“Understand what is going on right now, because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even paying attention.” — George Clooney on Sony Pictures cancelling The Interview
I hope you were paying attention, though. And I hope you are outraged. You should be.
If our own government tried to squelch our freedom of speech in such a manipulative, terrorist manner, we would react swiftly and strongly. We would be very vocal. It would blow up Facebook and Twitter. People would take to the streets.
Yet we have allowed another government from across the globe to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our own country. And we aren’t reacting all that much.
The whole thing is pretty silly, actually. Sony Pictures produced a film by Seth Rogen and James Franco about two fictional characters who are asked by the CIA to murder North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Let’s be clear about what this is. It’s a MOVIE. Fiction. Make-believe. It’s a comedy, in case you missed it being created by Seth Rogen and James Franco. More specifically, it’s a satirical farce. A story using humor to provide somewhat of a social commentary against a backdrop so exaggerated and improbable that it is obviously fiction. Except Rogen himself has said it was much more of an entertainment piece than any serious reflection on North Korea. Rogen told Good Morning America it’s his job to make people laugh and he acknowledged he gives the public the garbage they enjoy.
Now, obviously it wouldn’t have taken much on the front end for someone to realize this movie would piss off Kim Jong-un. The man is not exactly known for reasonal behavior and rational thought. Nor does he seem the type to enjoy a good laugh at his own expense. But that’s neither here nor there.
I see memes, posts, political cartoons and comments daily that mock and ridicule our own president and our own government publicly. Not for the sake of a comedy that sells movie tickets, but just people expressing their opinion on the leaders we have chosen and the state of our affairs. Those people are exercising their freedom of speech. Their freedom of expression. Artistic and creative license.
If our government shut that down, I don’t think we would stand for it. I don’t believe we would allow our own leaders to keep us
The Bill of Rights
from expressing our opinions. Our country is too firmly rooted in our freedoms, with speech being one of our key cornerstones.
“The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.” The Bill of Rights
So why are we allowing someone’s else’s government to do it? Why are we allowing Kim Jong-un the right to decide what we can watch, what we can hear, what we can write, what we can create? It doesn’t matter that it’s just a movie….it’s the much bigger idea (and freedom) behind it.
Don’t get me wrong–the threat was real. I do not blame the theaters for opting not to show the movie on Christmas Day. I, myself, am planning on going to the theater to watch movies on Christmas Day, and I admit to being apprehensive about what could happen if The Interview was shown. Especially at high-profile theaters. I do not wish for anyone to be harmed over a Seth Rogen comedy.
But to pull the film entirely, to roll over and lie belly up, sends a very dangerous message to those who may disagree with our opinions, our views, our freedoms, our way of life.
We have exposed a vulnerability, and we have set a precedent.
It’s not the first time a book, a movie, or an idea has offended. Within our own society, we have seen protests from Italian-Americans over the Sopranos, protests from Christians over the portrayal of key Biblical figures, protests from a variety of ethnic groups for their representation in the entertainment world.
Protesting is, after all, part of the freedom of speech. We have the right to not purchase the tickets, not read the books, not support the causes of those we disagree with. We have the right to speak out and share our thoughts if we don’t like something.
But hacking into computer systems and releasing social security numbers, personal information, and stolen media property goes far beyond protesting, and that’s without even mentioning the threats against theaters and families and the promise of more acts to come if Sony didn’t back down.
I get that Sony was embarrassed by the emails released. (Hello, Hollywood people! Email 101: It’s in print, and it doesn’t go away. Do not type anything you wouldn’t want the world to read.)
I get that Sony lost tons of money on the leaked releases of Annie, the Bond script, and other projects. That’s just proof that our dependence on the internet and the cloud makes us vulnerable. We need to focus much more energy on measures to protect our information from hackers. (Just ask Target or Jennifer Lawrence.)
The important thing to realize is this is not just an act of terror against Sony and The Interview. It is against us as a people.
Setting this precedent sends the message that we can be intimidated and controlled. Now that it’s gotten results, what makes anyone think these tactics will end with just this one movie being cancelled? Could this not spread to other outlets? Other industries? What’s to stop it?
I had no plans to see The Interview. Quite frankly, the previews looked really stupid, and I’m usually disappointed with Seth Rogen’s efforts. But I strongly believe this movie should be released. I believe the people who made the movie have the right to express their ideas. To share their ideas. I believe that we as American citizens have the right to watch, read, and be exposed to material of our own choosing.
As a writer, as an actor, as a mother, and as an American, I am pissed. I do not want Kim Jong-un, or any government leader–from my own country or another–to tell me what I can read, what I can watch, what I can say, or what I can write.
PLEASE PAY ATTENTION. Do not take our rights for granted. The world around us has changed in this moment, and we must realize it and be prepared to stand strong.
Workers remove a poster for The Interview from a billboard in Hollywood, after Sony cancelled the release of the film. Photograph: Michael Thurston/AFP/Getty Images