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Moving to China

Vox Populi

Category: Vox Populi

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“The Interview” is just a film. It has a few laughs, but hardly enough to watch it if there was no controversy surrounding it. 

North Korea complained about America’s ‘cultural arrogance’. They have a point here. This is a film that mocks North Korea, its leader and political system with utter contempt. Rich people making fun of poor people, like in American Idol, is good for a few cheap laughs, but nothing else. It needed a better satirical angle like “Team America”, where the psychopathic (but so lonely) Kim Jong Il, was offset by an equally psychopathic Team America.

The actual interview in this film was disappointing. It was just a soap box used to remind everyone what we already know about North Korea (famine, labour camps, personality cult), with only shallow investigation of America (incarceration rates…is that all?).  So, in one way this is pure American propaganda as fantasy. America triumphs through its use of high tech weapons, sex appeal and the willingness of people to be seduced by its ideals.

If only it was that complex. It’s not. It’s just 90 minutes of dick and bum jokes, some funnier than others. Hollywood must make over a hundred of these films every year, which is why television is a more interesting medium these days. America is a free country, where any subject can be ridiculed or discussed…except China. Just look up the 2012 remake of Red Dawn to see how fearless Hollywood is </sarcasm> There is plenty of talk in China about the power of "soft" culture. Chinese TV and cinema must adhere to strict ideological guidlines. Children must always respect their parents, who must respect their elders, and all must respect the law. It makes for political purity, but dull viewing. America's invincible soft power lies in its unadulterated dick and bum jokes.

This movie would not have been so controversial were it not a comedy. If it were a Tom Clancy style movie, I’m sure North Korea would have rolled there eyes, say some inflammatory things and moved on. By mocking Kim Jong Il, it strikes at every authoritarian regimes fear…the fear of ridicule. “Laughter kills fear, and without fear there can be no faith, because without fear of the Devil there is no more need of God”. This is the line from “The Name of the Rose” that always sticks with me. The Soviet Union collapsed when its citizens no longer feared the government. It’s not just North Korea who fears the loss of fear. Egyptian president Morsi recently jailed the countries leading satirist. 

The interview is very ordinary satire, and is one of the 99% of crap movies Hollywood makes each year.  But every time I see crap like this, it just reminds me of America’s strength - the freedom (and money) to make any rubbish you like. To enjoy “The Daily Show”, “Team America” and “House of Cards”, we need to tolerate and accept movies like “The Interview”…accept it, but don’t waste your time watching it.

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