It is Moral? — The Interview (2014)

In light of my previous post on morality and the reasonably anticipated consequences of an act, was it moral to make and release the movie “The Interview” (2014), in which the protagonists assassinate the leader of North Korea?

What are the reasonably anticipated good consequences of this movie? It is not a documentary that disseminates truth. It is not a film with high artistic value. Some critics and movie goers found it entertaining and funny; some found it offensive and juvenile.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times reviews the film:

Rarely have so many intelligent people made so many bad decisions about such a stupid movie.

Turns out “The Interview” is basically “Harold and Kumar Go to North Korea,” with an endless parade of scatological humor and homosexual double-entendre jokes, a smattering of political commentary, and have I mentioned it’s just really stupid and at times laugh-out-loud funny?
“The Interview” sticks to the anything-for-a-laugh plan for nearly the entire journey, with far too many jokes about things going in and coming out of rear ends; goofy sex scenes involving Aaron and Kim’s beautiful minister of propaganda (a game Diana Bang); and some Tarantino-esque explosions of violence, with fingers being bitten off and heads being blown off in comically grotesque fashion.

The value of this movie as entertainment is … well, let’s just say limited. Apart from the controversy over the scene in which the protagonists assassinate the leader of North Korea, it might not have been moral to make this movie, due to numerous morally offensive elements in the film. The Internet Movie Database says:

“Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.”

“Profanity 10/10 … Explicit language is used throughout … Blasphemy throughout includes “goddamn”, “God”, and “Jesus” used as exclamations. In some cases, the blasphemies are paired with profanity….”

“Lots of crude sexual references.”

I can’t include the full quote describing the “sexual references” in the film because it is too explicit. I have to conclude that this film is morally offensive, and on that basis it should never have been made. Movies that are filled with profanity, blasphemy, explicit sexual language and scenes, and excess violence are harmful to the minds and hearts of viewers. Entertainment at the expense of spiritual well-being is sinful.

Now suppose we ignore this aspect of the film and consider the scene in which the dictator of North Korea is assassinated in the movie. What are the reasonably anticipated good and bad consequences of putting this scene in any movie?

The movie producers could reasonably anticipated that the North Korean leader and his supporters would be greatly offended. And that nation has nuclear weapons. They cannot put nuclear bombs in a missile, yet, as far as we know. But they have working nuclear bombs. And their leader is not a reasonable or prudent man. He is a bloody dictator with no concern for the common good of even his own people. To deliberately provoke a dictator with nuclear weapons is foolish and dangerous.

The reasonably anticipated bad consequences of such a provocation include a wide range of actions that the leader and nation might take in retaliation for the movie. Although the use of nuclear weapons is very unlikely, it also has very grave moral weight. The less likely a bad consequence is, the lower its moral weight. But this particular bad consequence would cause so much harm to so many persons as to retain significant moral weight despite its low probability. Then there are other possible negative consequences to the movie, including a worsening of diplomatic relations which, combined with other factors, might result in great harm in the near future.

Were there any reasonably anticipated good consequences in the circumstances that would outweigh this harm in the bad consequences? The only “good” is that some persons find the movie to be mildly entertaining. So in the analysis of the circumstances, making and distributing the movie was not moral.

Freedom of speech is limited by the eternal moral law. If any expression of speech is immoral under any of the three fonts of morality, then it is not morally a “right”. The limit to freedom of speech is often expressed in this way: “You can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater.” To do so would cause harm to innocent persons. It is not moral to exercise your freedom of speech if you reasonably anticipated that such an expression will do more harm than good.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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One Response to It is Moral? — The Interview (2014)

  1. Francisco says:

    I have decided not to watch this movie about hate, and the fact that it also contains profanity, explicit sexual content among other immoral things even though it is easily available on cable now, makes it worst. We should be prudent about what we watch or read (Luke 11:34). The media, especially the entertainment business, have become very wicked, greedy, self-centered. The more people get into these type of movies, the more they lose their sense of sin. A falsehood told and repeated many times, may seem as if it has turned a truth; thus, sending people astray.

    Nowadays, it is very rare to watch a movie, specifically a comedy, intended for adults without profanities like before the 70’s. One exception in my opinion is Napoleon Dynamite, which I recommend, by the way.

    I have also decided not to watch any movie from director Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese or Seth MacFarlane, I don’t care how ‘talented’ they may seem, but because of their repeating blasphemies against our Lord Jesus Christ, they have not my support, unless they repent and stop doing those types of profane and offensive movies. They know who Jesus Christ is for us Christians, and yet, they don’t care and keep on mocking and insulting our Lord. They are not ignorant about that.

    Other movies that secular world loves which I have decided NOT to watch are: 40 Year old Virgin (mocking chastity, and therefore, true Christians), Ted (profane), or movies from actor Sacha Baron Cohen (highly profane). I don’t care how ‘funny’ or ‘hilarious’ people say those movies are. Those movies are disgusting to me because I know what they are about before I see them.

    I recommend the kids-in-mind website for people concerned about the content of a specific movie before they watch it.

    Talking about old movies, when they show scenes in a hospital, you can see big crucifixes, our Lady, St. Joseph, and other Saints, Catholic chaplets, but nowadays, nothing of that (or would be very, very rare).

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