Satirizing Someone Without their Consent? (Case Study: "The Interview" Controversy)

Hello all. Recently, there has been much news about the film The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco and the hacking of Sony by Kim Jung Un’s government. The controversy surrounding this situation has gotten me thinking about this moral question: Is it morally right to make fun of a specific person if that person does not want to be made fun of?

MY OPINION:: No. I believe that it is wrong to make fun of a specific person or group if that person/group does not welcome it. After all, is this not an absolute of humor? Is it not only funny when everyone is laughing? Would you like it if someone made fun of you when you did not want to be made fun of? Is that would Jesus would do? Maybe if that person was a Pharisee, but I am pretty sure Jesus’s attacks on the Pharisees did not involve crude humor and such and they were meant to instruct and not derive malicious joy from.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. But that obese, ignorant, [intellectually challenged] North Korean dictaterrorist is the devil and an enemy to Heaven and America! He does not count as a human being and thus it is morally obligatory to place ourselves higher in the eyes of God to him, to insult him, to desire misfortune upon him, and to make crude jokes against him. In no way do I approve of cults of personality, Communism, radical nationalism, hacking, and constant threats of nuclear war and the invasion of South Korea (Hint: Kim Jung Un and North Korea). I also do not approve of morally offensive humor, blatant sexual jokes, comedy based on perverted views of Christianity, advocacy of recreational drug use, general disrespectful and crude behavior and humor and the like (Hint: Seth Rogen and This is the End).

Before, the inner American within me had trouble containing its excitement whenever a dictator, terrorist, or any other Anti-American is being killed, insulted, and the like. But, thank the Lord, that I have learned that, although I am American, I am first and foremost a Catholic (although I can not say I am perfect). I feel for dictators and terrorists. To me, they are like physically handicapped and terminally ill patients who are in need of the most help but instead are being ostracized and sometimes being snuffed out by others. Dictators and terrorists are just like any other human beings. Although their sin is different than what most of us would get the chance commit, they are sinners just like any of us. They, too, have succumbed to the attraction of sin. They, too, are in need of God’s grace in order to do good and be saved. That is why I feel so bad whenever people rejoice over dead terrorists and rally together to desecrate the images of dictators. I do feel for the people victimized by the terrorists and dictators, but I know that people are praying for those victims and supporting them or their loved ones. But I also know that many people do not pray for terrorists and dictators and are not at all supporting them or those close to them. That is why I find it so disheartening.

I am not saying that we should approve of the actions of terrorists and dictators. I am saying that we should love the sinner and hate the sin. That has been a teaching of the Church for almost two thousand years. But specifically making fun of someone when they do not want to be made fun of is an act of hating the person to me. And this is why I believe that it is unethical to make fun of someone if they do not want to be made fun of even if they are a dictator like Kim Jung Un.

Besides, I personally would not enjoy watching another Seth Rogen film too much after watching This is The End. I would probably watch The Interview if it was a humorous but somewhat serious critique of the North Korean regime and if it contained a respectful plea to Kim Jung Un to change his ways. But, judging by This is The End and trailers for The Interview, I have a feeling that the movie will be full of morally offensive crude humor involving a lot of sexually perverted jokes and “non-constructive” criticism of Kim Jung Un and North Korea.

However, these are just my thoughts. What do you guys think? Please cite the Catechism, Bible, etc. I thank you all in advance. Also, may I invite all of you to think of Seth Rogen, Sony, Kim Jung Un, Korea, and basically everyone involved in this controversy as you say your prayers tonight?

You’re right, let’s be sure and get permission from the dictators and terrorists before we decide to satirize them. And if they don’t like a movie or documentary we are making here in the land of the free, home of the brave, let’s definitely censor ourselves. :shrug:

First of all, thank you for replying to this post. I am glad someone took my question into some consideration. Secondly, I did, indeed, perceive your sarcasm.

I am not against satire. In fact, I thought of several ways to make fun of and criticize the relativistic values of today’s world. I would not ask anyone permission to do that and I should not care how many people I offend. I consider satire and criticism, when done appropriately, to be a moral obligation at times and even an act of love. I am just not sure if it is ethical to make fun of a specific person (image and all) especially if done with the crudeness and immaturity of Seth Rogen’s humor.

May I ask that you give me a serious answer to this question? Like what do the Buddhists think about this?

