“I don’t make the best movies in the world, but at times, I do feel like I’m adding something to the cinematic community.” – Seth Rogen
OK, if you haven’t yet seen “The Interview” and you’re planning on doing so? Do NOT read any further.
We good? Great!
After all the hullabaloo (speaking of which, keep 2D animation alive!) with Sony being hacked and the halting of distribution for the movie, I was glad to be able to stream it.
Look, the movie is really stupid and has some funny moments but it’s in no way a comedy in the vein of “Superbad” if that’s what one is expecting.
Beyond the goofy exterior of the plot there were some good questions being raised about journalism, the lack of (and sometimes willful ignorance) cultural competence and what our real values are.
First off, journalism. It takes some shots at how news has fused into some kind of freakish hybrid that’s blurred the lines between actual news, entertainment and advertising. None of it is wrong, we need to be informed about current events. We need to relax and take the edge off with a little entertainment. Advertising at its best can inform us about products or services we might not have known existed which can hopefully better our quality of life.
What messes it up is when it’s hard to distinguish what we are actually witnessing. It doesn’t just mess it up for us, it actually erodes our trust in the media.
Take a look at advertising. Until the 90’s you could get away with a lot. But gradually people got sick of being sold things in that way.
What do we do now? We turn to people we trust to tell us about it. Friends, family, blogs, YouTubers and so on. The advertisers realized this and what did they do? They turned to those mavens and gave away stuff for them to advertise to their fanbase.
When the public found out we got a little more skeptical towards those sources as well. The next generation of personalized marketing is on its way and we’ll figure that one out as well and so the beat goes on. Done? Yes. Yes I am.
Lack of cultural competence. Now, we don’t need to have prior knowledge of every single culture out there. That’d be an unrealistic expectation. Recently i’ve been enjoying the lectures of Joseph Campbell (you can get them here or Spotify!). For those who don’t know who Joseph Campbell is (I went blissfully unknowing for 28 years!), he was a mythologist who dipped his toes into religion as well. If you’re a creative your bound to learn a thing or two from him. Check out his videos on YouTube!
Sidetracked. What I was about to say about it was that I realized just how little I knew about how much the stories of our ancestors matter in our cultures. By understanding that other people come with a very different set of values and with a certain amount of curiosity about that we can find common ground to work from.
One of the most powerful things I heard was about the difference between hunter/gatherer societies and agricultural societies. We tend to think that the two worlds aren’t all that different. Hunter/gatherers were nomads who valued individualism highly because it takes a very particular set of skills to survive and thrive in that type of community.
Meanwhile, the agricultural societies settled down and valued community higher than the individual. In this kind of society people’s duties were interchangeable in a completely different way.
Now think about it. Imagine the set of values you’d have if you were born into a hunter/gatherer society. What would your aspirations be? What would be your main concerns? How would that affect your opportunities in life? Now, do the same for being born into an agricultural society.
Good! Imagine now that you come across a person from the opposite way of life. What would you have in common? What could you learn from each other? What would be the best way to coexist with these people?
Whoa, too trippy man! Bring it back home!
On to the values! Seth Rogen’s character wants to be taken seriously and that’s what drives his decisions. James Franco’s character wants to do something truly great. It’s easy to spot early on that Seth is going to identify with Sook while James is going to have a lot in common with Kim Jong-un. Just how? Daddy issues.
This is why I think the movie has some value. It didn’t try to be “look at how crazy they are”, it did make an honest effort to give some insight into a society that we, to be honest, know very little about. Kim Jong-un isn’t portrayed just an evil dictator or an affable cutiepie. While the characters are extreme in many ways they also do a pretty good job of conveying a certain amount of humanity as well. Flaws and all.
To be honest, I probably won’t watch the movie again on my own volition. It just isn’t THAT good in my opinion. It did however make enough of an impact on me to warrant this post. Had it not been for all the things that surrounded it I probably wouldn’t have.
The reason this became so important is because of people trying to sabotage and limit art. Also, that companies give in to this type of bullying. In the end Sony somewhat reversed their decision. We should be thankful that they did.
Whether we like them or not movies are a form of artistic expression. However, they aren’t immune to the effects of propaganda, prejudice or misinformation. I’m glad that this movie is something more than that. That it shines a light on just those issues while itself containing a certain amount of each.
I’m OK with that as long as they don’t drag out the “it’s JUST a movie for crying out loud! Don’t take it so seriously!”-excuse.
I’d just like to take a moment and thank the people who made this movie and stuck up for it. It’s important that we continue to support the art and don’t let voices be silenced. We can elect to not watch something but banning it and trying to avoid the debate will lead us nowhere.