I had meant to end the year discussing the uncanny beauty of drone photography and the lost vision of utopia, but that will have to wait. Given its remit, this column could scarcely neglect the kerfuffle over The Interview and, almost as important, over freedom itself.
The story as of this writing: Seth Rogen, who has grown wealthy indeed as the earthly representative for Judd Apatow’s trillion-dollar synthesis of the buddy movie and the rom-com, concocts a comedy wherein he and James Franco are bumbling newsdudes who score an interview with North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un. Tasked by the CIA to assassinate him, the duo are rather simply parties to his death, in a manner that analysts have suggested is comedic in a technical sense but not funny. In late November, Sony Pictures, the film’s owner, is hacked by a group known as Guardians of Peace. The usual corporate information appears online. News organizations circulate shocking reports that Sony execs are venal, racist and in bed with the CIA, just like the movie.
Some people argue the breached data should not be disseminated. This is unintelligible as anything other than self-interest or slavish devotion to the sanctity of corporations. In truth, the only good argument against would be a risk of fatal boredom. But the story gets interesting: the hack might source from North Korea. North Korea denies it, though it does aver that the movie seems like kind of a dick move.
On December 16, the Guardians release further information, along with a threat to levy attacks on cinemas that open the film as scheduled on Christmas Day. Three of the nation’s largest chains immediately cave; Sony follows, adding that it has no plans to release the film in any fashion. This causes all manner of moral outrage over what is repeatedly called “censorship.” The idea that a despotic, pseudo-communist micropower or its minions or someone else entirely might set Team America’s cultural agenda is taken to be a threat to freedom.
But then: a last-second reversal. Led by a few independent venues that courageously refuse to kneel before the wrath of foreign powers–slash–peace guardians, the release is back on. Some propose that the whole thing has been a publicity scam, but then publicity turns out to be a mere subdivision of liberty itself. In the words of Seth Rogen, “The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!” This tweet is 139 characters long, which surely explains why Rogen—producer, co-director, writer and lead—omitted mention of how many points he’s getting on the box office.