This year was one of outcries, backlash and outright revolutions in the making, both through social media (#YesAllWomen) and on the real-life streets (Ferguson). People are speaking out, taking stands, and as long as injustice, still triumphs, campaigns and protests like these will continue into 2015 and beyond.
No matter your stance, it is this kind of ability to speak freely that separates us from a country like, say, North Korea. Well, until now.
Sony Pictures, after countless big name theater distributors backed out of showing their controversial film “The Interview,” decided to cancel the release of the film entirely. For those that don’t know, “The Interview” is a satirical comedy starring the power duo of Seth Rogen and James Franco as a TV producer and host who are tasked with killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” Sony said. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
Do they really stand by that right, though? If 2014 was a year of taking stands against unfairness then why does this feel like such a backwards step and defeat? Women took stands against misogyny, minorities took stands against racism. But now, Hollywood has just lost an equally important battle and failed to protect a right we should all hold dear, no matter your age, gender, race or background—the right to creative expression.
Sony’s decision comes on the heels of a major system hack that leaked data and numerous emails, followed by threats supposedly from North Korea warning of an attack on American soil if the movie were to be released, calling back to 9/11.
Admittedly, threats like these put Sony in a very terrifying situation that would put anyone in a complicated, impossible to fathom, much less predict, position. At first, Sony gave theaters the option of whether or not to show “The Interview.” It seemed like a fair enough balancing act, but one that would soon topple once Sony made their announcement on Wednesday.
Now, people are split between national security and freedom of speech. In a post-9/11 country, but one in the midst of countless social movements, what’s more important? Perhaps that’s not the right question to ask, though, because both are obviously important in different ways. The question we should be asking is whether it’s right to suppress creative expression based on some unforeseen implications; whether it’s right to give in to terrorism; and whether this decision could carry with it even more disturbing implications. The answer to the first two questions I believe is ‘no.’ The answer to the third is ‘possibly.’
This decision only gives fuel to any future irrational agendas against a movie. Countless celebrities agree and took their opinions to social media. Judd Apatow, director of such comedies as “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “This Is 40,” tweeted on Wednesday “I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview. Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Jimmy Kimmel, host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” responded with “An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”
Some people even go so far as to say that the movie shouldn’t have been made in the first place. It’s a little ridiculous to say that a movie shouldn’t be made based on unforeseen, unpredictable reactions, especially when history shows that Hollywood has done worse. In 1940, in the midst of World War II, a little movie from Charlie Chaplin called “The Great Dictator” was released that parodied Adolf Hitler. That movie went on to be nominated for countless Academy Awards. Fast forward to 2014, and “The Interview” is cancelled. Hollywood’s gotten soft, and it doesn’t set a good standard. Should “The Dark Knight’ be taken off store shelves because it allegedly influenced a man to shoot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado? Should “Grand Theft Auto” be outlawed because it “advocates” prostitution and other illegal activities, all because parents don’t like it (but also can’t tell their kids “no”)?
America’s freedom of speech and creativity is something that sets us apart from North Korea, and it’s exactly why the film should have been released. America has never been one to go soft on acts of terrorism. It’s why we entered World War II. It’s why we tend to turn a blind eye to torture (excuse me, enhanced interrogation techniques) as much as we don’t like to admit it. So it’s troubling to see that the thing we lose our courage over is a satirical movie from the guy who played the Green Hornet.
However, there’s hope. An Alamo theater in Texas has decided to show the film “Team America: World Police” instead. And the death scene of Kim Jong-un from “The Interview” has leaked online. Set to a slower version of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” it is fantastic. Eventually, hopefully, we will be able to see the film in its entirety. Sony is losing a lot of money on this, after all, and it can’t be shut down forever.