Dear Emily Yoshida: Check your Framework
Formally speaking, I am a student of film. And one of the things you learn is that there are many different critical frameworks by which one can assess any given film. Some are more effective than others. Personally, feminist film criticism is my favourite framework, revealing the (usually problematic) politics behind films that might otherwise seem apolitical, or “too dumb” to be considered political films. But it’s not always the best choice, just one of many. Emily Yoshida is not technically incorrect in her criticism. It is true that Rogen and Franco missed an opportunity to sensitively advocate for the oppressed people of the North Korean dictatorship, and they employ problematic politics to make the majority of their jokes. But to argue so, and base your takedown of the movie on that point alone, is to miss the point entirely. It’s poor criticism. Feminism is certainly not the most effective critical framework to employ when critiquing THE INTERVIEW—genre criticism and phenomenology are finer candidates without doubt. There was a goddamned international crisis of the release of this film. Over a buddy comedy. To choose a feminist framework is to turn a blind eye to the film’s biggest achievements. Get real.
Granted, THE INTERVIEW is racist and homophobic. It has (relatively) mild elements of misogyny. More importantly, THE INTERVIEW falls flat on many (but not all) comedic points, which I think is far more important to the analysis of the film (and far more damaging for Rogen and Franco’s careers) than whether or not they were the Noam Chomskys of comedy. They’re not, and never claimed to be. They claimed to be funny people. And they are kind of funny, if lacking in taste and sensitivity. But they’re not as funny being racist and homophobic as they might be if they were a bit more tasteful and subtle, if they had portrayed the people of North Korea as people, rather than cartoons, and if they had been a bit more self-reflective in their story-telling. You can’t justly write off THE INTERVIEW as a shitty movie because it gives your feelings indigestion, although many people will. You CAN, however, write off THE INTERVIEW because it’s not as funny as it wants or claims to be.
If Emily Yoshida or Mary Choi wants to write an academic rant on the crimes of North Korea and the suffering of its people and then set it to film and call it a movie she is welcome to do so. In the meantime, check your framework.