The Interview will now no longer be released by Sony. Amidst terrorist threats, its Christmas day opening has been cancelled and Sony claims that they have no further plans to release it on DVD or VOD. This is incredibly disappointing. Not only does it set an awful precedent for how we handle these threats, but it’s a complete suppression of our freedom of speech.
Let’s back up a little bit. The Interview is the most recent Evan Goldberg/Seth Rogen film about two journalists (James Franco & Seth Rogen) who are recruited by the CIA to go to Pyongyang and assassinate King Jong-Un. Late last month, Sony’s internal database was hacked and various emails, salaries, and scripts were leaked to the internet. The group that did this call themselves the ‘Guardians of Peace’, a group that is speculated to potentially be a group of North Korean cyberterrorists. A few weeks after this leak, which will cost Sony millions in damages, the ‘Guradians of Peace’ threatened moviegoers, “Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)” After this threat, Sony released movie theatres from their contracts, allowing individual theatre chains to show the film only if they would like to. Many major movie theatres backed out, and Sony later pulled the film from its theatrical release.
Some people are defending Sony’s decision in not releasing the film because it’s better safe than sorry. However, it should be noted that these threats don’t mean anything. There’s no evidence that “Guardians of Peace” will be able to do anything. Cyber-hacking and launching a full scale act of war are two entirely different things. Sony’s decision shows that as Americans, we will immediately back down on what we believe in if there is any empty threat of violence present.
It should be noted that in 1940, Charlie Chaplin made a film called The Great Dictator. In it, Chaplin plays Hynkel – Dictator of Tomania, as well as a Jewish barber who gets mistaken as him. Chaplin stylised his signature mustache to make it more Hitler-like, and makes fun of Hitler throughout the whole film. It was nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture. To those who say that that film is any different because it doesn’t mention Hitler by name, let me remind you that in 2004, Matt Stone and Trey Parker released an animated film titled Team America: World Police. In this film, Kim Jong Il is the villain.
It’s not just this movie that’s being impacted though. Steve Carell’s thriller, Pyongyang, about a man who grows paranoid after working in Pyongyang for a year has been scrapped. If interested, the graphic novel that the movie would have been based off of is available for purchase online. It may be your only opportunity to hear this story in a long time.
It’s not that The Interview would have been a great movie. It likely would have been pretty mediocre. That’s not the point. The point is that we self-censored art. The Interview might not have been an important movie before this incident, but now it’s incredibly important. We can’t let others intimidate us into censorship, and we definitely can’t stop making risky movies.