Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Contrarian Views About the Interview

Well, it seems that everyone is just hopping mad that Sony has at least temporarily withdrawn their movie "The Interview," a supposed comedy revolving around the murder of Kim Jong Un.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have nothing but contempt for Kim Jong Un, but it doesn't extend to my approving of the Sony Pictures Corporation* making money from ridiculing and pretend assassinating this pathetic jerk.

Well, here is what I haven't heard from all of the people weighing in on this subject today:  Sony is a Japanese company.  The US and North Korea certainly haven't had the most cordial relationship the last few decades, but the history of conflict between Japan and Korea goes back hundreds of years, and includes episodes of barbarism on the part of the Japanese, most notably in the period before and during World War II, for many of which (e.g. the comfort women) the Japanese still refuse to accept responsibility.  This film simply adds insult to some very grave injuries on the part of the Japanese, and (to me anyway) makes North Korea's touchiness on this subject much more understandable.

In any event, the stupidity of basing a comedy on the assassination of a very real foreign leader is pretty monumental.  North Korea responded in an essentially nonviolent way, and to tell the truth, I have no sympathy for Sony in this case.

*Disclaimer:  I feel called upon to reveal that I spent 8 months working on a Sony TV show last fall and winter.  I have also worked on a Judd Apatow movie.  I don't think that has anything to do with the opinions I have about this film, but maybe I'm wrong.  I certainly never felt mistreated on either project, and would be happy to work for them in the future.


Magpie said...

The movie is ‘American’. No one will look at that and say ‘hah! Japanese movie’. It’s American. In English. American actors.

Neither is Sony ‘Japan’, part of the Japanese government or in any way representative or answerable to the Japanese people.

I don’t give a flying fuck about Sony specifically. It didn’t even occur to me till now - in the context of this story - that Sony is a Japanese company, and it still changes nothing.
It’s just a company. To my knowledge no organised mass of Sony employees have ever killed or raped anyone.
It might not have even occurred to the North Koreans.

I have seen government North Korean television programing (yes it exists) that portrays Japanese (amongst others) as universally evil.
Americans too. And my country doesn’t rate a mention. North Koreans are possibly more ignorant of political geography than Sarah Palin, and might assume Australia is part of Hawaii.

They wouldn’t hesitate to make something depicting the killing of a foreign head of state – say Obama. And it wouldn’t be comedy. It would be 1984 style Two Minutes Hate RIGHTEOUS PATRIOTISM.
You and I are imperialist dogs, raping our wives is what our wives would deserve in their propaganda - and what would happen if the North Korean regime were, in some farcical parallel universe, able to achieve their fantasy.

To connect North Korean motivations to Sony being Japanese... to the NK leadership being at all consumed with angst over a 69 years ago atrocity committed against a people the NK regime themselves treat just as bad if not far worse ... is several bridges too far, GE.


Kiichi Miyazawa, Prime Minister of Japan, 1992: "Concerning the comfort women, I apologize from the bottom of my heart and feel remorse for those people who suffered indescribable hardships".

Tomiichi Murayama , Prime Minister of Japan, 1994: "On the issue of wartime 'comfort women,' which seriously stained the honor and dignity of many women, I would like to take this opportunity once again to express my profound and sincere remorse and apologies”

A complete list of Japanese war apologies has its own article on Wikipedia – ‘List of war apology statements issued by Japan’. It’s quite long.

What the current Right wing government of Japan may do is another matter. They’re Right wingers after all, and still far from the worst.
When the Japanese ultra Right (equivalent to say Aryan Nations or some Confederate idiots) have their nauseating demonstrations calling for ill against Koreans within Japan (in the same rhetoric of welfare-sponges that is levelled by Right wing jerks everywhere) the situation actually descends into some violence as Japanese counter-demonstrators take to the street.
Korean culture, entertainment and arts are deeply admired by many ordinary Japanese, who are horrified by what their ultra-Right espouse, and some of whom have the guts to stand up to thugs carrying baseball bats and knives about it, because that’s how deeply they feel.

Said ultra Right, by the way, are measured to represent less than one in twenty thousand people of the general population, often with organised criminal connections – said organisations being at odds with Korean organised crime units that are active in Japan, along with the Triads.

It’s presumably not “understandable” for North Korean agents to kidnap Japanese kids right off Japanese soil to use as language slaves in their ‘intelligence’ service, as they have done, just because the kids were Japanese and some Japanese person generations ago did something nasty to someone who lived in North Korea.
It’s presumably not okay for North Korea to threaten to nuke Japan and the Americans on the bases there every other day, though they can’t actually do it yet.

Nothing that bunch of lunatics in the North Korean leadership do that is illegal is “understandable”. Not even a little. Not a flea’s poo worth. Nothing.

Green Eagle said...

I guess most of my point in this post was that as usual, Americans think everything is about them. My suspicion is that Koreans have far more negative attitudes toward Japan, and with some historical reason. But again, that is not what I was interested here, but rather than in the narcissism of the typical American, who can't imagine that anything is not about them.

And by the way, just because something is unacceptable, that does not mean that it is not understandable. I think, for example, that I understand perfectly well Dick Cheney's love of torture, even though I find it as loathsome an example of human behavior as we could ever hope to see.

So, if you think I was showing undue hostility toward Japan, my hostility was really directed at other Americans- maybe that makes me just one more self-absorbed American too.

Anonymous said...

Where is Harry Truman when you need? him

Magpie said...

“if you think I was showing undue hostility toward Japan”

No I don’t – I just have a few buttons not everyone shares.

A lot of media attention toward North Korea is so entirely crouched in comedic ridicule it almost diminishes how horrible and how savage that hellhole is. So I’m no fan of the concept of The Interview on those grounds. We don’t make comedies about other atrocities-in-motion. I don’t remember seeing tales of ribaldry about Apartheid.

Sometimes people don’t realise what it is they are knocking when being dark about Japan, either. Free, stable, modern, astonishingly liberal, welcoming (up to a point), and - in law and order terms - incredibly safe, statistically. One of the reasons their Right wingers get so much airplay is that free speech is that deeply protected.

SOUTH Korea has had martial law, state-sanctioned domestic assassination, the kidnapping and torturing of non-radical political opposition and the Gwangju massacre within our lifetime. They’re getting there – presently in the Sixth Republic which has been fairly democratic - but they’re not as far along, and Japan didn’t do that to them.

The tensions and animosities with the rest of the region are Middle-east-like in their complexity and depth. The cultural ancestors of Korea and Japan are the same broader civilisation. People often think the worst of people who are actually the closest to themselves.

joseph said...


With all respect (and I am very serious about that), Chaplin made "The Great Dictator" about nine months after the Three Stooges had made a movie mocking Hitler. the Klan became a joke after it became the butt of satirical comics. Sometimes savage humor is the best weapon.

joseph said...


With all respect (and I am very serious about that), Chaplin made "The Great Dictator" about nine months after the Three Stooges had made a movie mocking Hitler. the Klan became a joke after it became the butt of satirical comics. Sometimes savage humor is the best weapon.

Magpie said...

Yeah... fair point Joseph, I'll give you that one.