Sony: Express Less & Learn More About How the World Views America

December 24, 2014 / 1 Comment

Old Greenwich Elementary schoolBear with me for a moment because at first glance you may not think a post about Sony Pictures and the movie, The Interview is about travel, but it is. It is about the metaphorical journey we take as we try to live together on this planet in spite of our cultural and national differences. Or maybe its about why Amy Pascal, Seth Rogan and the rest ought to travel and listen more and express less.

When my son, Antonio was in elementary school, he took responsibility for an act of vandalism in the boys’ restroom. He did not actually do the damage, he told me, but was trying to protect a friend.  When he was disciplined, he complained that since he hadn’t actually been guilty, he should not have been punished. Antonio learned about consequences that day.

The Interview posterIn Hollywood, Sony Pictures should be learning the same lesson in its pitched e-battle with North Korea over the (air quotes here) comedy about the assassination of its leader Kim Jong-Un.


In Kyoto when the Sony Pictures story broke

I was in Kyoto, Japan when this story broke. Sony, remember, is a Japanese company though news reports suggest California’s Sony Pictures is lightly controlled by its Japanese parent.  The headlines at the time were about how Sony chief Kazuo Harai suggested toning down the scene in which Kim’s head is blown apart to minimize the amount of gore.

“In shot #337 there is no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face, and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire, as well as darkened to look less like flesh,”

Sony's Kazuo Harai

Sony’s Kazuo Harai

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal wrote to Hirai in September, according to the story I read in the English language newspaper.

To me, this eliminates any benefit of the doubt I might have been willing to give to famously ham-handed American movie producers that they may have been unaware of how offensive the subject matter in The Interview might be.  Still, acting on the presumption that the U.S. Constitution protects all expression, no matter how offensive it might be, Sony continued with its odious idea for a movie, which is its right.

Granted, in selecting Kim, The Interview’s writers, Dan Sterling and Seth Rogan, certainly did pick one of the world’s least popular leaders. Kim is right up there with Vladimir Putin who all evidence suggests is behind the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 this summer, not to mention unrest in Ukraine. Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan would make the list too for his inability or lack of interest in recovering 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Another repressive regime in Zimbabwe

Another repressive regime in Zimbabwe

The point is that in dozens of places around the world,  despots are doing despicable things. But turning these leaders into comedic fodder centered on graphic scenes of their assassination is going too far. It is just me, or can I have an Amen on this?

I can’t feel sorry for Sony. Knowing the nature of the man they chose to theatrically eliminate, why should it be surprised to be the victim of his vile antics? Poke a tiger, you are going to get bit.

Listen, I love freedom of speech. I understand why so many people are wringing their hands over the Sony Pictures saga. But with freedom comes responsibility. There is a coarsening of dialogue, a vulgarization of speech and entertainment that is growing like a cancer in America. We are causing shock and outrage in many places around the world.

Note that in his email correspondence with Pascal, Harai tells her, the most graphic version of The Interview is not to be distributed outside of the United States. He knows how big is the American appetite for the hard core but that the rest of the world does not share it.

Seth Rogan

Photo courtesy @Sethrogan

Yep, we can say and do what we like protected by our magnificent constitution. But by focusing entirely on what we can do and say we have ignored how our smutty yammering is perceived elsewhere the world and that it might prompt an unwelcome response. North Korea’s is but one example.

I don’t know anything about Hollywood or the creative geniuses behind The Interview; Rogan, Sterling, Pascal, Evan Goldberg and Michael Lyton. But I do wonder how they got to be adults without being taught the simple lesson my son learned in elementary school.

Categories: Asia, Go How Know How, Music, Food, Art and Culture, North America, Uncategorized

One response to “Sony: Express Less & Learn More About How the World Views America”

  1. Paul says:

    Nicely put, Christine!

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