I’m not a fan of James Franco. I’m not a fan of Seth Rogen. I’m not a fan of raunchy buddy-comedies. I’m not really even a fan of world news.
The recent Sony Pictures production The Interview, starring Franco and Rogen, has received both backlash and support for its depiction of the murder of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Not only did North Korea call the film “a most wanton act of terror and act of war,” but also threatened an act of retaliation on the U.S. similar in magnitude to the September 11 attacks.
Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked on November 24 of last year; the hackers (later discovered to be North Korean) leaked private employee information and unreleased movies onto the Internet. Whether the hacking was directly linked to the North Korean regime or not is uncertain, especially since the North Korean government openly denied involvement.
What enraged some American audiences was the belief that Sony Pictures, Franco, and Rogen made too much fun of a sensitive subject. According to The University of Hawaii, an estimated 3.5 million civilians have been murdered by the North Korean regime since the beginning of Kim Il-Sung’s reign in 1948. The Human Rights Watch confirms the fact that basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and expression, are relentlessly denied the North Korean people. Many suffer executions, torture, inhumane treatment, political imprisonment, and extreme poverty at the whim of the government.
Arguments in favor of the film have stated that Kim Jong-Un and the entire North Korean faction are being much too sensitive and taking measures far too extreme to “punish” this supposed crime. Supporters have pointed to freedom of speech as justification for the American filmmakers’ seemingly careless artistic expression–a right, oddly enough, which millions of North Koreans can only hope and dream for.
Despite the widespread negative responses, and nearly being scrapped entirely, The Interview was released in theaters and made available for purchase on YouTube and iTunes, with heavy lobbying in favor of its release from Franco, Rogen, and several members of the Hollywood community. Seth Rogen himself tweeted: “The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!”
Is this film relatively insensitive to the evil occurring in North Korea? Sure. On the other hand, can it be considered a crown jewel in the name of free speech? Of course it can. Look past all the mixed views, and it can be clearly seen that this film serves a far greater purpose in the grand scheme of things.
For all intents and purposes, this film has made me, a high school student in California, care. Considering the fact that I knew next to nothing about North Korea three months ago, I’d say this film has done well to get me interested and invested in learning just what North Korea is up to. If my interests were engaged just as an effect of the buzz surrounding this film, then there are, without a doubt, millions of others who have become engaged as well. The film has shed light on North Korea’s evil and exposed its regime for what it really is.
Last time I checked, no injustice in history has been overturned by the silence of the masses. The American Revolution and the abolition of apartheid are both examples of events that began as a result of people taking a stand, having a voice, and taking action.
In North Korea, citizens are not allowed to own foreign movies, music, books or TV shows. Possession of such paraphernalia can result in arrest by the government, where prisoners and their families are subject to beatings, torture, and executions. But, recent studies have shown that North Koreans who have managed to smuggle outside media into the country are far more likely to defect. Movies, TV shows, and music from South Korea are smuggled into the North in the form of thumb drives and sold on the black market. North Koreans who face severe poverty or oppression are risking their lives for the sake of freedom. Maybe this movie was exactly what North Korea, and the rest of the world, needed.
If I’ve learned anything from The Hunger Games, it’s that a small spark can ignite the flames of revolution. Well, North Korea is as close to Panem as this world will ever see. The elite class of North Korea live in its capital city, Pyongyang, while the majority of its citizens live in squalor. But, the state-sponsored North Korean news media outlets will never show the outside world the poverty-stricken side of the country, and the government works tirelessly to convince the people how great the government is, and how divine their leader, Kim Jong-Un, is.
Love it or hate it, this film is indubitably the spark that will grow into a flame. Years from now, the overthrow of communism in North Korea could be traced back to The Interview. It is talk and awareness that exposes these regimes for what they are: evil and ruthless. And eventually, talk and awareness can lead to action and change. The hoopla The Interview created around the world may be short-lived or seemingly forgotten, but whether it can actually catalyze a major overhaul of the North Korean government is a question that has yet to be answered.