Who would have thought that a silly comedy with yet another outrageously ridiculous plot from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — the makers of “Superbad” (about two high schoolers trying to score alcohol), “Pineapple Express” (about two stoners on the run with a stash of weed) and “This Is the End” (about coked-up Hollywood stars going to heaven after the world ends and dancing with the Backstreet Boys) — could instigate a war of words between two countries?
“The Interview” is about, well, two ecstasy-popping TV journalists this time, who are sent to assassinate the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Last weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama officially imposed more sanctions on North Korea — sanctions that affect its intelligence agency, its main arms dealer and its military defence technology, including ten individuals associated with these operations — as the first instalment of retaliation for cyber attacks (allegedly been triggered by Sony’s decision to release “The Interview”) that are yet to be proven. This prompted North Korea to officially deny once again its role.
Threats and release To recap, hackers identifying themselves as Guardians of Peace leaked some confidential and sensitive emails and also left a prankish message threatening more attacks, including some on the ground, if Sony released “The Interview.” They objected to its plot.
Cinema halls, because of the threats, refused to exhibit the film which has been directed by Rogen and Goldberg. Sony Pictures then decided to put the Christmas release on hold, only to be frowned upon by President Obama. After public pressure to not bow down to blackmailers mounted on Sony, it decided to go ahead with the release as planned (at a much smaller scale though) and opted to use the very medium that caused the problem: the Internet.
A lot of Americans went to watch “The Interview” to defy the North Korean threat, as a sign of their patriotism for the country that stood for liberty. Thousands of jingoistic Americans took to IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and rated the film 10 on 10 without even watching it, and doing so well before the scheduled release date.
“ The film inadvertently showed us the potential of the Internet in fighting censorship ”
But let’s rewind a little to examine the facts.
First, the hack. There is no evidence till date that North Korea is responsible, directly or indirectly. Security experts have woken up to the possibility that this could be an inside job. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has based all its conclusions on the basis of software used; this is purely circumstantial. So it is indeed possible that the American President reacted prematurely.
Conspiracy theorists now suggest that it is quite possible that Sony led the world into believing that North Korea did it to avoid a slew of lawsuits regarding sensitive content in the leaked emails. Angelina Jolie was referred to as a “minimally talented spoiled brat” in an exchange of emails; another leak featured a racist conversation between Sony’s bosses on which films President Obama might like and whether they had anything to do with African-Americans; yet another one had Sony’s producers arguing over the merits of casting Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer” because “black leads don’t play well” overseas.
The hackers, Sony said, had leaked films online, including “Fury”, “Mr. Turner”, “The Equalizer”, “Annie”, and “Still Alice” during their release months and “To Write Love On Her Arms” (slated for a March 2015 release), through torrents, and have access to gigabytes of data, including the script of the new James Bond film.
With reports that hackers had demanded money before the studio spun the whole story around “The Interview” to give a national security angle, the possibility of North Korea really being responsible for a corporate hack seems increasingly preposterous, especially in the light of the country’s denial.
History of hacking American companies have been plagued by hackers over the years; in 2013-14, about 82 per cent of U.S. companies have experienced at least one online attack and 46 per cent have been victim of three or more attacks, according to a report released last year that was commissioned by Malwarebytes and carried out by Lawless Research in the U.S.
North Korea went through a mysterious Internet outage for over nine hours within days after Mr. Obama promised “an appropriate response” for the cyber attack he held the country responsible for, and in exchange got compared to “a monkey in a tropical forest” by the North Koreans in an official statement. This sort of bullying — a war of words — is exactly what prevails today. And this is exactly what “The Interview” gets bang on.
The Internet revolution The other big revelation “The Interview” inadvertently made was to show us the potential of the Internet in fighting censorship and as a legitimate alternative with a growing market.
The film, which was made at a $44 million budget, made $3 million in four days from its limited theatrical release and $15 million from the Internet during the same period. And this wasn’t even a strategically planned release. People just downloaded it off torrents in countries where it wasn’t available. Channel 4 and AFP reported that U.S.-based non-profit organisation Human Rights Foundation has financed production of DVDs and memory sticks, even while South Korean democracy activist Park Sang-Hak plans to drop 1,00,000 copies of the movie into North Korea from a hot-air balloon.
The global controversy has made Kim Jong-un review what he tells the press. Last heard, the dictator has said he wants a high-level summit with South Korea because the “tragic” division was no longer acceptable.
There’s no doubt that all the lampooning in “The Interview” has caused a dent to his public image. Because, as Randall Park, who plays Kim Jong-un, says in the film: “You know what’s more destructive than a nuclear bomb? Words.”
This stoner bromance is smarter than most people give it credit for. It tells us that the world doesn’t really care. One moment, people are mourning innocent kids being shot dead. The next, they are cheering a goal. Or a six. One moment, they are sad for a plane that’s gone down and the next they are sad that Dhoni has quit. And soon, it’s Happy New Year, folks.
What? Eminem is gay? “It’s like Spike Lee just said he was white,” as the talk show producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) tells his anchor Dave Skylark (James Franco) when Eminem “admits” to be being homosexual on their show that’s completed a 1000 episodes in ten years. They aren’t taken seriously by the real journalists, of course. So they figure out a way to interview Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) after discovering he’s a fan of their show.
The Interview not just takes potshots at American (and also global modern day) media priorities, it also portrays the US as the country capable of turning idiots into assassins (the CIA makes one of their own journalists hide a missile up his rear to secure the weapon) while the young North Korean dictator is adequately humanised. He makes Skylark question everything he has heard about the man by charming his pants off.
When Skylark later realises he has been lied to, he wants to go ahead with the assassination plan but Rapaport’s Korean girlfriend tells him that they would just replace him with another dictator. The problem wasn’t Kim Jong-Un but the system of dictatorship and the only way to bring him down is to make people see him for what he is.
Later, during the interview, when Skylark believes they have the required statistics to grill Kim Jong-Un about the starving people of North Korea, the dictator counters it with uncomfortable questions about the sanctions imposed that was driving them to the brink of despair. Unable to deal with reasoning, the American Borat, Skylark goes back to what he’s best at. Trolling.
Because trolling NOT reason, bullying NOT debate, is the only form of supremacy that the world recognises today. Our prime-time news shows are testimony to the fact that name-calling gets more eyeballs than arguments or reasons that intellectuals or custodians of high art care for. The Interview is subversion done right.