May I ask you where do you draw the line? Was Chaplin’s satire of Hitler wrong? Team America’s satire of Kim J’s father in North Korea wrong? If anything dictators and terrorists should be satirized even more. The day that cartoonist was threatened for making a CARTOON of Mohammed, every paper in the country should have printed it. Just as every theater in the country should show the interview. This sets a very very dangerous precedent if we in America are not being allowed freedom of expression. It’s called the 1st Amendment.

To Ositokc

If I may comment on the movies you mentioned. I have not seen Chaplin’s satire of Hitler, so I am not in a good position to comment on that. However, I saw Team Americaonce so I maybe in a better position to comment on that. To me, that movie was more of a satire of the Republican party, America, and American Foreign Policy. Yes, it did make fun of Islamic terrorists and Kim Jung Il, but the movie did not really critically satirize them or comment on their actions or beliefs. They were just terrorists and dictators acting like terrorists and dictators. And this brings up my next point.

There is a difference between telling someone they are wrong and insulting that person. And just because we have the legal right to do something, it does not mean we have the moral right. And just because an end is just, not all means to achieve that end are just.

I do not deny that there are many dark deeds committed in the land of North Korea as in any other part of the world. One should not just stand idly by and watch the world burn in sin if one can do something about it. I am not sure what Buddhism teaches, but Catholicism teaches that all correction is to be done out of love for the person who erred. One should not correct someone or point out that they are wrong just to derive malicious joy from it, but it should be done for the good of that person and in hopes that he or she may repent.

I have a feeling that The Interview will not have Seth Rogen saying: Kim Jung Un, my brother, you need to stop what you are doing. I know having that much power is cool and all, but no one really benefits here. Not even you. Your people are starving and you are threatening Nuclear War almost all the time. Please feed your people and check yourself! I do not do this to hurt you or because I find some satisfaction in holding your sin against you, but it is because I care about you and sincerely seek your salvation. Rather, judging by a recently released trailer of the film, I am pretty sure it will be mostly Seth Rogen in his birthday suit telling the North Koreans that they like this or something along the lines of that.

This movie’s end is good. It is a criticism of the North Korean regime and the sins of Kim Jung Un. But, its ends are not just. It would probably make use of crude humor, non-constructive criticism and, admittedly, some bias (its only fair to get the North Korean point-of-view).

Not to mention, the First Amendment may give you freedom of speech, but it does not mean one has the moral right to use it as he or she wishes. Would you find it more moral to say someone is wrong in a mature and civilized fashion or to make use of profanity, crude language, and insults like an internet troll?

In summary, I believe it is ok to satirize and criticize a person’s actions and beliefs as long as consideration of the person himself is taken. Hence, why I believe a satire of Kim Jun Un in the style of Seth Rogen should have some form of consent from Kim Jung Un.

I’ve actually wondered about this too. While I find your argument interesting, I think it is also important to look at the issue of consent here. Namely, does one, by accepting a highly public office, implicitly agree to consent to oneself being criticized, or even satirized? I would say yes. Even in countries where there are tight restrictions on freedom of speech (which I would argue are unjust laws and may be broken in most cases, but that is another matter), one cannot realistically expect to be uncriticized in foreign countries. I think Kim’s objection to The Interview is therefore irrational and unfair, and he should have expected things like this by virtue of taking his office. Also remember that satirization of leaders happens all the time without their explicit consent - there are countless Onion articles and political cartoons satirizing both Kim and Obama, but all of these are based on public actions which they have chosen to do, and of people who have chosen to participate in a highly public office. I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that those are immoral, and that is, in my opinion, at least in part because of the issue of implicit consent.

I suppose I would not appreciate being made fun of, but if I made a habit of acting like a complete idiot at every chance I had to do so, I would not be surprised if someone called me out on it.

This whole issue has me baffled.
Okay, Chaplin satirized Hitler, I presume when we were in a hot war with Germany, which makes the opposition fair game. My dad helped draw anti-Nazi propaganda during the war, stuff which must have been pretty bad because he would never show us, his kids.

But when we’re in a position like we’re in with North Korea, where we have no diplomatic relations with them, and are trying not to provoke an unstable and hostile government, why poke fun at them? We are not drawing cartoons of Mohammed any more because we know what happens to people who do.

I just think that movie is an unwise idea. Especially since not everyone gets American humor. I often don’t get it myself.

I tend to think the most important aspect to the whole “‘The Interview’ getting canned” thing has to due with Sony being a Japanese company and Japan, with it’s historically unpleasant relationship with the Korean Penninsula, being partially responsible for a film about assassinating a Korean political figure could cause an international inciden that Japan really REALLY would not like to have happen.

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