Kim Jong-un

Is Sony Picture’s movie about an assassination plot against Kim Jong-un in poor taste? It goes without question. Is it inflammatory? Yes. Is the movie grade B material? So says nearly everyone who has seen the movie. So what’s all the fuss about?
Let’s say that Sony produced a movie about an assassination plot against the US President. (Here’s a list published last year: Movies about Plots to Kill Presidents.) Or, let’s say that Sony produced a movie about an assassination plot against a sitting President, our current President. My guess — only a guess — is that, while the subject might delight the 20% hard core Obama haters who form the base of the Republican Party, no major film producer would touch the movie. Politically, it would be unwise.
The fuss, let me suggest, concerns the intimate relationship between culture, power, and social regulation. In communities where individuals and groups overtly regulate the political and the social, taking aim (literally or figuratively) at these individuals or groups is a direct attack upon social and political regulation itself. It is the personalist dimension of the political that we find so disturbing, so unsettling. In a market society, by contrast, where exchange relationships regulate both the political and the social, a direct attack on political power, cultural convention or social regulation feels less threatening. Any credible attack on the market, however, and you would find an entirely different story.
There is an upside to replacing the political and the cultural with the market; the question we have learned to ask and that we do ask without thinking is “How does this effect the bottom line?” But there is also a down side. What does it mean that politics does not mediate our relations with one another? What does it mean that culture has been monetized? (I.e., if a cultural artifact has a sufficient market, we will produce it.) What does it mean that our nation is owned and operated by and for those who have money? And what would it look like if soccer moms and Monday Night Football dads really did govern our nation (instead of the investors and advertisers and media moguls who fill consumers’ brains with trash)?
Social relations in all societies, including our own, are mediated by something. North Korea’s social relations are mediated by centralized, overtly political coercive power; social relations in our society are mediated by cash, which has an even more powerful hold over us because we mistake it for our own free choice.
We naturally feel that the consumer should choose. Political leaders should not dictate those choices. Parody is an important part of political criticism. Which may be the point of intersection between Stephen Colbert, whose departure the Republican base celebrates, and Kim Jong-un, whose departure the Republican base would also celebrate for what I suspect would be identical reasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.