On Christmas night, I arrived at the Alamo Drafthouse, a dinner-and-movie theater in Richardson, TX, to find news crews set up outside and in the lobby. Moviegoers enjoyed a drink at the bar and milled around waiting for the 10:15 p.m. showing of The Interview. There were, however, two unusual additions to their numbers: a police officer half-lounging, half-sitting on the ticket desk and watching the room, and a much-photographed cardboard cutout of Kim Jong-Un gleefully holding a margarita against the backdrop of North Korea. He was the man of the hour.
The Alamo is one of a group of independent theaters that helped convince Sony to release the much-hyped movie for a limited roll-out after the major chains backed out of distributing The Interview, scared off by North Korea’s alleged hacking of the studio and threat of violence against theaters who chose to show it. When the announcement came on Tuesday, the Alamo’s site momentarily ground to a sputtering halt as tickets rapidly sold out for all Christmas Day shows.
There was an air of excitement and anticipation in the lobby as showtime approached. Everything had been quiet so far, the police officer said, confirming that while they sometimes help out for special events, police presence is not a usual occurrence at the theater.
Despite the continued—if most likely empty—threats, it has become a point of American pride to stick it to the North Korean dictator by seeing The Interview. The movie’s co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg encouraged this patriotic feeling in a surprise video message to the audience, saying that, if you’re watching this right now, “Then you’re a goddamn fucking American hero.”
The theater broke out into loud applause. “Enjoy your freedom,” Rogen said before the movie began.
And so it is that in trying to suppress this farce about his dictatorship, Kim Jong-Un has helped to honeytrap, or “honeydick” as the movie has recoined it, many Americans into seeing The Interview. Over a special menu of Loaded Freedom Fries, Good Old Fashioned American Old Fashioneds, and The Supreme Leader’s Margaritas, a full theater (although surprisingly with a number of empty seats) spent their Christmas night watching…a very typical, dumb Seth Rogen and James Franco flick.
Yes, our refusal to allow the dictator to win—and maybe the thrill of seeing something that was once off-limits—has led thousands to spend almost two hours, and $1 million, watching an absurd story in which a drug, sex, and image-obsessed TV personality (Franco) scores an interview with the Supreme Leader and gets talked into assassinating him by a hot CIA operative. To a chorus of fart jokes, dick jokes, drugs, sex, and over-the-top scenes of blood and violence, he and his producer (Rogen) accomplish their mission.
The funniest part of the entire affair is that America does not come across as a particularly righteous and powerful nation throughout the film. Of course, Kim Jong-Un takes an image hit as a Katy Perry-obsessed, margarita-drinking maniac with daddy issues. But while the first half of the movie treats him as a serious threat and contains kernels of a smart comedy about the grave issues in North Korea (hunger, concentration camps, and a wide range of human rights abuses) and its threat to the international community, America is always portrayed as a place filled with vapid and incompetent men who cram as much bathroom-humor into two hours as is humanly possible—and who also are apparently considered America’s best hope of defeating a serious nuclear threat. Yes, The Interview is a mockery of the Supreme Leader. But that Supreme Leader should find some comfort knowing that it’s not necessarily a confidence-boosting portrayal of his biggest enemy, either.
“They humanized [Kim Jong-Un] quite a bit,” David Brand, 32, said following the show. “He was a lovable character for a lot of the film. But there was real reason for him to get angry, but at the same time it shouldn’t be the kind of thing that suppresses our freedom of expression over here.”
There were some genuine laughs in the movie and spirits in the Alamo Drafthouse theater stayed high as we gorged ourselves on an all-American fare of burgers and cold brews. There was a general sense that we were part of a moment which, as one audience member said to me, would probably go down in film history.
But as someone who normally wouldn’t have been caught watching The Interview in theaters, I walked out thinking, “Wow, we’ve just been honeydicked into spending Christmas night with Seth Rogen and James Franco.” Yet, like the main characters who realize they’ve also been manipulated throughout their journey to the Hermit Kingdom, I was okay with it. Because, I also walked out of the theater feeling just a little bit triumphant—and grinned widely as my brother and I posed for our very own photo with the Supreme Leader.