Making a mockery doesn’t necessarily make a difference.
In recent months, James Franco and Seth Rogen’s comedy “The Interview” created a stir when its release was cancelled after parent corporation Sony was hacked (supposedly by North Korean hackers, although North Korea has denied involvement while still praising the deed).
The film was eventually released in theaters across the country and is now causing a new bout of controversy—this time among those who have an issue with its subject matter.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, “The Interview” focuses on TV personality Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen) who are viewed as a joke in the entertainment world until they arrange a TV interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The United States CIA seizes the opportunity to recruit the two for an assassination attempt on Kim, and from there the movie follows their bumbling efforts to carry out the CIA’s orders and find television success.
At first glance, it’s easy to see why some have an issue with “The Interview”—it’s a movie that takes a very real, very dire situation and represents it in a movie that features crude humor and sexual references.
The very fact that it exists is a bit insulting to those who are suffering in North Korea.
However, supporters of the movie counter-argue that it brings awareness to an important issue in an accessible way and that “it’s supposed to be satire.”
It makes sense, at least in theory. It’s true that satire often takes an approach similar to that of “The Interview”, combining a fictitious plot with fact in order to prove just how ridiculous and wrong the facts may be.
It can be a very effective tactic, but “The Interview” fails in that it takes things just a tad too far.
Any satirical purpose the movie intended to accomplish is far overshadowed by its format and cheap humor.
The fatal flaw of “The Interview” is that it presents the facts in such a way that they seem too absurd to possibly be real.
Instead of actively considering the dire situation in North Korea, the audience’s attention is drawn to slapstick gags and outlandish scenarios (Skylark partying with Kim Jong Un, a battle with a tiger, and a cheesy action-movie-esque escape from North Korea).
This makes it difficult for viewers to realize the significance of the information that’s being presented to them.
Believe it or not, much of “The Interview” is strongly based on actual conditions in North Korea.
For those wishing to get a nice overview of the situation, I would recommend a Frontline documentary called “Secret State of North Korea,” which can be found on the PBS website.
Through hidden-camera film and a number of firsthand testimonies, it highlights some of the seemingly outlandish facts that are featured in “The Interview,” down to the widely held belief that Kim Jong Un is so godlike that he doesn’t pee or poop. This is where satire functions well—the presentation of ridiculous facts in a fictitious setting can call attention to them with the proper blend of comedy and truth.
Viewed objectively, I can honestly report that “The Interview” is a pretty good movie, ideal for fans of the Hangover-esque genre.
Despite some cheap laughs and crude humor, the movie’s comedic timing and creativity make it enjoyable to watch—of course, that’s only if you can remove yourself from the fact that the starvation, oppression, and human rights violations mentioned in the film are all horribly real.
For “The Interview” to truly make a difference, it needed to put proper weight on the inhumane conditions in North Korea along with the comedic aspects. As it is, I don’t see this movie changing much of anything.