I was in a theater several weeks back when a preview of The Interview came on the screen.
The comedy is about two American television journalists who are lightweights and total goofballs.
They are invited by North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, to be interviewed. He’s a fan of theirs.
The CIA intercepts the pair and talks them into helping them assassinate Kim Jong Un.
Apparently they succeed.
My first reactions were, “Is this supposed to be funny?”
Followed by, “What a totally stupid idea for a comedy! Where’s quality control these days?”
Then, cringing in my seat, “What an unnecessarily provocative, insulting story line! Ugly Americanism at its absolute worst!”
Which is why it failed to surprise me that the North Korean government had a kitten about the movie.
And made threats.
And, apparently confirmed by the U.S. government, they sponsored a particularly vicious hacking attack against Sony Pictures, Inc.
They first leaked a series of embarrassing e-mails that exposed insults against the President Obama by Sony Pictures executives, insults and back-stabbing against director Angelina Jolie by other directors, and sexist pay discrepancies between male and female stars in their movies.
Then the North Koreans sent ominous e-mails to all of Sony’s 45,000 employees.
Then they made threats of violence against any theaters that showed the movie.
Sony gave theaters the option of not showing it. And most theater chains jumped at the chance.
With no theaters, Sony pulled the plug on releasing The Interview in any format at all.
My response: all of the above was completely avoidable, easily foreseen, and totally unnecessary.
The North Koreans are notorious for being thin-skinned, childish about perceived insults, and indulging in outbursts of violence and harshest rhetoric against imagined threats.
Of course their government is one of the worst dictatorships on earth and is guilty of horrific human rights abuses, mass starvation of its citizens, and terrible death camps.
So let’s make a comedy out of it?!
I do not at all justify the North Korean government for resorting to such despicable means to retaliate against Sony Pictures.
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
But neither do I (nor should we) reward such appallingly bad judgment, poor taste, and lousy subject matter choices on the part of the studio.
The phrase, a complete lack of moral responsibility, comes to mind.
Films and all other creative endeavors can ennoble us, or corrupt us.
They can be used to inflame the fires of war, or advance the cause of peace.
They can provoke and stoke conflict (as in this case), or they can lift the human spirit.
As an American, I am embarrassed at what this picture represents and how it portrays us to the rest of the world.
You can tell an awful lot about a person by what they laugh at and find funny.
We just just told the world there is nothing sacred anymore, nothing held in reverence, no subject beyond the pale–no matter how gross, counterproductive, positively damaging, or inappropriate.
In fact, there is nothing inappropriate anymore and no yardsticks of good judgment that can be used anymore.
No limits, no boundaries, no bright lines or red lines never to be crossed.
It’s not funny. Not at all.
The Interview’s warped humor is as revealing about us as North Korean’s over-the-top hostility is about them.
What won’t we laugh at? What can shock and revolt us anymore? Is there anything we’d blush to be associated with?
Instead of playing the victim and berating Sony Pictures for withdrawing the movie, perhaps we ought to say, “It’s about time! This movie should never have been made in the first place and the people at Sony responsible for this fiasco ought to be replaced!”
We don’t need any more moral bankruptcy and resulting folly–there’s more than enough of it already.
What we need is repentance and a restored moral compass. Then we’ll laugh at the good stuff.