A new film came out recently called "The Interview." Perhaps you've heard of it. I've mentioned it myself a couple of times - once in a serious way, and once in a not-so-serious way.
In case you haven't heard of the movie, "The Interview" is a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, beloved leader of North Korea.
Let that sink in.
Comedies about serious topics are bound to offend someone or another, even if they're done well. The movies "Dr. Strangelove" and "MASH" come to mind.
Well, I've just seen the official trailer for "The Interview," and maybe I'm in a "get off my lawn" mood, but based upon the trailer - which is usually supposed to showcase a film's best moments - "The Interview" is no "Dr. Strangelove" or "MASH."
And yes, if you just watched the trailer, one of the characters hid a missile in his body.
Perhaps it's useful to consider why this promo is being so widely shared, here and elsewhere. Ordinarily, the movie would have opened on Christmas Day, and probably would have been ignored as more Oscar-worthy candidates vied for Hollywood press time. But then, not surprisingly, the North Korean government raised objections to the film. Considering that the film depicted the assassination of its leader, that seems reasonable.
However, the leaders of North Korea are apparently unaware of the Streisand Effect. As I previously noted, the Streisand Effect is the exact opposite of the Scoble Effect (or the Oprah Effect). When Barbra Streisand demanded that a picture of her mansion be removed from public view, the previously ignored picture became very popular. In a similar fashion, every time that the North Koreans pressed Sony and the United States on the issue of "The Interview" movie, it merely brought more attention to the film.
Gizmodo commented on this by posting a picture of Barbra Streisand and Kim Jong Un, along with this comment:
One's an egomaniac whose violent temper and unpredictability strikes fear into the heart of world leaders. The other is Kim Jong-Un. I'm here all week, folks.
(It's a safe bet that Streisand's representatives won't sue Gizmodo over the picture or the statement.)
Of course, things really heated up when someone broke into Sony's computer systems and leaked embarrassing private documents. By that point, everyone was talking about "The Interview," along with the names that celebrities used to check into hotels and one executive's musings about the types of movies that President Obama would like.
And things heated up more when someone (perhaps the same party as the leakers) warned people not to see the movie - a move that caused the major motion picture chains (still smarting from an unfortunate incident in Colorado) to cancel showings of the movie. Within a few short days, Sony withdrew the movie entirely, was criticized by the President of the United States, and then un-withdrew the movie and found alternate ways to distribute it.
The result of all of this? A movie that North Korea didn't really want people to see is now being talked about by a bunch of people - with several results.
First, the movie made $1 million in theaters on its first day, despite the fact that only 331 theaters were showing the film.
Second, the movie was also available via paid digital downloads, unprecedented for a just-released film. In the long run, this could have even greater ramifications than the North Korean objections.
But in the short term, the third result is the most interesting one.
According to Free North Korea Radio, an online radio network made by North Korean defectors, demand for “The Interview” has been shooting up among North Koreans. It says people are willing to pay almost $50 a copy of the movie, which is 10X higher than what a regular South Korean TV show’s DVD would cost in the black market.
So what's North Korea doing? Trying to block the black marketers from getting the film into the country.
Of course, that will make the film even more desirable to those who can't get it. This is something that makes Rich Klein's claims, which sound ridiculous on their surface, sound more plausible.
Think of the movie as Chernobyl for the digital age. Just as the nuclear catastrophe in the Soviet Union and the dangerously clumsy efforts to hide it exposed the Kremlin's leadership as inept and morally bankrupt, overseeing a superpower rusting from the inside, so does The Interview risk eroding the myths, fabrications and bluster that keep the Kim dynasty in power.
Rogen and director Evan Goldberg intentionally did not avoid dangerous content. They could have fictionalized an authoritarian country and an egomaniac leader, they could have played Kim Jong Un as bland and one dimensional, or given him a life-saving epiphany. It would have been safer that way, but not credible, and critics who now see the movie as reckless would have seen a vanilla version as naive and apologist.
Meanwhile, North Korea, while not discussing the movie with its own people, rolls merrily along with its usual diet of Soviet-language influenced press releases.
KPA Taking Lead in Building Thriving Nation (3)
Pyongyang, December 26 (KCNA) -- The might of army-people unity has been fully displayed with the leading role of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in the era of Marshal Kim Jong Un.
Under the slogan calling for helping the people, the KPA has played a key role in building a thriving nation over the past three years.
After receiving the order of Kim Jong Un to build a service complex at a machine factory before the birth centenary of President Kim Il Sung (April 15, 2012), KPA servicepersons devoted their all to carrying out his order.
Kim Jong Un highly praised the soldier builders for completing the complex in time on the highest level during his visit to the factory on May Day Juche 101 (2012).
When the Kaechon and Komdok areas were hit hard by flood in 2012, servicepersons together with the people eradicated the aftermath of flood damage in those areas in a short span of time, demonstrating the might of the revolutionary soldier spirit and army-people unity.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of the army and people, the October 8 Factory took its shape only in 10 months as a model one in the age of knowledge-based economy.
During a visit to a newly-built foodstuff factory in November this year, Kim Jong Un highly praised it as an edifice of patriotic devotion built by the dint of the army-people unity and called upon all the units to fan up the flame of modernization by underscoring the need to follow the work attitude of KPA servicepersons.
The DPRK will surely win the final victory in building a powerful nation as long as there is the KPA which always remain loyal to the idea and leadership of the Workers' Party of Korea.
After reading this press release, and all of the others like it, I almost want to put a missile up my own butt.
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