by Jason Koenigsberg
Sony deciding to cancel the national release of The Interview sets a dangerous precedent. A precedent that transcends art, movies and the Hollywood Studio industry, it sets a bold standard for United States politics. Chalk this up as a victory for the would-be terrorists.
Now if enough people are afraid and the right people hack into the right places the United States will fold and give into their demands. Since we live in a society where corporations are vastly more powerful than the politicians that are supposed to rule over them, we obey the almighty dollar more than the government.
There is no doubt that Sony stands to lose millions of dollars by canceling the release of a major motion picture one week prior to its release date. The fallout could be enormous. Can the cast and crew sue the studio for all the money they will lose based on residuals from the films domestic and international gross?
It is understandable that Sony felt pressure by both ends with the nations biggest movie theater chains like AMC and Landmark refusing to play The Interview so they were bound to lose money on that alone. However with the threats being on the scale of “another 9/11” Sony Pictures was in the unenviable position of being damned if they do and damned if they do not. If they did not pull the film from release and something terrible were to occur, god forbid something like a massive terrorist attack or similar to the event that transpired in Colorado at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in the summer of 2012, Sony would have looked like fools for not preventing the tragedy. Now that the decision has been made to cancel the release of The Interview they look like cowards for giving in to the hackers threats.
The ramifications of this could be enormous. Now if any group wants a film to not be shown they can hire a computer genius to hack into a distribution company’s private information and make blanket threats about what will happen if they do release the picture.
Motion pictures have a long history of bringing about controversy dating all the way back to D.W. Griffith’s 1915 groundbreaking epic The Birth of a Nation all the way up to 2006’s film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code.
Any motion picture depicting Jesus Christ has courted controversy from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) to Martin Scorsese’s exploration of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), which was so controversial it flopped because people were afraid to see it due to the threats that Christian groups were buying tickets and would stab viewers in the theater for paying to see the picture. There were demonstrations outside theaters that played it and people were cutting up the actual canvas screens that played the film. In 2004 Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of The Christ was a huge hit despite the debate of it being anti-Semitic because it appealed to the church going religious right which are usually groups that stay away from blockbuster pictures.
Even Disney has had its share of controversial films from the racist crows in Dumbo (1941) to Uncle Remis singing “Zip a dee doo dah” in Song of the South (1946) that is still so taboo of its depiction of African-Americans it has never been released on VHS or DVD to this day. Even in 1992, the modern Disney animated classic Aladdin Disney faced much controversy due to its depiction of Arab and Muslim culture and even had to change the lyrics to a song because it inaccurately portrayed people of that region as bloodthirsty stating they would slit your throat very easily.
The point of this diatribe is that The Interview is not by any means the most controversial picture ever distributed to mainstream audiences by the Hollywood studio system. In fact it is probably a raunchy stupid comedy that was only pulled due to the fact that its subject matter involves an assassination of real life political leader, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Sony had other options rather than simply canceling The Interview, not releasing it and leaving the pictures fate up in the air. They could have released it and since so many major movie theater chains were refusing to show the film with likely smaller chains to follow suit, it would have lost money but at least it would have been released and people could have sought out the theaters showing it. This way it would have lost money but the American public would still be given the choice to take their chances knowing the threats and go and see the picture. Instead of looking like cowards we would look like we are moving on.
There are few things I hate more than when our government or in this case a corporation takes it upon themselves to protect the American public from themselves. If Thomas Jefferson knew this was happening he would be rolling over in his grave at Monticello. Not only does this decision by Sony make Americans look cowardly, but also it makes us all appear to be little children that need to be protected from ourselves. By denying us the freedom to purchase tickets for The Interview we are being told that we cannot be trusted and one small freedom we have is being taken away. It starts with a small freedom like a movie ticket, but it could snowball to denying us more freedoms that we should never have taken away from us.
The most logical thing Sony could have done is cancel releasing the picture in cinemas and make it available to the American public via On-Demand from their cable provider. They could set the price at whatever they want and people could purchase it watch it from the safety of their own homes. Many independent and smaller releases use this strategy where it is in theaters and available On-Demand or on iTunes simultaneously. They would still make money and people would have the option of paying to see the film. There is no possible way the would-be terrorists can handle that and would not be going into individual homes to hurt people.
Even better would have been if they put The Interview online streaming from the films website for free. Then the studio would lose money but even more people would see it and the controversy would be non-existent.
I can only assume that they chose not to utilize these alternatives not because of losing money but because of fear of more hacking. This was a humiliating experience for the studio heads at Sony and I think they (selfishly) want this to go away as quickly as possible. By not allowing anyone to see the movie at all is the equivalent of if Rudy Giuliani were to say after September 11, 2001, that we should not go to New York City, everyone should just get out, go somewhere else, don’t come to work, don’t spend your money here and stay home where you are safe. He said the opposite because not only did it help New York City, it showed that the terrorists despite our huge loss did not win and that the American people will move on.
In the mean time while the wealthy studio executives wallow in their embarrassment and hope to make it go away and lose money, we the people, are being controlled by corporations because we cannot be trusted to make the right decisions for ourselves and need to be protected from ourselves. This sets a dangerous precedent for us as a nation and giving into would-be terrorists demands. It is not about a movie that might not even be worthwhile viewing; it is about our rights as Americans.