Notes on “The Interview”

Posted on January 3, 2015

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the interview1. “The Interview” stars James Franco as celebrity tabloid TV show host Dave Skylark and Seth Rogen as TV show producer Aaron Rapoport. Their adventure/ quest to become legitimate journalists begins when they learn that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a fan of their show. They are granted a rare chance to interview him. This is an opportunity to which the CIA promptly jumps into–They recruit the celeb tabloid show duo to assassinate you-know-who. The comedy rests in the way these two unlikely assassins try to accomplish their mission using just dumb wit. The movie was released on the last week of December 2014 both in theaters and on internet streaming.

2. It was controversial for its portrayal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. When I watched the film, I saw the depiction of a  sly but Katy Perry-fanboying and margarita cocktail-loving dictator who lives a privileged but lonely existence. The viewer sees the NK leader from an American pop culture lens, which results to interpretations of the leader as girly and possibly gay. I can see how this crude depiction can possibly offend other sensibilities.

3. But still, I found myself laughing all throughout the film. There was never a dull moment. The two lead actors have a comedic chemistry that was compelling and funny enough for me to stay tuned to this almost two-hour movie. I attribute my understanding of this movie’s humor to my steady diet of Hollywood films and TV shows while growing up.

4. I was curious to see the movie because of the controversy surrounding it and because I consider myself as a Koreanist. While I get all the common conceptions of North Korea by the United States, I think this movie actually tells us much more about America than North Korea.

While watching it, I saw the two faces of the US through the characterizations of Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapoport. On one side, there’s the shallow celebrity obsession and media circus that borders on the dumb, as characterized by Dave. On the other side, there’s the conscientious and upright side to America, as characterized by Aaron, as he tries to do the right thing by striving to deliver truthful and relevant journalism to the public and as he tries to follow the CIA’s instructions to a T.

The depiction of NK and its leader may be cartoonish, but the way this movie presents the American face (or faces, as the case may be) clues us in on the inner workings of the American mind. The medium may be pop culture text, but it is precisely this seeming triviality that reveals immensity.

5. It would be interesting to find out other Hollywood portrayals of NK. As a communicator, I believe that what a certain society thinks about another society can be found in popular culture text such as movies. I wish I can find and see more movies on this topic.

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Posted in: Movie Notes