Unless you have been actively avoiding the internet, television, news, and gossip from your best friends, you are very aware of the recent attack on Sony that resulted in the leaking of thousands of personal emails written and/or received by Sony staff, personal information (including social security numbers and birthdays) of current and past Sony employees, and even the early release of some of Sony’s upcoming movies, including the highly anticipated musical, Annie. Amid the thousands of emails, various outlets have discovered some pretty damning conversations between some of the higher ups that are borderline racist (at best), disrespectful to the talent that brings in Sony’s revenue, and even conversations criticizing Sony’s own animation unit. Now, after bowing to the hackers’ demands that Sony cancel the release of the upcoming Seth Rogan/James Franco starrer, The Interview, the public has to wonder: How can Sony survive this attack?
For those that have actively avoided the news, a few months back, Sony was warned that releasing the upcoming movie, The Interview, would be considered an attack against North Korea. Why does the country take such offense with the comedy? Well, the movie focuses on two journalists (Seth Rogan and James Franco) who are tasked by the CIA to assassinate the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, and apparently some of the country’s citizens took offense to this plot. Most of the general public laughed this off and Sony, rightly, moved forward with the release of the movie and even gave it a coveted Christmas Day release date, a date that is usually reserved for (assumed) award nominees and/or family films. Since then, things were a bit quiet, then on Monday, November 24, Sony employees were made aware that a vicious cyber attack had taken place when each computer screen flashed the same image:
“We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning,” the message reads, “We continue till our request be met. We’ve obtained all of your Internal data including your secrets and top secrets. If you don’t obey us, we’ll release data shown below to the world. Determine what will you do till November 24 11:00 PM (GMT). [sic]”
The image includes links that, personally, I am way too scared to visit, myself. The group behind the invasion is calling themselves “GOP” or “Guardians of Peace” but in the image they posted, GOP made no mention that The Interview had any bearing on the attack, so Sony was left to wonder. The November 24 deadline came and went with no response from Sony and on December 1, the hackers kept true to their word and began to leak personal financial information of Sony employees. The leaked information kept trickling in and as of today, a little less than four weeks since the initial attack, so much information has leaked about Sony’s infrastructure that the studio may never recover. Some of the more damaging emails have included correspondence between Sony bigwig Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, as they discussed their ideas of President Obama’s favorite movies, which included Django Unchained and Think Like a Man, along with other “black themed” films; insulted stars such as Angelina Jolie (Pascal called Jolie a “minimally talented spoiled brat”) and Adam Sandler (pretty much everyone at Sony hates Sandler’s movies); and even attacked their own animation department, which they have no confidence in. The duo have done their best to weather the storm, both issuing hollow apologies, but all of that is hard to come back from.
The stars of The Interview, James Franco and Seth Rogan, decided to take the attack lightly, and made that clear with Franco’s recent appearance on SNL.
Ironically, it appears that the stars that don’t actually take the leak too seriously are at the heart of the matter. Earlier this week, the hackers finally named the source of their anger: The Interview.
“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.[sic]”
Millions of Americans across the country saw this threat as an opportunity to show the world that we will NOT give in to the demands of terrorists. Still, Sony caved to the hackers’ wishes and made the decision to pull the movie from release after theater chains began backing out of showings. While some may regard this move as a decision that will keep people safe, many feel that Sony made the decision with the hope that pulling the film from release would stop the leak from spreading any further. As a matter of fact, many stars from around the globe have chimed in with respect to Sony’s decision.
Really hard to believe this is the response to a threat to freedom of expression here in America. #TheInterview
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) December 18, 2014
I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview. Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) December 17, 2014
Wow. Everyone caved. The hackers won. An utter and complete victory for them. Wow.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) December 17, 2014
Sony’s decision to pull THE INTERVIEW is unsettling in so many ways. Good thing they didn’t publish THE SATANIC VERSES. — Stephen King (@StephenKing) December 18, 2014
THE INTERVIEW is now poised to shatter the world record for “spite viewings.”
