Kim Jong Un is Glorious Leader Who Knows All (Except the Streisand Effect)

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Sony Pictures has announced that it will be pulling the move The Interview(a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un starring Seth Rogan and James Franco) from theaters before its release because of 80% of theaters around the country announcing they felt uncomfortable showing it. They felt uncomfortable due to threats from hackers. You may have heard about recent documents leaked from Sony. These include scripts for upcoming films and emails between actors and directors. The group that hacked Sony’s computers and released those things are the same people who sent the following message to all theaters who were planning on showing The Interview.

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.

Reading through the broken English it is a clear threat to attack any theaters who would show the movie. It will be interesting to see if there ever is a link made between the hacks and the North Korean government because the US started two wars because of 9/11 and generally doesn’t take direct threats to its people well.

The Interview is a movie that will probably mock North Korea a fair amount, but I find it odd that this movie is being singled out. Years ago I saw Team America: World Police in theaters which had an extremely racist and harsh take on North Korea and former leader Kim Jong Il. There is a theater in the US which was part of the 20% still planning on showing The Interview before Sony pulled the whole movie which is now going to have a free showing and sing-a-long of Team America World Police.[1] I have had the good fortune of going to an Alamo Drafthouse before, and I look forward to giving them more business going forward.

Back in 2003 Barbara Streisand sued a website for 50 million dollars to have a photo taken down off their website. Her house was among 12,000 photos collected to influence California legislature policy on coastal erosion. Prior to the lawsuit ‘image 3850’ was downloaded 6 times with 2 of those being her lawyers. After the lawsuit the image was viewed over 420,000 times in a single month. Attempting to suppress information and the attempt causing the information to become more widely spread is now known as the Streisand Effect. If you’re curious, the lawsuit was unsuccessful and this is the photo.


With that in mind I bring you the following celebrity tweets.

Judd Apatow[2]

This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before. Legally or illegally all will see it.

Joss Whedon[3]

Man, “The Interview” better be pretty funny, cuz there’s no way I’m not watching it now.

Jake Johnson[4]

I’m no expert but isn’t all this really good marketing for The Interview? Who isn’t curious to see it?

Patton Oswalt[5]

THE INTERVIEW is now poised to shatter the world record for “spite viewings.”

Piers Morgan[6]

Has anyone got a hacked copy of The Interview that I can watch & then tweet?

I’m particularly fond of Joss Whedon’s. I’ll be honest I didn’t really plan on watching the Interview. I thought Pineapple Express was ok, I did really like This is the End, but I never saw Neighbors. Nothing in the trailers made me really excited for this movie. On the other hand, if you’re going to tell me I can’t watch it, now I’m suddenly quite interested. As soon as I get a hold of a leaked copy, which I’m guessing will be before Valentine’s Day, I will put up a review on this blog.

Looking at Sony’s decision by itself. Sony is based in Japan, so I guess they feel a more credible threat from North Korea than we do here in the US. North Korea is a nation armed with nukes despite most people being convinced that they have no rockets that could actually carry one any reasonable distance. Pyongyang is 8 times closer to Tokyo than it is to LA, so there is that. I have a feeling a more realistic reason Sony is being sued is they want the leaks and hacks to stop. The leaked scripts are undoubtedly costing the company money. Actors and directors might be less likely to communicate with Sony in the future if they don’t think the correspondence will be private.

There are also two lawsuits from four former Sony employees that have started because of the attacks. Salary details and personal information including 50,000 social security numbers were compromised and the lawsuits allege Sony knew about their digital weaknesses and didn’t do enough to protect employee information.[7] I think this case does have some merit given that Sony has been hacked multiple time over the last decade including a well published 2011 case of playstation network user accounts and information. To venture a complete guess, I’d say Sony is substantially more afraid of the money they stand to lose both in future revenues from contracts and possible litigation than they are of North Korea actually attacking anyone.

There is another question looming in the background of this whole story. Should we be making movies about assassinating foreign leaders? I have no doubt the US would be pretty pissed if any other country made a comedy about assassinating Bush, Obama, or whoever comes next. On the other hand, Kim Jong Un isn’t just a random head of state. North Korea is an inconceivably repressive dictatorship which regularly starves and jails its own people.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but one of the best books I’ve ever read is called Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick. It is a series of interviews with people who have escaped North Korea. Go read it, I’m not kidding. The rest of this piece is much less important than that book.

One story from Nothing To Envy(have you read it yet?) that will always stick with me is from a man who was born and raised in North Korea and was sent to their top university. There he was shown photos of labor protests in capitalist countries and told to be grateful for how amazing it is to be in North Korea where you’re always guaranteed a job and therefor don’t have to strike. The man looked at the photo and saw the protester was wearing a coat with a zipper on it. A zipper is considered a luxury item in North Korea and if this ‘poor’ worker was so well off that they could afford a zipper on their coat then maybe there was something wrong with North Korea.

Picture living in a country in which a zipper is considered a luxury item. That country exists on this planet and is currently headed by Kim Jong Un. It is a country with a laundry list of human rights violations and its leader deserves a great deal  more than comedy movies directed at him.

One of the other celebrity tweets I liked a lot is from Steve Carrell who sent out this photo.

It is a still from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. A movie from 1940 which highly satirized Hitler’s Germany ad the Nazi party during a time when we were still at peace with that country. In the movie the fuhrer is not killed, but is arrested and reduced to being an impoverished vineyard worker because of mistaken identity that puts Chaplin’s character in charge. That same year the three stooges did a bit called You Nazty Spy. I would add that Chaplin did state in his autobiography that he would not have made the comedy if he had known the full horrors of the concentration camps.

I’ve also laughed a great deal at Mel Brooks who has played Adolf Hitler as well as Tomas De Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition. Brooks had a great take on playing evil men in an interview with Salon[8]:

You mentioned the Hitler rap, and there’s another sketch on “The Incredible Mel Brooks” where you play Hitler. You’ve portrayed him often throughout your career. What does it take to play the most evil man of the 20th century?

I don’t know. After all the people that he was responsible for killing and after utterly destroying half the world, I just thought the only weapon I’ve really got is comedy. And if I can make this guy ludicrous, if I can make you laugh at him, then it’s a victory of sorts. You can’t get on a soapbox with these orators, because they’re very good at convincing the masses that they’re right. But if you can make them look ridiculous, you can win over the people. I think that was the thrust of it. I knew I could have fun with him, with his little mustache. I saw Charlie Chaplin do it in “The Great Dictator.” I knew this was it, this was the road, it can be done. Chaplin just showed the way.

There are pages and pages that could be written as far as the value of comedy as a tool for the less powerful to bring the more powerful down. Kim Jong Un is powerful and deserves to be mocked relentlessly especially while there seems to be no other way he will at all be troubled for the crimes he is currently committing. I understand that Sony likely pulled the movie owing more to monetary than safety reasons, but I’m still sad to see it go. If it serves as the start of a discussion about the power and evil of North Korea though, maybe the movie will serve a purpose even if it never sees the big screen.

As always, questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.


2 thoughts on “Kim Jong Un is Glorious Leader Who Knows All (Except the Streisand Effect)

    Jo Gilbert said:
    December 19, 2014 at 4:11 am

    Reed, you are undoubtedly the most gifted writer Ive read in a long time. Thank you for your wit and intellect.

      Reed Perkins responded:
      December 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you both for the compliment and for reading! It has been nice being on winter break from grad school and actually getting a chance to write again.

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