Sometimes Western countries show that they are open-minded and progressive, that the people who live there know what they are doing and that the media actually thinks before posting their articles. Sometimes, however, they don’t. Sometimes Western countries are ignorant, failing completely to think of another person’s point of view and making the same mistakes that we are accusing other countries of. This week, the media showed some of the latter.
Seth Rogen and James Franco will star in a comedy film about the assassination of Kim Jong-un, portraying North Korean society in a funny way. In response, Pyongyang released a statement in which they expressed their anger and told the world how strongly they disapproved of this film and the accompanying trailer. This soon led to impressive headlines in mainstream Western media, stating that North Korea was threatening war and in many cases writing opinion pieces that ridiculed North Korea’s reaction. After all, it’s just a comedy, right? Just a joke. They shouldn’t take it so harshly.
That seems to be the consensus in the West, and that shows how terribly ignorant we can be. Let’s just think about it for a moment: this film is going to portray a culture that we know very little about in a way that turns it into comedy, all the while it’s joking about the assassination of an actual living human being. It’s not the assassination of Hitler or Stalin, but of a man who is still very much alive. All this will be done as if it’s a joke, as if we’re not ridiculing a culture and making fun of the murder of a fellow human being.
But we don’t see that. We have dehumanised North Korea to such an extent that we don’t see them as a country with a culture and with people, but instead we see them as one big joke. Just imagine the same thing happening the other way around, like Pakistan making a comedy film about the assassination of Obama. Would we still be laughing? Or would we just casually quadruple the amount of civilians we’re murdering there until there isn’t a single Pakistani citizen left to laugh about it?
Killing people is not a joke. Cultural appropriation is not a joke. We know this, yet we utterly fail to see the parallel. And that is pathetic. It shows an extreme amount of ignorance and closed-mindedness, a way of thinking that so strongly disregards the thoughts and lives of other people that we can only really see our own culture. We are so ignorant that mainstream media such as the BBC and the Telegraph use headlines that don’t even correspond with the actual statement, instead being so exaggerated that you begin to wonder whether these journalists actually read the statement, or whether they drew their conclusions from the first two words.
These things have to stop. I would call for this film to be banned, but that would probably be too big a step for most. We wouldn’t have allowed this for any other culture, but the image we have of North Korea is so dehumanised that banning the film would be impossible. Instead, we’ll start with babysteps. Try thinking about these people who live there. Try thinking about Kim Jong-un’s point of view. Try seeing them as humans, and perhaps, one day we’ll be able to live in a world without such ignorance of other cultures. Maybe we’ll even be able to have rational conversations with them and be able to improve the situation, rather than laughing at them and making things worse. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
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