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The Interview

The controversial film called “The Interview” is a product of Sony Pictures of Burbank, California. The film has deeply angered North Korea. There is more to this movie than has met the eye of most critics and observers. The secret ingredient to the movie is the question of how a profoundly Confucian society such as North Korea would give precedence to the youngest son, rather than his elders.

The North Korean government was not pleased when it learned about the film. The government began to object publicly last June, months before “The Interview” was to open in theaters. North Korea called the movie “an act of war.” It threatened what it called “merciless” reaction.

Some people criticized the film for plotting the violent death of a government leader. Others have said the film’s storyline and situations were not at all serious. They say they are meant only to be funny. Still others praised “The Interview” because it showed the freedom of expression that American moviemakers enjoy. It also led many Americans to debate what actions to take when facing threats to free expression. George Smith noted the many deficiencies in the movie and the debate around it.

In Orwell's book "1984", there is a book within the book, and hidden within "The Interview" there is a movie within the movie, for them that hath understanding [which surely does not include the nominal target audience, and seemingly does not include everyone else who has delivered of an opinion on the subject].

The plot itself is seemingly pretty simple, James Franco plays Dave Skylark, a TV talk show host whose primary focus for the first ten years of his career was to blow the lid on celebrity scandals; sexual, odd and some perverse. Franco’s character is done well, but not overdone, and is the overt superficial plot of the movie. Seth Rogen plays his sidekick and producer, Aaron Rapoport, a journalist who sees the shallowness of his position and desires to engage with interviewees with more substance. Rogen's character is the movie within the movie.

Through happenstance, Skylark discovers that the great leader is a huge fan of his TV Show and by luck, Kim Jong-un agrees to go before a live TV audience. At this point the CIA comes to Skylark and Rapoport and asks them to assassinate Kim Jong-un. What happens next is, superficially, not much more than a dopey buddy flick. The trope is prevalent in most of Rogen’s films, and it works well enough here as well. Most of the jokes and scenes have good lead-ins from earlier in the dialogue and the one-liners hit most of the time. All in all, the movie was definitely funny and probably appealing to the youth demographic it is targeted towards.

Much of the film, seemingly too much of the film, features tasteless homophobic jokes, and Variety commented it felt "like a kind of terror attack to any audience with a limited tolerance for anal penetration jokes." In the first few minutes of The Interview, the rapper Eminem comes out of the closet during an intreview with Skylark, but in real life he uses homophobic slurs in his music. This segment seems gratuitous, but is actually a prequel for the main act. Later, North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un expresses anxiety as to whether his liking Katy Perry's "Firework" and margaritas makes him gay. One reviewer concluded "the manner in which this film jests with gayness doesn't come off as clever — just tired and cheap."

Could the film plant seeds of doubt about the North Korean government among North Korean citizens? Much discussion has centered around the film's scene showing Kim Jong-un's violent demise, and how North Korea took this a fictional depiction as offensive. A regime centered around unquestioning loyalty and unfliching obedience would likely construe such line of thought, however, fictional, as dangerous and would therefore be on the guard against having even the hint of such a hypotherical scenario spread around, lest it give some the 'wrong idea'. The threat being that such an event might be regarded as even a possibility. But there is a bit more to it than this alone.

Kim Jong-un is the youngest of three brothers, and under normal Confucian circumstances would not have been in line for the throne. But Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of Kim jon-il, was detained by Japanese authorities in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter the country using a forged passport from the Dominican Republic. He reportedly told investigators that he wanted to go to Tokyo Disneyland. He was soon dropped from the line of succession.

The second son was also passed over. So, contrary to Confucian tradition, the youngest son, Kim Jong-un, became the successor. Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese sushi chef who worked for Kim Jong-il for 13 years wrote a best-selling memoir, "I Was Kim Jong Il's Cook." Specialists following North Korea characterize Fujimoto's accounts as being credible. According to one account, "Fujimoto said, Kim would often bemoan that Kim Jong Chul, his 23-year old son, would never rule because he had turned out to be 'like a girl.'" Kim Jong-un, having acceeded to power only three years prior, is widely believed to still be consolidating his hold on power, unlike his father, Kim Jong-Il, who benefitted from decades of preparation. Simply to remind the North Korean public of the disorderly fashion of his coming to power would be considered damaging to the legitimacy of Kim Jong-un's claims to leadership by divine right.

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Page last modified: 13-01-2015 00:58:14 ZULU