There’s been a lot of talk about free speech lately, and rightfully so: the ability to openly express one’s vision of the world should be a universal, inalienable right that must never bow to the will of zealots or funny-looking East Asian dictators. But in a world where everyone’s allowed to speak their minds, we’re constantly reminded that good taste isn’t necessarily a universally held criterion. Yes, we can poke fun all we want at North Korea’s fluffy strongman (or strong fluffyman?) Kim Il Sung and his insatiable predilection for Cuban Heels and Swiss Cheese, but perhaps there’s just enough ra-ra posturing in Amurka that we can forgo a comedic romp about assassinating a foreign head of state and spreading democracy abroad. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, we’ve actually tried that a few times before with mixed results. No?
Either way you look at it, the fallout from Seth Rogen’s controversial second feature, The Interview, has effectively prepared the world for a cybernetic World War III while giving us a treasure trove of industry chisme that shouldn’t actually surprise anyone who’s worked around the industry. It’s also royally mucked up Sony’s distribution plan for the film thanks to some anonymous bomb threats of questionable credibility called into theaters on the eve of the its release. Nevertheless, slowly but surely The Interview has recouped production costs through a limited U.S. release and robust online sales that certainly weren’t hurt by the international diplomatic crisis tipped off by the film.
And this February 6, Sony prepares to enter phase two of distribution by premiering The Interview in one of the world’s most rabid filmgoing countries: Mexico. Granted, the release will be limited to a modest 200 screens, but it will be interesting to see how Mexican audiences react to a film that undoubtedly hits all the crude, bawdy comedy switches that make local audiences tick, but also reminds a proud nation of 110 million what its like to be on the wrong side of a Hollywood joke.
Yes, thanks to the country’s cultural and geographic proximity to Los Angeles, it’s no surprise that Mexicanos have time and again found themselves on the receiving end of American cinema’s peculiar brand of tasteless humor, and they might actually feel a bit more sympathy for the underdog than Sony expects. Either way, poking fun at Mexico’s own political problems has proven a winning box-office formula that the U.S.’ hopelessly navel-gazing worldview could never hope to match.