It’s a pity that North Korea’s cyber attack on Sony in response to its film The Interview made it Sony’s most downloaded movie of all time. Even more regrettable is that it has led some to proclaim the movie as political satire.
I only watched the film because of the brouhaha that ensued about freedom of speech and how Hollywood had caved to Pyongyang’s cyber vandalism. And I cringed through all of its 112 minutes of crass and puerile testosterone-charged college-jock-humour. The film had no redeeming features. All of the jokes were scatological or sexual. Many were just plain demeaning of women.
The film’s plot follows two mediocre journalists who are approached by the CIA to assassinate the hermit kingdom’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, after scoring a face-to-face interview with him. That’s the closest the film gets to political satire. It does not compare to classics like Charlie Chaplain’s The Great Dictator, Peter Sellers’ The Mouse that Roared and Being There, or more recent films like Dave and Wag the Dog.
While some of these later films included risqué moments they were not the totality of the film. By contrast The Interview is never more than lewd, crude and rude. It does not deserve elevation to political satire as many Hollywood literati are now suggesting.
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone apart from the most immature of college jocks and uncouth teenage boys enjoying this film.
The foul language, explicit sexual jokes, partial female nudity and not-so-subtle sex scenes mean it is not for younger teenagers, though one wonders if that was Sony’s intended target audience for the film before Pyongyang’s reckless action made it the cause célèbre it has become.
Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, many teenage boys are likely to download and watch the movie. They will learn very little from it about North Korea, international politics, freedom of speech, or political satire.
Political satire can contain crass and dirty jokes. Aristophanes and other classical dramatists successfully used dirty jokes to highlight political points and raise important questions about ancient Greece’s political arrangements. The Interview, however, fails to go beyond its very low toilet humour to achieve anything of substance.
Had Pyongyang ignored the film it would have gone quietly into the dustbin of trashy college humour films where it truly belongs. Ironically Pyongyang will now have to deal with the flood of bootleg copies that will inevitably pour across the border from China. It’s a moot point whether North Korea’s citizens will think less of their Supreme Leader or of crass American culture because of this film. Either way, the film is unlikely to result in any serious questioning of the world’s most tyrannical political system by the people of North Korea.
Alistair Nicholas is a public affairs professional who works with Australia’s federal and state governments.