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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Interview” -- Why not a Parody Like “The Great Dictator?”

I must be the only person outside of North Korea who objects to Sony’s film about a plan to assassinate Kim Jun Un.  I can understand how a comedian might come up with the idea, but I am amazed that the Sony front office bought into it.  Mark Shields, my favorite newsman, defended the Seth Rogen film on PBS, and mentioned Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” as a case in point.  This may be the only time I disagree with Shields and, apparently, with everyone else.  There is a key difference between the two films.  Chaplain renamed the dictator Adenoid Hynkel and changed the country name to Tomania.  This made the film a parody.  Hitler screened it twice but seems never to have mentioned it in public.  If he had mentioned it, it would have been an admission that it was more than a parody.  All Sony had to do was change the name of the head of state and the country – the comic possibilities here are legion -- and it would have become a parody like ”The Great Dictator.”  Everyone, including Kim Jong Un, would have known that it was about him.  North Korea might still have attacked Sony’s computers, but they would not have been able to say anything publicly.  When I first started thinking about this, I was wondering what reactions would have been if the subject of the film had been Obama or Putin or Ayatollah Khameini or Netanyahu.  Fox News would have had a field day supporting free speech for films about the first three.  I don’t know where they would stand on Netyanhu.  While I was rooting around on the internet looking for Nazi reaction to Chaplin’s film, I found that during production the British Government had said they would not allow it to be shown in the United Kingdom.  By the time the film was finished, they were at war with Germany and were glad to have it shown.  Over in Germany Albert Speer said it was the most accurate representation of Hitler ever put on the screen.

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