The Interview: Why take Seth Rogen's joke on Kim Jong-un so seriously?

By Hemant Abhishek | Last Updated: Dec 25, 2014, 16:40 PM IST

For Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), it is all about image. In an attempt to build a larger-than-life persona for the world to see and fear, the military leader has chosen to be seen in military fatigues, in tanks, war-room simulations, flanked by his army generals and weapons. When photographed with his country's people, Jong-un is seen smiling warmly while commoners look unnerved (to say the least).

But American actor-filmmaker-comedian Seth Rogen failed to see the scary side of all those photoshoots conducted to portray his 'vision' and 'leadership'. Rogen in the climax of his now delayed film – The Interview – instead chooses to show the North Korean leader's head exploding. Now a common man can take a joke on the chin, but not a military leader who so desperately tries to come across as a 'badass' although his chubby looks would suggest otherwise.

Rogen forgot that the North Korean leader takes himself very seriously and has reportedly executed dozens of officials for watching South Korean soap operas or reading the Bible. Rogen's shenanigans have led to a series of cyber attacks on the producers of the film – Sony Pictures Entertainment  - who balked at the threats and stopped the parody's release. Fair enough. Until the matter was sorted out, this should have pacified Jong-un, but that hasn't been the case.

The harebrained plot of the movie that had been widely called 'bizarre' and 'over-the-top' gave rise to a counterattack that was real, even more bizarre and absurdly over-the-top. Sony Pictures Entertainment's email has been hacked and embarrassing communications involving celebrities has been spilled into the open.

US President Barack Obama stepped in to intervene in the issue that involves States' nuclear-weapons-possessing enemy. Obama has accused North Korea of cyber vandalism and said that his country would respond 'proportionately'. Thankfully, he stopped short of acknowledging this as an act of war. Fair enough.

One would have guessed that the 'proportionate response' could have ranged anything from fortifying US' own web security or releasing Jong-un's less-flattering photos; but we aren't aware of anything of that sort having transpired yet.

In the run up to all this, Hollywood personalities have mocked the filmmakers of being meek. Actor George Clooney, in an interview with the trade site Deadline, urged Sony to "do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I'm not going to be told we can't see the movie." Intellectuals within the US see the censorship as an act of cowardice. They want to see the film, frankly because North Korea forbids them from viewing it. Frankly their response orders from - "You don't tell me what not to watch", to "just because you told me not to, I'll watch it."

Everyone has chosen to over-react and added to the whole mess that this has turned out to be. When in reality, from what we see in the trailers, this isn't even the funniest or the most outrageous of all political caricatures that Hollywood has seen. Certainly the caricatures of Adolf Hitler by Charlie Chaplin

and 'Three Stooges' in the black and white era come to mind. 'The Interview' can't surpass the nonsensical portrayal of a military leader essayed by Sacha Baron Cohen in 'The Dictator'.

All-in-all the entire saga reveals that Kim Jong-un cannot afford to let his countrymen be privy to an American spoof on him. And also that the film's makers - Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg - will hope that the controversy helps them rake in the moolah. And that is of course, unless this triggers a war. In which case, all bets are off.