Left-wing Film Critics Side with Kim Jong-un over The Interview
Imagine a film about obnoxious white American men killing a communist dictator in self-defense and liberating the country, all while being open about their sexual attractions to women. The American left would hate this movie, wouldn’t they?
That’s The Interview, and the Washington Post’s Justin Moyer asks us to imagine how we would feel if someone from North Korea or Iran made their own film about assassinating the American president. Such a film would never come out of North Korea, of course, because it would be censored by Kim Jong-un.
But we don’t have to imagine what would happen if a rogue regime made extremely racist and militaristic comments. A government spokesman for North Korea, while threatening war, said President Obama is “like a monkey in a tropical forest.” Offensive indeed, but Obama didn’t threaten to retaliate with military strikes.
So you can see, the United States is not comparable to North Korea, and The Interview is not offensive just because it includes the killing of a tyrant. But it is bound to offend cultural relativists who agree with the fictional Kim’s assessment that America isn’t much better than a totalitarian state with a 20-year-dead eternal president founded on the idea of racial purity.
Left-wing critics have called the film everything from “awful” (Max Fisher, Vox) to a “racist, piece of sh*t movie” (Aura Bogado, The Nation) and a “dumb, racist, homophobic, misogynistic comedy” (Emily Yoshida, The Verve). It’s a comedy all right, so unbutton your shirt and loosen your belt. Let’s see why the “Progressives” are wrong again.
Is it offensive?
The jokes that make reference to Asian tropes were an easy target for claims that The Interview is racist. Some of those were indeed pointless and obvious (“Me so sorry”). But progressive criticisms go much beyond that. Don’t you know we can’t have a beautiful CIA agent (played by Lizzy Caplan) using her assets to seduce TV host David Skylark (James Franco) into taking part in the mission? Never mind that the incident only portrays Skylark as a stereotypical oversexed man turned stupid at the sight of cleavage, or that Agent Lacey shoots back at him later in the film with the comment that she didn’t get her job because of her looks. No, it is women who are being demeaned here.
So, too, is it considered sexist when Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is shown hanging out with a bunch of bikini-clad beauties. Never mind that Kim uses women for sexual purposes in real life. To portray such a fact, or even to show open displays of a straight man’s sexual attractions towards hot women, is sexist. Of course racism, sexism, and homophobia are "liberal" criticisms of everything, so there’s no need to go over each example.
It should be said, though, that the attitudes of cultural ignorance in some cases displayed by the main characters are reflections of those two characters. They are the host and producer (Rogen) of a low-brow celebrity gossip show. So when Skylark uses the Japanese greeting “konichiwa” to say hello in North Korea, it is reflective of him being a moron.
Does it trivialize North Korean government atrocities?
As the film controversy went viral, we were told in The Atlantic and The New Republic that North Korea “isn’t funny” and we should “stop making fun of” it. No one can argue against the assertion that the government’s human rights abuses aren’t funny (though the government’s laughable propaganda is), but does the film help publicize the problem or trivialize it?
Well, if you read the UN human rights reports that these writers encouraged us to read, you will find it reported that up to 120,000 political prisoners are held in camps that have invited comparisons to the Nazi concentration camps. In the film we hear that there are 200,000 Koreans imprisoned in “concentration camps.” (The 200,000 figure comes from a 2002 report by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.) The film is chock-full of criticisms of North Korea’s government for its human rights record.