Despite Sony having pulled the pin on the release of the controversial satire, The Interview, the film is still, unsurprisingly, causing a fracas. Far from extinguishing the heat in the situation, pulling the film - which depicts the assassination of Kim Jong Un - has left much of America angry that North Korea has been allowed to impose censorship within the United States. Obama called Sony's decision a mistake, and highlighted the problems with letting American decisions be dictated by threats from abroad. These views are incredibly important to our way of life and we do not want to be in a position where one nation can impose censorship upon another. But we could've been a little bit smarter throughout and in doing so, avoided an international incident.
There are so many fundamental issues that should have been considered before the film idea Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg had was even turned into a screenplay. Is it not immoral to be making a film where the central plot line is the assassination of a living person? Irrespective of whether you think Kim Jong Un is a legitimate head of state or not, that question still needs to be asked. I'm all for satire, for making people laugh and for making political statements through film, but there have to be some boundaries.
From a business point of view, it is absolutely remarkable that Sony didn't foresee, from the beginning, problems with trying to release a film with such a controversial central plot line. Maybe they did, and decided to go for it anyway. Either way, North Korea wasn't exactly going to sit there and heartily chuckle along with the rest of the world. Could you imagine any head of state reacting passively to the release of a film involving their assassination? Putin, for example? Worse, could you imagine the backlash from America if North Korea released a film depicting Obama's killing?
The counter-argument is that we shouldn't decide what films we do and don't make - and what we do and don't say - based on the potential for someone to react aggressively. In it's own way that is a form of censorship. But if we wanted to make a political statement about North Korea, I'd like to think it could have been done with a bit more tact.
We haven't just walked into a forest, found a sleeping bear, and poked it with a blunt stick. We've gone for the sharpest stick we could find by depicting the assassination of a head of state. The bear was always going to get angry, and America is now left to deal with the mess.
If you replace North Korea with a fictional country and Kim Jong Un with a fictional world leader, you still have a film pitch with the potential to be incredibly funny, that carries zero risk of inviting serious backlash. You avoid the schmozzle, Sony doesn't lose 40 million dollars and the Obama administration can carry on with business as usual. I'm not saying anyone wanted to provoke North Korea and cause this almighty ruckus, but in future, I'd like to think we show a touch more thought and tact.