The Interview: Please Watch Responsibly

During his last press conference of the year, President Obama addressed hacks and threats against Sony by sympathizing with the corporation’s predicament while nonetheless condemning its decision to pull The Interview—a comedy about an assassination plot against Kim Jong-un—from theaters, explaining that it set a troubling precedent by promoting self-censorship. When asked whether he would watch the film himself, however, he only replied, “I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.”

That President Obama dodged the question—and continues to do so—should come as no surprise. Distancing himself from the film would be perceived as unpatriotic, with experts like Curt Schilling suggesting that the President should be going a step further by screening The Interview in the White House. Yet others have criticized the film for being racist and excessively provocative while making light of North Korea’s human rights abuses. By framing the film’s release as a free speech issue and refraining from an endorsement of its content, the President has largely stayed above the fray. With The Interview finally streaming online and screening in independent theaters across the country, the film will likely face even greater backlash in the coming weeks, and that backlash will hopefully promote a conversation about Asian stereotypes and what is actually happening in North Korea.

If The Interview doesn’t live up to the hype surrounding it, that hype at least enhances the experience of viewing the film. When trashy talk show host Dave Skylark (James Flacco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) decide to pursue an interview with Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) in an effort to cover something “real” and be taken more seriously, it’s tempting to reflect on how these actors set out to shoot a screwball comedy and ultimately delivered a headline-stealing political firestorm. When Kim tells Dave that hurtful words are more destructive than a nuclear bomb, it’s hard not to think about the real-life dictator hell-bent on preserving his image and keeping this hurtful movie out of theaters. The controversy over The Interview lends every scene more gravity.

Controversy aside, The Interview’s portrayal of Kim Jong-un is easily the most entertaining part of the film. In his free time, the dictator shoots hoops, listens to Katy Perry, and worries about what his love of margaritas means for his sexual orientation. When he declares, “I have a butthole, and it’s working overtime,” you get the sense that every other part of the film’s conception came after this line. It’s a perfect representation of The Interview’s tone and humor. It’s also a reminder of how weird it is that a movie like The Interview could receive so much attention.

While The Interview will probably make it into a few history books, you shouldn’t feel like a special part of history just for watching it. Laughing at the butthole jokes doesn’t make you a better person, even if you laughed at them on Christmas Day. If you see film as your gateway to self-improvement, you should take a cue from the President and start exploring your other movie options.

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