GOOD

The Real Loser of The Interview Debacle Was You

One comedy writer on a week in which funny business became serious business

When the news began breaking that Sony was being threatened by North Korean hackers over its Seth-Rogen-and-James-Franco-starring, North-Korean-leader-assassinating comedy The Interview, I had one thought: “This is James Franco’s best performance art piece yet.”

And then the seemingly unthinkable happened: Sony actually pulled the film from theaters. To a movie studio, that’s a full-on financial surrender. The impact was immediate, and widely reported on. Sony would lose tens of millions. Filmgoers would miss a highly anticipated comedy with two huge stars. And the U.S. was suddenly finding itself “negotiating with terrorists” in arguably the weirdest way in its history.


But beyond these first-blush costs, The Interview cancellation has deeper, more alarming consequences for all of us. That’s because it exacerbates several negative trends. First and foremost, it erodes confidence in one of the last remaining, truly public spaces. Movie theaters are one of the few remaining places strangers from every social stratum gather to laugh, cry, and pay $18 for a box of Jujubes. Scaring people away from theaters only furthers our already increasing tendency to stay at home and get our entertainment there. Going to the movies, their artistic merits aside, act as a psychological balm for our real-world fears of terrorism and international calamity. Whether it’s Liam Neeson having yet something else taken from him, or the latest tights-clad superhero facing a global menace, at movies we can dream of “our side” winning alongside the members of our “team.” With a big source of that solace rattled, will we start channeling those anxieties elsewhere? The makers of Xanax certainly hope so.

From a creative standpoint, the hackers’ blow does no favors for the already-uphill battle for originality in Hollywood. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen The Interview (and not just due to my undying adoration of our Dear Leader Kim if he’s reading this), but I do know the screenwriter, and his work is brilliant and original. So here’s yet another shame: The North Korean gambit will rattle an already highly risk-averse Hollywood into steering even further into its formula of familiarity: remakes, reboots, and franchises. Although maybe this problem could contain its own solution: Six years from now, maybe Sony will be ready to make a remake of The Interview?

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]A week ago, our culture was consumed with gossip about misbehaving Sony executives sending petty emails to one another. Today, we’re all thinking about other countries and a globe filled with conflicts in need of solving.[/quote]

If a big-budget movie disappears and nobody sees it, can it still have a Hollywood ending? Not likely, but perhaps there are a few positive things that could emerge from the brouhaha—that is, if we are prepared to take advantage.

For one thing, The Interview backlash illustrates the real world impact of pop culture more than any film since 1997’s Wag the Dog. A week ago, our culture was consumed with gossip about misbehaving Sony executives sending petty emails to one another. Today, we’re all thinking about other countries and a globe filled with conflicts in need of solving.

And across social media, I have seen countless critics, celebrities, and spambots on Twitter unanimously assailing Sony’s cancellation and leaping to the filmmakers’ defense. Even the snarkiest of hipsters who wouldn’t be caught dead in a theater for a major studio release are feeling the sting of free expression curtailed and are speaking up about it. That kind of outrage can be inspiring to both artists and the public and I look forward to what kind of ballsy art emerges from it. Or at the very least, a rash of indie projects about short, fat, giant-ladies-sunglass-wearing dictators. And who knows—maybe in one of these he really will be played by James Franco?

Features
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics