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The Interview

February 18, 2015

There has been a lot of discussion about Seth Rogen and James Franco’s new movie, The Interview, regarding First Amendment protections and freedom of speech. Funny enough (no pun intended), a heightened discussion of Sony’s perceived negotiations with cyber-terrorists became front-page news. Privately owned movie studios are not responsible for setting or applying U.S. foreign policy, which is the President’s responsibility. It has been observed that certain media outlets and movie studios have protected aspects of free speech and press despite that this is the job of the Legislature. As much as the United States or Kim Jong-Un would like us to believe that the movie is a groundbreaking piece of anti-dictator propaganda… it is just a movie that parodies a current hot-button issue. Sure, it highlights both real and perceived human rights issues, cultural dichotomies, real anti-American sentiments, and a damn good impersonate-Un (pun intended), but all of these topics have already been exhaustively discussed in many documentaries through the years. For a man who reportedly loves so much of what America has to offer, he knew, or should have known that a movie like this would probably be made…if anything, the making of this movie was at least plausible.

This presents an interesting quandary: Why after so many public indictments by the U.S. government and trusted media sources, would Kim Jong-Un decide that this outrageous slap-stick comedy is more deserving of his wrath? The answer, I believe, is that this movie is so well made that Franco and Rogen inadvertently presented an extremely plausible situation where covert agents could infiltrate North Korea and assassinate Kim Jong-Un (a la: Dennis Rodman?).

[Spoiler Alert] A quick breakdown for those of you who do not have internet access, or maybe don’t have a friend with a Netflix account: Seth Rogen produces a nightly celebrity news show called Skylark Tonight, which James Franco hosts.  Tired of reporting on issues like actor Rob Lowe’s hidden male-pattern-baldness, Franco’s character tells Rogen’s character that Kim Jong-Un is a huge fan of the show, and that this would be the perfect opportunity to interview him and subsequently, vault both men into journalistic superstar-dom.  After the FBI learns about the interview, an FBI agent tells them that the FBI would like the men to use the interview as an opportunity to assassinate Kim Jong-Un using a Ricin laced band aid, to be applied when Franco and Un first shake hands.  Eventually, Kim Jong-Un is killed in a fiery helicopter crash due to the ineptitudes of the two “journalists.” 

No matter how you feel about Kim Jong-Un, Franco and Rogen, or freedom of speech, the keyword-takeaway from the movie itself, as well as the ensuing commentaries is: plausibility. From beginning to end and every nuance in between, the movie is a series of plausible circumstances played out in a classic Franco-Rogen-esque style. Take for example the opening scene where rapper Eminem “comes out” as a homosexual on Skylark Tonight.  It is only because of Eminem’s sarcastic and perceived mean-spirited song lyrics regarding homosexuality that make the moment so funny, and subsequently, why so many fans and critics alike actually thought it was a real admission. Perhaps the most telling scene is when Franco’s character dim-wittedly presents a hilariously ridiculous escape scenario to the FBI agents, which comes to fruition and leads to Un’s assassination. 

This plausibility is essentially what has inflamed the passions of the Supreme Leader of North Korea. We have after all, covertly attempted to assassinate the likes of Fidel Castro through covert CIA operations such as Operation Mongoose. We have learned in law school thus far, that knowledge, desire, and apparent ability to effectuate harm are sufficient to make a variety of tort claims, and this situation is no different. I have already dropped Dennis Rodman’s name, and if you were to replace Franco’s character with Rodman (the only American in recent memory to actually be invited to North Korea), what you have is a wholly plausible assassination scenario, not lost on the Supreme Leader. I am not advocating sympathy towards Kim Jong-Un or his seemingly oppressive regime, nor am I vindicating Rogen and Franco from over-lampooning the man, but Chris Rock said it best when discussing the Orenthal James Simpson case: “I’m not sayin’ he shoulda’ done it…but I understand.”

[1] The Interview (Point Grey Pictures & LStar Capital 2014).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.