I haven't seen “The Interview,” but a good number of others have – including HitFix's resident movie critic Drew McWeeny, who called the film “laugh out loud funny all the way through” in his review. I don't feel totally equipped to make some grand statement on Sony's move to entirely cancel the release of the film after the hackers (ironically operating under the moniker Guardians of Peace) threatened deadly terrorist attacks on theaters that chose to screen it, but plenty of others have chimed in in the hours since news broke of Sony's unprecedented decision.
So what are people saying? A lot of things, but the overriding sentiment online – summed up as “You're letting fear/the terrorists/the hackers win” – is beginning to sound a little reductive in light of a political and business situation that is extraordinarily complex. Believe it or not, there are a range of other responses out there – and below we've highlighted 11 more that are (mostly) deserving of your attention.
1. Donate what you would have spent on the film to a charity benefiting North Korean citizens and refugees.
This one is all over Twitter, from those calling for Sony to stream the film in exchange for a charitable donation to users stating they'll donate the price of admission to “any charity that @SethRogen and @JamesFranco see fit,” to cite one example. If you're so moved, there are several relevant non-profits worth looking into, including the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and Durihana, a South Korea-based Christian organization that assists North Korean defectors.
2. Criticize Sony for making the movie in the first place.
Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren elaborated this point in a series of inflammatory tweets earlier today, stating in part:
– Greta Van Susteren (@greta) December 17, 2014
But she's not the only one. Other commentators in this vein include conservative NY Post columnist Michael Goodwin, who took the studio to task for making a film that, in his words, “offers a strange confirmation for suspicion in much of the world that American journalists actually are government spies. That distrust has gotten more than a few heroic journalists killed.”
3. Screen “Team America: World Police” in “The Interview's” place.
Well, they tried. Austin's Alamo Drafthouse and a number of other theaters had already started offering tickets to screenings of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 2004 satire before distributor Paramount effectively thwarted those plans. The connection? The film depicts the attempted assassination of a puppet version of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (who – SPOILER ALERT! – actually turns out to be an alien).
4. Put the controversy in its proper political context.
North Korea is “home to the world's most intense cult of personality,” as Associated Press reporter Eric Talmadge points out, and “The Interview” engages in the strictest taboo imaginable for such a country – the graphic depiction of its supreme leader's assassination. As Japanese North Korea expert Hajime Izumi states in the piece: “I think [North Korea's] response was fairly predictable.” If nothing else, Sony can't say it wasn't warned.
5. Be mindlessly militant and/or jingoistic.
I”m going to watch TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE on @netflix today. Come get me, Kim Jong-un. I fucking dare you.
– Ethan Anderton (@Ethan_Anderton) December 18, 2014
North Korea can #kissmypyongyang, too. This is America, and we can watch stupid comedies if we want to & stay home if we don't!!
– Kati Mae (@AdorkableKati) December 18, 2014
6. Invoke the “shoe on the other foot” argument.
True, the U.S. probably couldn't/wouldn't suppress the hypothetical release of another country's film depicting the assassination of President Obama, but would we be happy about it?
“Let's say that the Chinese movie industry made a comedy about Chinese journalists hired to assassinate President Obama,” writes L.A. Times reader Diane Scholfield. “How many Americans would get the joke, and how many would wonder if China was about to attack? I'm guessing more of the latter, even if Chinese movie executives acted surprised at the furor and said, 'Hey, chill out; it's just a movie!'”
7. Downplay the actual physical threat posed by North Korea (assuming they're even affiliated with Guardians of Peace in the first place).
Assuming the hackers are actually in cahoots with the North Korean government (which has not been 100% determined at this point), we all know that the country isn't capable of staging attacks at every single movie theater showing “The Interview.” And while they have documented nuclear capabilities, they also (according to experts) don't have the ability to successfully fire off an intercontinental ballistic missile. As cybersecurity expert Peter W. Singer put it to Vice:
“This same group threatened yesterday 9/11-style incidents at any movie theatre that chose to show the movie,” he said. “Here, we need to distinguish between threat and capability-the ability to steal gossipy emails from a not-so-great protected computer network is not the same thing as being able to carry out physical, 9/11-style attacks in 18,000 locations simultaneously. I can't believe I'm saying this. I can't believe I have to say this. …This group has not shown the capability to do that.”
And from the Guardian's Tania Branigan: “[North Korea] has a long history of sabre-rattling and of issuing harsh threats that it does not act upon. In 2012 it specifically threatened to reduce several South Korean media organisations “to ashes … by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style” for slandering its leadership. The newspapers and broadcasters were unharmed.”
Hey, even Obama told us to go to the movies. Y'know, other movies that aren't “The Interview.” Cause that one's not playing.
8. Dig deeper into the film's satirical subtext.
Despite the film's violent premise, the New Yorker's Richard Brody proposes that “The Interview” is in fact making an argument for greater restraint in American foreign relations:
“In effect, the filmmakers are responding to the past decade of American foreign policy,” he writes. “They are retroactively opposing the Iraq War without declaring themselves absolutely opposed to war. They”re asserting a liberal muscularity of readiness to take action in the face of a verifiable immediate threat. They don”t involve the U.N., they don”t invoke diplomacy, they don”t assert a principle of pacifism but affirm a policy of prudent and patient but ready and robust defense.”
9. Back Sony's decision to pull the movie.
This, it must be noted, is not a popular opinion. But there are a few voices out there that sympathize with the studio's course of action, including IndieWire's Tambay A. Obenson, who questions the public's overwhelmingly negative response to Sony pulling the film:
“I think it's easy for those of us not burdened with the decision, to play armchair executives, and chastise Sony for taking the path that it now has,” he writes. “But I also think it's a bit naive, or even arrogant (that old American ego) of us to totally ignore the potential for something disastrous to happen. …Once a 'terrorist' group acts on one threat, you have to, at the very least, consider the possibility that they will act on the second one, no matter how implausible it might seem.”
10. Compare it to Charlie Chaplin's “The Great Dictator.”
Steve Carell, whose own North Korea-set project was canceled by New Regency in light of the “Interview” brouhaha, may have started the ball rolling on this one with his tweet yesterday:
– Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) December 18, 2014
Needless to say, a number of others followed suit including “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin, who proclaimed in a blog post: “The level of corporate cowardice here astonishes me. It's a good thing these guys weren't around when Charlie Chaplin made 'The Great Dictator.' If Kim Jong-Un scares them, Adolf Hitler would have had them shitting in their smallclothes.”
– Edward Anthony Rayne (@rayne_ea) December 18, 2014
– Duncan Lathlin (@MrEMonkey) December 18, 2014
Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film “The Great Dictator” made fun of Adolf Hitler. How was it released? Didn't that make Hitler mad? #TheInterview
– JRehling (@JRehling) December 18, 2014
Then again, it may not be a valid comparison.
11. Hire a HUGE bodyguard (allegedly).
“The Interview” will not be hitting theaters Christmas Day.