Hollywood Concedes Free Speech Battle on World Stage

James Franco!

appleseed : apple tree :: The Interview : cyberwar

I had no plans to see The Interview because I lost my tolerance for most R-rated comedies years ago, and the last time I tried a Seth Rogen film, The Green Hornet turned me against it within its first fifteen minutes, and it wasn’t even R-rated. That was before the brouhaha of the past few weeks.

Today Sony Pictures announced it’s canceling the Rogen/Franco flick’s planned theatrical release after all the major chains refused to carry it in the wake of strongly worded orders from our new internet overlords overseas. Even before our normally unflappable cinemas exercised their right to back down, Sony had been suffering through the controversial widespread release of every byte of information ever stored on every computer they’ve ever bought. Movie plans, budgets, salaries, sensitive personal data, candid undiplomatic emails, and zillions of other choice insider tidbits were extracted from behind whatever Sony cutely referred to as a “security system” by the forces of [GLORIOUSLY REDACTED] and dumped on the virtual front lawns of every muckraking internet quote-unquote “journalist” with Wi-Fi access and a dumbstruck conscience. After a long couple of weeks, some anxious Sony elder probably felt the theater-owner dogpile was the last straw, that the lives and livelihoods of thousands of employees were ultimately unfair stakes to put up against a possible gigantic bluff without thousands of notarized authorization forms from said employees, and that The Interview wasn’t worth any more headaches.

Sony is a for-profit corporation, not a ragtag team of do-gooder movie underdogs sworn to uphold their idealistic Lawful Good alignment at all costs. Just the same, it would’ve been awesome and patriotic of them to act like it and release the movie anyway. If we accept George R. R. Martin’s outraged argument that behemoths like Sony could buy and sell tiny Asian countries at will if it suited their interests, and if we accept the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, there’s a school of thought that believes the movie, if released now after all of this, could probably rake in five or ten times its original box office projections and afford to hire elite counter-hackers and armed mercenaries to protect their interests and civilians, albeit probably in that order.

All I know is, all of a sudden I really want to see this crappy comedy on principle.

This is me working through my incredulity, and finding a few others doing the same, on Twitter throughout the day:

So apparently the days of skewering absolutely anything in a movie are over. Suddenly there are boundaries, and we’re raging about it because America doesn’t like being reminded that America is Not the World. And the world has more sacred cows than we do.

Hollywood regularly sneers at important facets of my life, but I recognize it’s part of the American experience, for better or for worse. I don’t support censorship, I boycott boycotts, and I believe I reserve the dual options to ignore or pay attention to artists while they exercise the Constitutionally sanctified privilege to express what they need to express. I sigh heavily and roll my eyes whenever I read clichéd jokes at the Bible’s expense, but it’s a predictable consequence of the free will we were granted, and to a large extent a protected consequence under the Bill of Rights rule of the land.

How, then, do we respond when the threatening calls are coming from outside the house? Sally forth anyway and stand firmly in the face of financial, intellectual, or otherwise intangible danger? Compromise? Go back to using Nazis as the only villains ever? Offer up less incisive political commentary and churn out more low-budget horror films or stoner sexcapades instead? Tell our artists, whether established or upcoming, that they can say anything they want as long as they say it only to or about other Americans?

Meanwhile, I’ve been seeing numerous American responses of “The terrorists won! They really won!” This declaration of surrender seems premature in our fluid, unfathomable, deceptively iceberg-depth digital world. Unless Sony plans to toss all physical and digital copies of The Interview deep into the same bottomless pit that holds Jerry Lewis’ The Day the Clown Cried, in my mind it’s too soon to declare the battle for The Interview over. Granted, the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed Sony isn’t even considering a VOD release, but in today’s world that’s hardly a reason to treat this as The End. Many critics screened it before the plug was pulled, as did moviegoers in larger cities. Not for one second do I believe they’ll be the last humans ever to witness it.

All things considered, I’m not one for movie pirating, but I have a tough time believing that crowd gave up and deleted all their copies out of the same fear. I also won’t be surprised if Sony has a Plan B behind closed doors, assuming they have any safe spaces left that killer satellites haven’t penetrated yet. Then again, I won’t be surprised if Sony really has washed their hands of the whole thing.

I’m curious to see what happens next in this saga, but I’d love it if Sony could make any kind of move here that would surprise me, or the world, or even their alleged wrathful arch-nemesis, [NAME WITHHELD, LONG MAY HE REIGN].

2 responses

    • Thanks. I’ve been grousing about it all day and wanting to say more, but I guess I’d be beating a dead horse since the rest of the internet appeared to be doing much the same. Hopefully any of it does any good…


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