A while back, during one of Barnes and Noble’s frequent half-off Criterion Collection sales, a friend on social media snarked, “half off a DVD, or still way more than the cost of a subscription to Hulu, where you can stream every Criterion disc.”
The joke, like much great humor, was equal parts funny and sad. Funny, because it’s true, of course, and reveals something about a society that is slowly but surely giving up on physical media. Sad, because its very truth reveals how much we have lost in the drive to elevate content—digital data, bits, ones and zeroes compressed as much as possible in order to offer cheap and fast downloadability—over every other concern.
There’s a lesson for filmmakers in the fact that Peter Jackson’s best foray into Middle Earth was also his smallest.
So, Sony has pulled The Interview—its upcoming comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un by James Franco and Seth Rogen—due to threats of violence. A bunch of hackers who appear to be affiliated with North Korea warned of a 9/11-style terrorist attack if the release went forward. Many people (including myself) are not thrilled by the development and have called the studio cowardly for kowtowing to a gout-riddled tinpot dictator with a horrible haircut presiding over “a nation of racist dwarfs.”
Others responded, rightly, that Sony and the theater chains engaging in this cowardly behavior would be sued out of existence if screenings went ahead and such an attack were to go down. Jonathan Chait suggested the United States should promise to make whole any organization that was sued as a result of an (incredibly unlikely) attack. That’s not a terrible idea. I’d like to focus my attention, briefly, on this entirely accurate, utterly insane sentence of Chait’s, however:
It has been interesting to watch a number of the people who decried “the fappening”—the theft and release of nude photos of dozens of female celebrities—rally ’round the wagons and defend their reporting on the hacked Sony emails.
After all, we’re dealing with remarkably similar situations. Both the fappening and the Sony email dump have been described by the media as “leaks”—suggesting intent on behalf of some party to the conversations to get the offending documents out there—as opposed to “hacks,” or, better, “thefts.” (Words matter, people.) With the theft of the nude photos, you have personal, private communiques in the forms of photos that were stolen and widely disseminated for little more than the titillation of third parties. The theft of the Sony emails is arguably even more troubling: We have a situation in which private communiques in the form of emails were stolen in order to a.) extort money from a business, and b.) blackmail that business into not releasing an implicitly political document (The Interview, a movie about the assassination of North Korea’s tinpot dictator).
As I noted yesterday, I’m somewhere between ambivalent and opposed to all the reporting on the hacked—hacked as in “stolen,” not “leaked,” as some have described them (words matter!)—Sony emails. On the one hand, Aaron Sorkin comes across as kind of a pompous doof here. On the other hand, he’s right: A group of hackers working for an unknown power (likely North Korea) stole the docs; the hackers then tried to use them to blackmail Sony into not releasing their upcoming comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, The Interview; and, after their blackmail threat failed, they’ve leaked gigabytes upon gigabytes of emails with the intent of embarrassing Sony employees.
Now, the hackers are threatening our very way of life. Our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at the multiplex. Buzzfeed’s Matthew Zeitlin reports the “Guardians of Peace,” as the hackers call themselves, are threatening movie theaters showing the film:
Filling in for Andrew Sullivan, Phoebe Maltz Bovy wants you to know that you should feel bad if you’ve laughed at the “you had one job” meme. It’s a running Internet gag goes something like this: Find something horribly, obviously wrong, and slap the tag “You had one job!” on it. For instance:
Buried in the mounds of juicy, prurient gossip contained in the Sony email hack (not leak: hack*) was this little nugget about the studio’s view of White House Down:
Imagine Moses as a high-level bureaucratic functionary who has a bit of skill with the sword and a petulant, invisible God-child telling him he’s not working hard enough to free his people before showing him up with bloody miracles that make his penny-ante guerilla warfare look like small potatoes. That’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Words fail. Here’s the BBC:
As you may have heard, Sony was recently subjected to a massive hacking attack. Some 40 GB of personal data and emails were stolen and distributed on the web. The most embarrassing details are leaking out in drips and drabs. Producer Scott Rudin has come in for a particularly harsh thrashing, given that he was caught on email cracking jokes about President Obama liking Kevin Hart films (because they’re both black, get it?) and slamming Angelina Jolie for trying to steal David Fincher away from Sony’s long-gestating Steve Jobs biopic.
Now, as you may remember, Angelina Jolie is one of my favorite—nay, probably my absolute favorite—person in Hollywood. So, obviously, #TeamAngie.
However, the idea that these emails reveal some sort of crazy sexist underbelly in the culture at large—the theory promulgated by Jessica Valenti over at that home of reasoned discourse, the Guardian—strikes me as dubious. Here’s Valenti: