Eminem, ‘The Interview,’ and the Virtue of Humor

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures, LStar Capital, Point Grey Pictures, Sony
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures, LStar Capital, Point Grey Pictures, Sony

No doubt by now, the holiday patriots have seen The Interview, the political satire about the assassination of North Korea’s supreme dictator, Kim Jong-un. After all, it’s our right as Americans to watch ridiculous movies in which Seth Rogen and James Franco bumble their way into the echelon of American heroism. Yet with all the international controversy that has surrounded the film’s release – from the infamous Sony hack to the hollow Christmas Day bomb threats – and with the patriotic and political associations now tied to The Interview, it’s easy to miss the moral of the film. Yes, The Interview has a moral. And it’s simply this: be able to laugh at yourself.

This message is articulated beautifully in the film’s first set piece, a Skylark Tonight interview in which genius rapper Eminem casually comes out as gay. