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The Interview Cancelled. And Other Outrages.

If you slept through the day yesterday what you missed is that Sony pulled the Christmas day release of the comedy The Interview (starring Seth Rogen & James Franco) after major theatrical chains refused to show it after mass murder threats on movie theaters showing it. Naturally the outrage machine revved up with infinite "the terrorists have won" responses (from both liberals and hard righters), snarky tweets, and lots of 'what would happen if' warnings and truly unfortunate comparisons.

Response to the removal of the movie registers strongly for future unearned martyrdom / canonization probability which is more annoying than it is terrifying. [More...]



I haven't seen the movie but believing that Franco & Rogen are capable of Charlie Chaplin Dictator level satire is... well, my imagination just aint that strong; I'm only human!

  Among the outrage you can trust there will be a few pockets of more measured 'take a deep breath' responses. (Pajiba has a good round up of celebrity responses if you haven't kept up.)


The issue is obviously complicated from a giant corporation perspective and Sony wasn't in the kind of bind that anyone can probably imagine being in from the outside looking in (and still, not unimportantly, they're trying to come out from under the much more widespread trouble prompted by the hack in the first place). Still, it's hard to sympathisize with their press release which, like an oroborus pretending not to eat itself, moves from facts (you wanted to silence us. we are silenced) to we support our filmmaker's voices! [bold emphasis is ours - ed].

In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.

My quick non-vetted thought was that that they should release the movie immediately for free on the internet as sort of a giant fuck you to whoever didn't want it released but it's unlikely that a studio would have cajones that large and they probably hope to make some money off of the movie at some time. Either that or never release it all in any format and get some sort of giant insurance win.

I keep thinking back to Team America: World Police, a movie I found deeply deeply offensive and have been very happy to not have thought about in many years. It was willing to offend everyone on the planet -- not just North Korea -- and I don't remember this much unrest about its existence? Weird since I haven't seen Rogen & Franco do anything ever with as much blood-drawing bite as Parker & Stone often manage in their comedies.




So, in conclusion --- i should let you talk since i'm not sure what to say -- I will just say that the thing I've enjoyed least about 2014 is the ever-self-perpetuating Outrage Culture of the internet. Everyone is always so angry about everything. Slate even made a nifty interactive to chart the year's DAILY outrages. It's would be enraging if it weren't so exhausting. For the next few weeks, we'll be setting angry outrage aside and focusing on the joy of cinema as we hit the year-end lists. So let's get it all out of our systems now! 

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Reader Comments (27)

i kind of wish the golden globes had nominated it for best comedy/musical, just to make things super awkward

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

This whole thing is fascinating but I can't muster any outrage over it. Sony is in a no-win situation here; if anything more serious *had* happened as a result of this film, people would be criticizing them for greed and hubris instead. Freedom of speech is one thing, but Sony and theaters are businesses and have to worry about PR, risk avoidance, etc. So now they are hopefully stopping any further info leaks while ostensibly putting public safety first - which is a totally understandable, pragmatic solution.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave S

This is the first sensible piece I've read on the whole thing. The weirdest piece I've read on it is that Devin Faraci thing stating that Rogen and his co-director should win an honorary Oscar for the film this year. What?!

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

It reminds me so much of The Satanic Verses in the 1980's though in that case the publisher still printed the book. It seems incredibly wrong-I know hyperbole is so easy to jump into with this sort of situation, but this feels deeply disturbing, regardless of the film's quality.

Par-has the film run in a first-run theater in LA yet? I wonder if some royally ticked off Academy members try that sort of statement.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I'm really shocked it played out this way. Censoring art based on political pressure seems like the sort of thing that only happens in North Korea. I don't know, and maybe this is seeing the past in rose-colors, but I think even a few decades ago, the prevailing idea would be that you stand up to this sort of thing and show the movie anyway.

The Satanic Verses is the obvious example: even if a few people get killed (including at least two of the novel's translators), you don't reward these kinds of threats.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

I love Team America! To bad it didn't get any Film Actors Guild nominations.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTy

Sony's leaks are embarrassing, and has perhaps made the corporation less likable, but we do need to stop blaming them for not wanting to compromise the safety of their employees and patrons. The larger issue at hand here is an American corporation forcibly folding into self-censorship at the behest of a foreign government - which to me is a State Department issue, or at least an MPAA issue, that to my knowledge, has not been addressed. This is freedom, baby! Like Marsha Mason said above, we shouldn't be letting North Korea, or any other country, force their own laws upon ours. It's a foreign breach of the damn Bill of Rights for Pete's sake.

These are issues that aren't solved easily. Give Sony some slack and start realizing that this is an international issue.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Bryan

The Team America comp is really interesting. I think there are a lot of differences. For one, cyber warfare was not the thing it is now, where not only can North Korea wreak havoc on Sony's computer network, but America, just a few years ago, successfully brought Iran's nuclear program to its knees with a computer bug. The world has changed a lot on that front.

Another difference - in 2004, when Team America came out, Kim Jong Il was firmly entrenched as the leader of North Korea. In 2014, Kim Jong Un was, as recently as a month or two ago, subject to rumors that he'd been overthrown in a coup, and even now no one is really sure what the situation there is. In 2004 you also had a very bellicose American government dropping bombs all over the planet and all but daring North Korea to join the party. In 2014, we have a much more even tempered and sensible President who is thankfully more interested in resolving our problems peacefully (for the most part).

And finally - I'm not a Team America fan at all, but at least you can say that its savage satire is directed at pretty much EVERYONE, and while Kim Jong Un is the villain, America's ridiculous self mythologizing hero complex is clearly the actual target. Whatever its merits or flaws, The Interview is explicitly about two Americans going to North Korea and assassinating its leader. That is, or feels to me, very different.

So, at all those levels - historical, political, creative - it just seems like Rogen & Goldberg, and all the Sony executives who were involved in the decision making here, just COMPLETELY misread the world we lived in now. I guess it's too much to say that they should've seen it coming, but really - you make a movie making light of assassinating a deeply insecure, untested, possibly unstable dictator with nuclear weapons, among other things, at his disposal, and think nothing's going to happen? Not saying that's a reason not to make the movie, but it's, you know, kind of a reason not to make the movie.

Sorry for the long post :/

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

It's true that Team America barely seemed to make a dent in outrage. Although, social media changed the game in recent years. 2004 is like another world.

Also, maybe Kim the 1st was more chill about things?

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Team America also had nothing resembling the marketing push of The Interview, which means it kind of came and went without much fanfare. We've been hearing about The Interview, specifically the assassinate Kim Jong-un plot, for almost a year now.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

More importanly, What will North Korea think of 50 Shades of Grey??

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

I am outraged i tell you outraged these 2 are allowed near movie sets.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

I wish there was a major leak of past Oscar ballots. I want to know who got the second spot in so many races (well, mostly best actress).

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

We also need to remember that a threat on a movie theater about a movie, is a threat to every theater goer in the complex, no matter which movie they are seeing. It wouldn't just be "The Interview" with empty seats, it would be everyone. Losing Christmas takings (and the stoppage would begin a couple of days before) could ruin some theater owners as well as seriously dent the prospects of some studios. The decision to pull wasn't just about this one film or the few people who would go see it.

Also, we now have the reality of idiots shooting innocent people in movie theaters. Its not ridiculous to consider an attack a possibility because it has happened. I hate that they had to make this decision but I think they made the right one. What has to happen is to find who broached the threat and take them down. Then release the movie. If anyone was killed or one theater (and who says some nutjob wouldn't take this as his chance to get revenge over popcorn prices) attacked, it would be far more disastrous and irreversible.

I wonder if this really is North Korea or a disgruntled employee as some as suggested.

I like the idea of releasing the film for free on the net.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I obviously don't support censorship but I keep thinking that if North Korea, or any other country, made a movie, even a comedy/satire, about blowing up the head of any living American president, the US government/people would not take it lying down, or just go around "Oh well, free speech!". There's no reason for terrorism/hacking ever, but I keep thinking of that.

I work in high-profile museum in a city that has suffered terrorist attacks before (not in the US) and the other day something happened and I genuinely thought a man was a terrorist and was going to blow up the place. It was terrifying. After that happened my colleagues and I were talking about The Interview and the threats and we all agreed that there's no way in hell we'd ever see this movie in the cinema. I don't care that it means I'm letting terrorists win, but I don't want to risk it (especially for a stupid James Franco movie).

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

The true outrage is that Seth Rogan is still starring in movies. The humanity.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I never thought I'd say this, but it sure makes the Mormon church's reaction to The Book of Mormon look savvy and tolerant (unlike say the reaction to Prop 8).

And this battle definitely goes to North Korea, but I doubt they will win the war. Certainly not the war of public opinion anywhere outside of North Korea.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

I co-sign everything Henry said above, it's not a simple free speech issue. It's unfortunate but there are too many other people involved in terms of theater chains and other films would wind up being affected.

I am dismayed by this but considering they haven't got a handle on the hackers; in terms of who they are, what they are planning, or how to prevent it, not releasing the film is the most prudent thing to do at this point. Sony is lurching from disaster to disaster, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

@Peggy Sue...you're spot on. I think of these things every day, Even if they just released the names of the actresses who came in second. Especially 1950, 1967 and 1988.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

As another year ends, let's remember the real victims of Internet outrage and everything else: well-educated, well-connected white guys.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny

Johnny - LOL. so true. There are plenty of things to be legimitately outraged about. but people pick really weird pinpoints.

December 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I think Roark nailed it- The Interview and Team America differed in the fact that The Interview's main focus is on assassinating Kim Jong Un and, according to articles I've read (which may or may not be accurate), at The Interview's denouement Kim actually IS assassinated.

Another point I thought was interesting- your point that The Interview should just be released for free online may be the only time you and Mitt Romney have ever agreed- http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/18/mitt-romney-tells-sony-to-release-the-interview-fo/

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermatt

I think at least part of the outrage stems from the fact that from everything I've heard from the intelligence community is that the threats have been almost entirely dismissed as not credible. Therefore the decision to pull the film in response to these threats is not based on sound reasoning. And decision-making, especially decision-making on a large scale, not based upon or in rejection of real world facts is actually something worthy of disapprobation.
The quality of "The Interview" or lack thereof is immaterial (I dunno know, haven't seen nor can I now). Whether it's a razor sharp satire that enriches the lives of audiences or a banal series of dick jokes; the decision by Sony and all the various theater chains to shelve the film based on the ramblings of some crank is still deeply disappointing, and yes outrageous.
By the way writing in defense of internet outrage is very, very strange.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

Future "Team America" screenings have been cancelled as well!


December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P.

This is simply poor crisis management on Sony's part. I find the connection to the Internet's outrage culture tenuous at best. At least the Internet is standing up for free expression here.

There is no reason to think that a threat of mass physical violence -- by hackers -- is at all credible. Tell me there aren't death threats that come with just about every movie that premieres, especially after the Holmes massacre.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBD

I have been following this on tech sites and have been surprised that so many entertainment sites are missing something big.
That is the existence of malware that can steal terabytes of data and the administration accounts from a corporation and is not found by anti-virus software. This malware may be in place in other corporations stealing secrets but it has only been exposed at Sony by North Korea's objection to this film. (It may require inside access to activate but an employee might be tricked or bribed or blackmailed.)
People also seem to be ignoring that Sony HQ is in Japan and does not have the same level of defending artistic free speech culture and is just across a sea from Korea.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVaus

A) I think James Franco is quite frankly becoming unbearable. B) The movie looked horrible and incredibly unfunny anyway. C) You can't make a movie about KILLING THE DICTATOR OF NORTH KOREA (um, hello, NORTH KOREA) and not expect NORTH KOREA to have a problem with it.

I think everything that has happened is deserved. Obviously in a perfect world this wouldn't happen, but in a perfect world, North Korea wouldn't exist in the way that it does, and movies about countries like that wouldn't have to be made anyway. And in a perfect world we wouldn't be subjected to awful comedies either.

Even if you don't agree that it's deserved, it was obviously to be expected. I think everyone behind this movie is kind of an idiot honestly.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

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