I haven’t written on here in a while, partly because I’ve been busy with my new job, partly because I’ve been working on my new novel, and partly because I haven’t really had anything blog-worthy to write about.
That isn’t to say there aren’t a bunch of social issues out there that I’ve got an opinion on and that have people losing their minds all over the country. But it’s been years since I really talked about anything on here other than my own shit (and it’s my blog, that’s to be expected, DON’T JUDGE ME!), so I figured I’d let everybody else vomit out their opinions all over the place and I’d just “do me”, as I’m prone to do.
Yet, as a well-documented film enthusiast (read: super ultra movie nerd), I feel like I’ve got to at least throw my two cents in on this one issue, especially since I’ve been raving about it privately for days to friends and family alike.
Last night, Deadline posted an interview conducted between columnist Mike Fleming Jr. and a pretty ticked-off George Clooney, in which Clooney states that he tried to start a petition supporting Sony’s plans to release The Interview anyways, despite numerous cyber-attacks and physical threats demanding the movie’s cancellation (theaters will be attacked, the terrorists said). A noble, righteous cause by Clooney, though totally unsurprising since this just seems just like something he would do.
Only, Clooney’s petition was quickly shot down by nearly every top-tier name in Hollywood. Which is disheartening but a bit understandable, considering the collective emotional state of the industry: people are scared. To be attacked in any way–whether it be through hacking, the silver-tongue of the media, or physically through the efforts of the North Korean government–is not the type of thing anybody would voluntarily wish on themselves.
However, George Clooney’s response to this fear–and to Sony’s resulting decision to cave and cancel The Interview’s release–was great:
“Stick it online,” Clooney said. “Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all fucking people.”
Which brings up two points:
1) George Clooney is still the man (and has been for years, pretty sure most people can agree on this point).
2) He’s absolutely right.
And this isn’t just me supporting a guy who I believe is an expert when it comes to matters resting at the intersection of politics and entertainment. It’s something I’ve been saying all week, a point that goes beyond the subject matter of The Interview.
I am a fan of Seth Rogen and James Franco, and I did plan on seeing The Interview next week if it had been released. But I knew what to expect going in. Rogen and Franco are the same two people that made–whether individually or as partners–Pineapple Express, Neighbors, This is the End, The Green Hornet, and Knocked Up. Their careers are deeply associated with the likes of Judd Apatow, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera. Despite the few names on that list that have gone out and done serious work (Franco and Hill are the only two I can think of off the top of my head, with Wiig’s Skeleton Twins hopefully marking the beginning of her quest for higher-caliber performances), for the most part these people are not known for their cutting-edge sense of social responsibility, or their expert use of political satire. They’re known for really good on-screen chemistry, a knack for comedic improvisation, and a fascination with dick and vagina jokes. I guarantee The Interview is no different and–while probably hilarious–I doubt that there’s even the slightest amount of political value within the film itself.
But this has never been about the movie.
Why this sits so uneasily in my stomach (and apparently George Clooney’s and whoever else is in agreement with him) is because of the overall progression of events these past couple of weeks, and what it means to us as Americans. Because essentially what just happened to us is another country–a nuclear-weapon-armed communist government run by a psychopath who’s the same age as me (I can barely balance my budget, much less run a violently oppressive dictatorship)–told us “You can’t watch that movie. And if you do, we’ll beat the shit out of you.” And we just held our hands up and said:
“Okay. Just please, don’t hurt me.”
There’s an underlying tone of cowardice here that is unsettling for many reasons. Because while this is the movie industry we’re talking about today–not even the movie industry as a whole, but a single movie released by a single company for a demographic that typically doesn’t give a shit about politics outside of whether or not marijuana will be nationally legalized anytime soon–our response to these cyber attacks and physical threats have opened a door that should have never even existed.
By allowing North Korea to win in this situation, the U.S. (and yes, Sony does represent the U.S. in this instance, whether it wants to or not, at least when it comes to worldwide perception), we basically just allowed communism to impose its will on our way of life, possibly for the first time since the Cold War and Joe McCarthy left the country annoyingly paranoid. Which is–I thought–the last thing the American people wanted again.
Which leads to the real question: How does this end now?
What happens when a major electrical company gets hacked and sabotaged, accompanied by a strongly-worded email demanding they shut down servers or “We’ll blow up all your power stations?”
What happens when officials at shipping companies like Fed Ex and UPS walk into work one day only to find a message splashed across their computer screens: “Stop all shipping now, or we’ll start blowing up trucks and planes”?
What happens when a New York Times columnist gets an order to cease writing that controversial exposé or “We will make 9/11 look like a 4th of July fireworks display”?
Previously I would’ve said the result of all these situations was a given. U.S. organizations–both government and private–would collectively hold up their middle fingers and shake their heads no, adamant in their advocacy of a single, unalterable American principle: We Do Not Negotiate With Terrorists. And we do not give up our rights, to anybody, for any reason.
Except now, apparently we do.
The first amendment is important, arguably the most important amendment in our constitution. Yet I feel like many people like to tout this fact even though they’ve forgotten why it’s true. It’s not just so cocky internet trolls can have a defense to toss around while they’re busy posting comments about how Mike Brown should’ve been shot in the face, or Darren Wilson and all police officers should be rounded up and dropped off the side of the Grand Canyon (both detestable statements I’ve actually seen, the former one multiple times).
The first amendment ensures our right to disseminate information freely, which in turn serves as a natural deterrent to the very oppression and murderous mentality we see present in the governments of countries like North Korea, Cuba, and China.
There’s a reason media is the first thing dictators confiscate when they’re installing their new regimes. Control what the people read, watch, and hear, and you control the people.
The first amendment is meant to keep the words and voices and non-violent actions of Americans untainted by outside influence. It’s our livelihood, our patio and backyard, a crucial piece of our country’s landscape that we maintain and protect and admire, simply for its sheer beauty and accessibility.
And we just allowed North Korea to waltz on our property, scream at our frolicking children, and take a shit in our pool (albeit in the shallow end).
While The Interview is hardly the sophisticated satire people would’ve proudly rallied around in the ultra-socially-conscious 60’s and 70’s, it is an essentially American film, indicative of an American way of life most citizens would agree is eons better than the alternative.
Yet we just took the first (small) step in sacrificing that way of life, placing ourselves on the wrong side of this particular fork in the road.
I just hope we reverse enough to get back on the right path.