres that criticised Mao, those citizens that stood up against Hitler, and countless others that stood up against repression and totalitarianism, those are courageous acts of defiance. Their threats were very, very real. They weren’t poking a metaphorical bear from thousands of miles away.
At the end of the day, The Interview is a firework that turned out to be a dud. It probably won’t raise awareness about famine and human rights atrocities within North Korea, and it certainly won’t change anything within North Korea. If people actually cared about the people of North Korea, they would take the time to learn about them and support organisations dedicated to aiding defectors, not spending time watching shitty comedies that makes racist jokes, and claim that they are learning something from a fictional film that does little to shed light on the issues facing average North Koreans. Indeed, if there is anything I learned about The Interview is that when it got pulled from theatres, it sufficiently distracted the world form the CIA torture report, because people cared more about Sony pulling the film than their own country committing human rights violations.
For more information about helping North Koreans see: