People Will Exercise Their Freedom to Not See ‘The Interview’

Now that a few Boston-area theaters will show the film, do we have to see it?


Now that a few Boston-area theaters have announced that they will, in fact, show “The Interview,” the Seth Rogen film about a plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, movie-goers wonder if we’ve regained a freedom we thought we’d lost: to opt against seeing it.

The decision to show the film at some independent theaters comes after hackers launched a cyberattack on Sony and threatened violence against movie theaters that show the film. Major theater chains said they wouldn’t show the picture. Sony then announced it wouldn’t release the movie at all. Some, including President Obama, criticized Sony for ceding their right to free speech in the face of terrorism. “We can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack,” Obama said, “any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.”

Now that you can see the movie in several Boston area theaters in the coming weeks, though … we’re forced to contend with the fact that critics weren’t particularly into this movie before all the hooplah started. (It’s at 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.) As a New York Times editor jokes on Twitter, “Great, now we all have to go see a lousy buddy movie so the cyberterrorists don’t win.”

Or do we? This is far from consensus. The rest of Twitter is making variations on a different joke.

Herein a dilemma: in some sense, we want this movie to be wildly successful, seen by many, carrying far its message that even a schlub like Seth Rogen can assassinate a dictator if he puts his mind to it … or something.

But then, if movie-making is an expression of free speech, then so is movie-going. And Sony’s exercise of its free speech rights has not taken away everyone else’s right to speak … by sitting on the couch this week. As Obama said, “We can’t start changing our patterns of behavior.” If you’re not inclined to see “The Interview,” then fine. They make Seth Rogen films for a reason. A lot of people do want to see them, and now, they can.