If you watched Stephen Colbert interview Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow last night, on the air, you were probably disappointed. Now, let’s stipulate at the outset that we don’t expect Stephen, whose first goal is to be funny and the other is to maintain his faux right-wing blowhard persona, to conduct a truly probing interview with anyone, especially in a six-minute time span. Still, he didn’t have to be that fawning and seemingly clueless about what criticism of the film and its presentation of torture is really about.
This morning, however, Comedy Central put up online an “extended” version of the interview. When Jon Stewart does this—pretty regularly now—it’s usually just that: some Q&A that continued after the taping for the show ended. But the Colbert/Bigelow was “extended” by restoring a minute or so of parts of the original interview edited for the air.
And it turns out the editors did Stephen no favors in cutting out the questions where he did try, briefly, to “nail” her, as he might put it. Here’s the full interview, with my comments below:
Back to what actually went out over the air last night:
The segment opened with the host suggesting that Bigelow showed up mainly to get the “Colbert bump,” since he called ZDT “fantastic,” with no qualifiers. He then asked why her film had provoked “liberals” so much (he was glad, speaking in his Fox News voice, that it got their “cojones” in a twist).
She replied by calling torture “reprehensible.” Then: This movie was only “the first rough-cut of history.” And she had to compress ten years into two hours but still it could be as “accurate” as a movie can. Colbert pointed out that people don’t read books anymore, so movies are how people will remember history.
Moving on, she claimed the key piece of info in getting Osama was stuck in a file for years—suggesting, falsely, that this is the main point in the movie and deflecting attention from how it shows the value of torture. Colbert then completely missed the boat in suggesting there is controversy over the movie merely because it shows many minutes of torture—not its characters’ reaction to torture, and its usefulness. Bigelow was surely happy with this misreading, and said, yeah, she did not “whitewash history.” And she added, by the way, many other things led to getting Osama.