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Hollywood, in case you haven’t heard, is a brave place. There’s no adjective the town is fonder of during bouts of self-congratulation. Every film that wanders into liberal erogenous zones of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation is always hailed as courageous, though that’s an odd way to describe material that simply reaffirms an industrywide ideological consensus.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these films are legitimately praiseworthy. I happen to think, for instance, that — unserious and reflexive conservative carping notwithstanding — 12 Years A Slave was actually a harrowing, moving portrayal of the depredations of slavery. But brave? There are few views that command such absolute consensus in modern American society as the notion that the possession of human chattel was a grave sin. The movie wasn’t exactly swimming against the tide.
Now, however, Hollywood has a legitimate opportunity for bravery — and the industry is wilting in the heat. From Fox News:
The hackers behind a devastating attack on Sony are threatening an “11th of September”-style attack on movie theaters showing an upcoming film that pokes fun at North Korea’s communist dictatorship…
In a message emailed to various reporters and accompanying the latest in a series of leaks that have included employee emails, health and financial information, the hackers who call themselves “Guardians of Peace” sent a grim warning to people planning to attend screenings of “The Interview,” even warning people who live near cinemas to leave home, according to a report from Variety.
“Warning…We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to,” reads the message posted on Tuesday. “Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear.”
Silly terrorists. If you really want to cause social chaos, the proper strategy is to not interrupt screenings of a James Franco film.
I have no idea whether The Interview will be any good. Given the talent involved, I suspect that it will be legitimately funny and eye-rollingly sophomoric by turns. But I like the pluck involved in producing a film whose entire premise is taking a shot (literally and figuratively) at Kim Jong-Un and the regime in Pyongyang. That seems like the kind of thing that ought to happen in a boisterous, rollicking free society.
So how is Hollywood dealing with the threat? From ABC News:
Sony has told theaters they do not have to show “The Interview,” after the group claiming responsibility for stealing troves of Sony executives’ emails released a note apparently threatening attacks on the theaters where the movie will be played, sources said.
Wait, what? Am I the only one who remembers that period when members of the entertainment industry were at the forefront of the argument that even the most minuscule change in American life produced by the threat of violence meant that the terrorists had won? And now they’re going to ground because of chest-thumping from a pudgy boy dictator with the Brad Pitt haircut from Fury?
If Hollywood was as brave as its denizens say it is every time the wine is flowing at the Beverly Hilton, wouldn’t this be an opportunity to defiantly declare that it won’t be silenced? To rub the hackers’ noses in the fact that this is how a free society functions? Or is this that kind of “bravery” where you tweak the Southern Baptist Convention to your heart’s content but lose bladder control when you get on the wrong side of anyone with actual power?
Update: Variety is now reporting that Sony has pulled the theatrical release of The Interview altogether. No word yet on whether it will ever see theaters, though the language of the piece makes that seem a distant possibility. From a statement quoted in the piece:
“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” it continues. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
We stand by their right to free expression? Or we stand behind it while it takes three rounds to the chest?