Thursday, December 18, 2014

'The Interview:' The faceless cowards win

There's an emotionally stunted kid in every high school who thinks about calling in a bomb threat or pulling the fire alarm, then sitting in the bushes sniggering as people scurry out of the building. My high school had one, and I thought of him when I heard hackers had threatened Sony Pictures and theater owners if "The Interview" opened as scheduled on Christmas Day.

It never looked like a masterpiece to me, but it might have been funny. Here's the trailer:

As you see, it's about a tabloid show host and producer invited to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, then assigned by the CIA to assassinate him. The announcement of its release prompted hackers to interfere with Sony's business affairs (including private internal communications) and threaten violence against movie chains that dared to show it. The film has been pulled everywhere, though I expect it to come out on DVD someday. That's where it would have made most of its money anyhow.

Commentators have correctly pointed out that a movie suggesting the death of a real person is in bad taste, even when he's a brutal swine. They've also mulled over the possibility that threats of real-world attacks were hot air (likely) and that further provocation of the still-unidentified hackers isn't worth the trouble (also likely, especially if the Chinese assisted the North Koreans).

Folks have also discussed whether this backing down by Sony will start a trend. Will ISIS threaten the same kind of reprisal if a movie makes the bad guys Islamic extremists? Probably not, unless someone declares open season on the prophet Muhammad -- we've seen that scenario play out in murder in Europe -- or ruthlessly mocks the Qu'ran. I'll be curious to see whether this incident triggers other kinds of reprisals, such as homophobic assaults on movies with gay themes.

Before the Internet, when bile was harder to spew anonymously and widely, people protested pictures in person. For example, the Catholic Church disapproved of the 1991 movie "The Pope Must Die," a comedy with no real people in it: A foolish priest was elected pope by mistake, arousing the ire of the Mafia and other villains. So church officials asked Catholics not to see it, to write letters of complaint, etc. Those protesters wanted demonstrations, not detonations.

Now the faceless cowards of the world call in their threats and hide in the bushes, laughing. We can't suspend them from school -- or from the Internet, for that matter -- so all we can do is weigh each menace and respond accordingly. No satisfactory solution has presented itself, and I don't think one will.


Anonymous said...

The North Koreans might be faceless, but we are the cowards because we are letting Kim Jong Un decide what we will and will not watch.