Sunday, August 11, 2019

THE HUNT, or Universal Gives In To Trump

Some years ago, I wrote one blog post and then another about how Sony pulled from release the movie The Interview in which the CIA recruits a couple media personalities to assassinate Kim Jong Un. Now we find ourselves in a similar situation in which Universal has pulled its upcoming film The Hunt, in which rich liberals from the coasts hunt "deplorables" from the heartland for sport, after Twitter criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump.

(Given how the liberals are actually murdering people and I expect the "deplorables" to triumph in the end in typical Hollywood fashion, doesn't this mean the conservatives are the heroes and the liberals are the villains? Given how the main "rich liberal elites" I can think of are Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and other members of Kristol's "new class," wouldn't this be a case of Hollywood taking shots at itself?)

This is even more pathetic and cowardly on Universal's part than delaying The Interview (which was ultimately released, albeit for the most part not theatrically) was on the part of the theater companies who feared being held legally liable if someone did attack a movie theater screening the film and whose refusal to screen the film pushed Sny to delay and limit its release. North Korea has extensive hacking capabilities. It has sent agents abroad to kill and to kidnap people, the Korean community in Japan (where Sony is based) has a significant number of North Korean sympathizers who could cause problems, and in the absolute worst-case scenario, Japan itself is in easy weapons range of North Korea itself. North Korea has shown itself capable and willing of unleashing physical violence on critics abroad, especially in Asia. It's easy to call someone a coward from the safety of the East Coast of the United States; less so when one is relatively close to a country that functions like a real-life Bond villain, complete with participating in actual criminal activity like drug dealing. Although the likelihood of anything significant happening didn't seem particularly high (after all, the movie did ultimately get released and nothing happened beyond whining), at least there was precedent.

Donald Trump, however, is a paper tiger. The US's extensive free-speech protections stop him from preventing the movie from being screened, arresting the creative team or studio bosses, etc. Since The Hunt as far as I know makes no claims against him personally, he cannot sue for libel. He raged and fumed about the book Fire and Fury, threatening to sue for libel, but when the publisher refused to back down and released the book, nothing happened and the book ended up being number one on Amazon for a long time. And although Trump is often accused of inciting violence, no skinhead or red-hat type invaded the publisher's office with guns in the vein of the jihadi attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo in France, nor did anybody attempt violence against Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during NFL games to protest police brutality. The worst I could imagine Trump doing is stirring up his supporters against Sony the way he stirred them up against the NFL and Kaepernick, but between people whose curiosity is roused by the controversy and people determined to see it to spite Trump (something I suspect is far more common among moviegoers than NFL fans who did reduce their football consumption over the issue), I could imagine even more people seeing the movie than they otherwise would have.

(If I were one of the people in charge of Universal, I'd be promoting the hell out of this as "the movie the president doesn't want you to see." But then again, if I get mad or feel threatened enough I can get a bit...abrasive.)

One would hope Universal releases the movie sometime later once the controversy about the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso (another contributing factor, since this article doesn't reference Trump's complaints at all) has died down, hopefully using the controversy to its advantage in a more subtle fashion.

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