Friday, January 23, 2015

The Interview

Was The Interview (2014; dirs. Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen) necessary? What did it achieve?  I believe in freedom of expression.  But I also believe in good judgment.  Why was it necessary to make a film insulting to the leadership of North Korea and, in a more general way, insulting to North Koreans?  Although the film avoids the most glaring of Asian stereotypes, it doesn’t hesitate to show Asians being shot and blown to bits while the bumbling American main characters escape, improbably, with only two missing fingers. Admittedly, these victims are mostly military officers who serve the North Korean leader. 

It does seem clear that the film meant to provoke North Korea.  Certainly it was not provocative to most Americans.  The main complaint I have about it is that I spent money on it, and that is my fault.  Our own culture provides many opportunities for poor judgment.  In general, when we find ourselves the victim of such instances, we grin and bear the consequences.  In other cultures, patience and stoicism are not always evident.  The recent horrific example of the terroristic murder of 12 staff members of Charlie Hebdo is evidence enough of that fact.  I support the right of Charlie Hebdo to free expression.  I do not support the publication of cartoons and other materials deliberately insulting to and disrespectful of another culture and its religion.  To believe on the one hand that living in a civilized culture means exercising patience and restraint is not also to believe that it is wise or acceptable to engage in offensive and insulting behavior.

The Interview is occasionally funny.  It’s written on the level of a protracted TV comedy skit.  It reminded me of one of the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road movies from the 1940s and 50s.  The acting is on that level.  Seth Rogen plays himself, essentially, while James Franco (I don’t have a sense of him as a person) plays a fairly dimwitted and un-self-respecting cable TV interviewer who will do anything to get good ratings.  Are ticket sales and ratings the objective of this film?  Franco wants respect as a director and screenwriter.  Rogen wants respect as a writer and comic actor.  Surely both appreciate financial success.  This film serves the welfare of neither.  It’s just a stupid and pointless waste.  Which brings me to a final question: did the U. S. government fund this film?  Was it intended as propagandistic provocation?

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