Thursday, December 18, 2014

Someplace Between Hollywood and Pyongyang


Rogen and Jong-un review script notes between tokes.
This recent debacle between North Korea and Sony Entertainment over what looks like a B movie that entertains the plot of assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has really crossed so many boundaries of discussion, it's hard to pick one.

Cyber-terrorism by hackers who are supposedly members of North Korean elite squad of IP savvy ninjas who cannot only break into a poorly secured network infrastructure of a Japanese gadget company who bought Columbia Pictures to get into the Hollywood business.

How they did it?

Not interested. They waved their fingers over a keyboard at a Linux prompt and magically found themselves at the root drive of all evil.

What they leaked that embarrassed Sony Entertainment executives?

Not Interested. These are Hollywood executives, did you expect any sense of appropriate decorum?

How the now never-to-be-released Seth Rogen movie insulted the regime, or maybe only Dennis Rodman?

And the Dennis Rodman connection still seems to defy the law of socio-political physics.

The first thing that came to my mind as this story broke last week and continued to escalate, was envisioning the author - perpetual stoner Seth Rogen - continually replying to questions and comments from Sony, the media, and the Homeland Security boys in black suites and sunglasses - and likely every friend Rogen ever had with the same answer that is the anthem of every comedian who went too far with a joke or a gag:

"It's only a joke".

When the conversation elevated to the movie being pulled from four major movie chains in the United States after the North Korean Cyber Ninja's eluded to an ability to somehow blow up every theatre that projected the mocked-up Kim Jong-un on its silver screen, then escalated to the movie not being released, and the United States finding itself suddenly involved investigating potential acts of terrorism based on these threats.

"It's only a joke".

This answer implies that no one is ever allowed to be offended by a comedian, as though the joke is a sacred cow not to be judged for appropriateness, but only by how funny it is.

And funny is such a subjective scale. Believe me, people remind me of this on a daily basis.

The decision not to show the movie in theatres was made by the theatre owners. In their defense, I believe it was the responsible decision, no matter how unlikely the realization of such threats may be.

The decision to pull the movie from being released was made by Sony Pictures. This is a business after all, and while it may sound heroic to some, releasing this movie was proving to risk their bottom line rather than show profit. Their stocks rose 3.68% in the twenty four hours following the announcement.

Here is the reality. Kim Jong-un, as cartoonish a buffoon as we westerners may believe him to be – a political reincarnation of a South Korean pseudo-musician Psy in a virtual loop of Gangnam Style, is still alive and the leader of contentious albeit isolated land smashed between China and South Korea with Japan just across the Sea of Japan.

And while other movies have mocked and even killed off living heads of state in the past – as far back as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator from the days before The United States even considered diving into World War II, none of those movie's premise was the direct order of a government to assassinate the offending leader. They didn't even try to parody this leader. Nor change his name. The leader is Kim Jong-un.

And the problem with such ruthless dictators who squash human rights on a daily basis and live in luxury while the population he reigns over is that they just don't have a sense of humor. They certainly can't appreciate a good parody, let alone a poor one likely conceived between tokes.

"But really, it's only a joke".

Joke or not, political affiliations aside, the taste of Rogen's joke is quite questionable.

"Pulling this movie flies in the face of freedom of speech. It reeks of censorship".

Now look. As Voltaire may or may not have said, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it". Well, maybe not to my death, but at least until somebody complains about me.

The fact is, there is no global belief in free speech. Clearly not in North Korea. And when you release a movie for the world to see, you better be ready for the world's opinion.

Because, I tell my daughters several times a week:

You have the freedom to express yourself, and I will stand by you when you do. But that freedom is not intended to protect you from the repercussions of your hurtful stupidity.

And this was just plain stupidity. Hell, damn near bullying.

Try explaining to your twelve year old daughter who sees insults flying on Instagram everyday why its not okay for kids to make fun of an tease other kids in a YouTube video, but it's absolutely fine for a stoner jackass to write a simpleton story about how funny it is to kill another person – a real person who is still alive – and then explain how a major movie studio would see this as entertainment to release to be seen worldwide.

Seems kind of hypocritical – don't you think? Even if the target of the joke appears to be one of the most tyrannical and corrupt leaders currently in power at the time.

If you want to mock an easy target like Kim Jong-un, go for it.

But why should it surprise anybody that the Galapagos-like isolation that this leader contains his countrymen under would have enough peek-holes through his iron curtain to see this film coming. Maybe Dennis Rodman told him, over a beer …

"Dude, you should see this kick as movie they're making about you".

Maybe it was one of his Ninja cyber-punk hackers looking to impress his leader by sending him link to the movie trailer that's been out since Halloween. The subject of the email probably stated "check this out" and in the body of the email the ninja might have stated something like …

"The actor who portrays you doesn't come close to capturing the greatness of your character"

Then below that link is another link to the video about the guy telling the dog he fed his steak to the cat instead.

I can't get enough of that video either.

To me, this is the perfect collision between the two furthest poles on the spectrum of reality: Hollywood and Pyongyang.

And so far Pyongyang is winning.

This isn't about being North Korean and defending your leader, even if done so with a pistol to your head.

And this isn't about being American, and holding the position that you can do anything you want to and how dare anybody challenge you claiming such a stance as "my God-given right as an American".

Wait, yes it is. It's about both these perspectives.

Well, say what you want. You have the right.

But watch out for those that disagree, because they have the right to be pissed off at you for saying it.

But the worst outcome of this circus of the stars is yet to play out.

Because you know, you just know, that Rogen is likely already halfway through writing the screen play about what he perceives to be the most talented writer in Hollywood starting a nuclear war over the brilliant script he wrote about a pompous boy-dictator ruling over the land of make-believe.

And I wouldn't mind receiving a royalty check for that idea.


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