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 17, 2014
While I understand the necessity to pull The Interview, it makes me furious. Free speech is the most admirable tenet in our constitution.
— dax shepard (@daxshepard1) December 18, 2014
And that’s just the beginning. A quick Twitter search for “#TheInterview” will quickly give you an idea of just how big a mistake Sony made with their decision to pull the film. The decision is widely believed to be an act of cowardice that the filmhouse is trying to disguise as an active interest in its audience. Is it possible that there may have been some sort of attack on the theaters that screened The Interview? Sure. However, it’s also possible to have some crazy person attack the audience of a Batman movie, just because they are less than mentally stable. The fact is that an attack against theaters was unlikely and the hackers terrorists that are behind the cyber attack just wanted to play with Sony just to see if they could. In an effort to show the world that Sony is a mere play thing at this point, the GOP have now allegedly sent two separate messages, one public and one private, to Sony with conflicting information regarding Sony’s decision to scrap release plans for The Interview. The public statement read:
“You have suffered through enough threats. We lift the ban. The Interview may release now.”
Aw, such kind terrorists! The private message, on the other hand, reflects a completely different view, and has the group patting themselves on the back while they issue further demands to Sony:
“Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” adding “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.[sic]”
Earlier today, the FBI confirmed that the attack was indeed from North Korea, and President Obama has even discussed Sony’s decision, saying that they “made a mistake”:
“I wish they had spoken to me first. Sony’s a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake”
POTUS went on to voice what has become popular opinion regarding the pulling of the film:
“If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don’t like, or news reports they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others started engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America’s about.”
Well said, Mr. President. For the entire speech, check it out below.
The general public disapproves of Sony’s decision to cave, the talent behind some of Sony’s biggest and best films (as well as talent that was considering joining future Sony projects) now know exactly what the Sony execs think of them and understand that there will be some backstabbing along the way, and Sony has lost tens of millions of dollars learning from these mistakes. With all of the fallout, does Sony have a chance to rebound? It is possible but it will be a long road to get back to the glory they once enjoyed.
Ready for the good news? Considering the fallout they have just endured (and may continue to endure), Sony has been forced to play the ‘good guy’ when it comes to their relationships with other studios. This means that potential deals that may have been dead in the water (Marvel/Spider-Man, for instance) now have the chance to see the light of day. Sony will have to compromise in order to put the studio back in good standing with stars and audiences alike, and that truly gives fans a reason to get excited. No, it’s not good form to rejoice in others’ suffering but considering the studio’s emails, this is one of those times where it’s totally cool.
The iCloud hack earlier this year was embarrassing to the actresses and actors that were the subject of the leak. After all, that leak resulted in the public seeing plenty of nude and/or sexual photos of various starlets (and Dave Franco) that the subjects of those photos did not want you to see. However, while embarrassing, none of the photos were damaging. Even Jennifer Lawrence’s leaked photos, which are definitely explicit, show a woman involved in activities that humans all over the planet also enjoy. It’s been a few months since the iCloud leak and all of the celebrities who were exposed have moved on with their lives without a scratch. The Sony leak, on the other hand, is going to be much more difficult to overcome. Again, it is possible that they can come back but if Amy Pascal had the choice of having her nude photos spread or having these emails between her and Rudin made public, I have a feeling I know which one she would choose. Both leaks are a disgusting invasion of privacy. All of us have written or said things in frustration or annoyance that we would not want others to read or hear; many of us have played up to a boss, even at the expense of insulting a friend behind their back. This doesn’t make Sony an evil corporation – it simply makes their employees human. The racism, on the other hand, that’s a whole other conversation.
We will not know the extent of this attack until it’s finally done and over with which may not be until Christmas (considering the terrorists promised a gift on Christmas) or beyond but Sony can only hope that the worst is over.
How do you feel about Sony’s decision to pull The Interview?