Thumbs Up for "The Interview"
By David Henderson
Warning: Multiple spoilers ahead. I won’t even try to avoid them.
Over the holiday, I rented the Seth Rogen movie “The Interview” on On Demand. I liked it. I didn’t love it and I could have done without most of the bathroom humor, but there were some serious messages in it. I can see, obviously, why the totalitarian leader of North Korean, Kim Jong-Un, would not like it. But I can also see why various U.S. neoconservatives and advocates of an interventionist foreign policy would not like it. For both sets of reasons, I liked it.
Begin with what I liked about how it portrayed North Korea and Kim Jong-Un. Kim Jong-Un is, plain and simple, evil.
In multiple scenes, there is luxury in the midst of poverty. Everyday North Koreans are notoriously poor and underfed. Kim Jong-Un lives a life of luxury. In one scene, one of the two Americans sent over to assassinate Kim (I’ll call him that for short rather than repeating his name every time) wanders outside the palace and finds that the apparently abundantly stocked supermarket is completely phony.
Throughout, one gets a sense of how afraid people are to contradict Kim. They could lose their lives. Contrast that with here: Any aide to Obama who contradicts him could well lose job but would not lose his life and would not even lose his livelihood.
Now what I liked about what it portrayed about the U.S. government.
First, the CIA comes off as an incompetent heavy. Its goal is to have two amateurs assassinate Kim. That makes zero sense. Which doesn’t mean that it’s implausible. Think about the multiple amateurish attempts the CIA made on Fidel Castro’s life.
Second, in one scene, someone (I’ve forgotten who) talks about how the U.S. government tries over and over to win by killing people and trying to overthrow governments and how it rarely works.
Third, think about how Dave Skylark (played by James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (played by Seth Rogen) decide to try to get rid of Kim: not by killing him but by putting him on the spot in a tough interview that everyday Koreans will see (although I don’t quite understand how they understand English). In other words, the best way to get rid of Kim is to undercut him with information. I’m not saying that this is a sure way. But it certainly helped end totalitarianism in the Soviet Union as Scott Shane showed in his excellent 1990s book Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union.
Fourth, in one scene, one of the good guys (if I recall correctly) comments that it’s alright with Kim to destroy a city full of innocent people in order to accomplish one of his narrow goals. This is obviously a hit on Kim, which puts it in the list of reasons that Kim wouldn’t like it. But for those, say, 10 percent of American viewers who are really paying attention, it’s also a hit on our own government. Think about what Madeleine Albright, then Secretary of State, said when asked by CBS reporter Lesley Stahl, whether it was worth it to kill half a million children in Iraq with the 1990s sanctions.