Roger’s Rules

Chalk One Up for the Pint-Sized Despot

Anyone who doesn’t believe that the preposterous can easily cohabit with the malevolent need only contemplate the phenomenon of the pint-sized Kim Jong Un. Team America made hilarious fun of his father, and I was looking forward to The Interview to continue the story. But it looks like I am going to have to wait a while. Sony Pictures Entertainment, in a stunning display of the stuff Hollywood is made of, pulled the movie in the face of blustering threats and the release of embarrassing confidential emails from actors, directors, movie executives and other paragons of coddled self-importance. Variety has the story:

With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview.”

U.S. officials have reportedly linked a massive cyber attack against Sony to North Korea, which is at the center of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy.

“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

The funniest part of that little expostulation comes towards the end: “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”  No they don’t. Instead of standing up for the filmmakers, to say nothing of standing up to the cyberterrorists, Sony caved, as did the movie theaters who cancelled their orders for the film. Yet another reason fewer and fewer people are going to the movies these days.

I’ve heard it suggested that Netflix or some other streaming service make the movie available. I hope Sony will look into that.

In the meantime, it is worth reflecting on this episode.  You can be sure that terrorists and other bullies are doing so.  And here’s a question: what finally made Sony decide on its path of cowardice and capitulation? Was it the defection of the theaters?  Was it genuine worry about reprisals from the brats of North Korea?  Or was it concern about the possibility of more embarrassing email leaks — who knows what indiscreet thing Executive X said about Actor Y, or what Director A thinks about Producer B? Probably all three items played a role, but I’d wager the last was the most important.

One thing is clear: the next time the intimidation will be even more blatant and will concern something you might have thought entirely innocuous.  Maybe it will be a dramatization of 15-time winner of Russia’s Man-of-the-Year contest (that would be the neo-despot Stalin wannabe Vlad Putin), maybe it will be a university course critical of China or Iran or ISIS.  In Hollywood, anyway, intimidation works, capitulation is the name of the game, and cravenness is the default response to any serious challenge.

Update (12/18/14, from Ed Driscoll): An additional article on The Interview in Variety writes that the multimillion dollar project is even further in limbo than initially reported:

Sony Pictures Entertainment has chosen to stand down for “The Interview,” deciding against releasing the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy in any form — including VOD or DVD, as U.S. officials reportedly link Sony’s massive cyber attack to North Korea.

“Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film,” Variety goes on to quote a Sony spokesman in their report.

As for streaming the project in a PPV format, don’t look to industry titan (and co-owner of MSNBC) Comcast for support, despite making other “edgy” political titles available to viewers:

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