So Now North Korea Decides What Movies We Can See
News spread like wildfire this last week of Sony’s decision to pull The Interview in the wake of threats from the now-confirmed North Korean hacker group, Guardians of Peace (GOP). Celebrities and theater patrons alike have voiced their displeasure with an American movie studio bending to the will of an oppressive dictatorship over 6000 miles away.
After Sony’s move, some theaters opted to replace the controversial movie with a 10-year anniversary screening of Team America: World Police, in a concerted effort to show that not everyone in the industry can be scared so easily. As it turns out though, apparently even a decade-old movie starring a puppet Kim-Jong Il is too much for Paramount, the studio that owns the rights to the film.
Please note: Our Late Shift screening of Team America: World Police has been canceled by Paramount Pictures. pic.twitter.com/TlPVzIeICW
— Capitol Theatre (@CapitolW65th) December 18, 2014
Other theaters are reporting similar cancellations, and now this has officially gotten ridiculous (if it wasn’t already before). While Team America hasn’t been pulled from streaming services, Paramount following suit with Sony is more than a little concerning, especially given the fact that no threats were levied against theaters opting to show the movie. This all started with a studio bending to the will of a terrorist organization and a fascist regime. Now we’re not only doing what’s asked of us, but also trying to anticipate the needs of those who would seek to repress our artistic freedom.
Many have made the argument that this could be the beginning of an age of unrivaled appeasement in the film industry. In 1940, Adolf Hitler was marching through Europe as World War II was in full effect. Meanwhile back in Hollywood, the Three Stooges released You Nazty Spy, a sketch that laid into Hitler and the oppressive Nazi regime, the first ever of its kind. No one hesitated in allowing it to hit the airwaves in a time where Germany was poised to conquer the entirety of Western Europe.
A year later, silent film star Charlie Chaplin starred in his first every speaking role in The Great Dictator, delivering one of the most well-known speeches decrying oppression in film history. Fast forward to today, and we’re watching as studios lose their collective nerve to a military estimated by Global Firepower to be just the 35th most potent in the world (behind countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, and Belgium).
Right now, we’re wading into some dangerous territory as each domino falls. While accounting for the safety of moviegoers may be a priority (although for Sony and Paramount it’s likely more an issue of liability), at some point we can’t simply acquiesce every time a foreign dictator can’t take a joke. What started out as the simple release of a comedy has ballooned into something far more frightening.
We’re not the only ones echoing this sentiment either, as many within the industry have taken to social media to voice their displeasure. Venturing into territory where even the talent responsible for creating the art isn’t happy, the men in suits making these calls have succeeded in making no one who isn’t North Korea happy.
. @JuddApatow I agree wholeheartedly. An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) December 17, 2014
In the coming days, there will likely be plenty of backlash against studios like Paramount and Sony in what’s spiraled into a corporate PR nightmare. It’ll come down to a simple choice for studios: Protect the free speech of your artists, or compromise your integrity as a creator of that free speech. With all that laid on the table, we’ve officially set the precedent for the future of political criticism: Needless to say it’s not a good one.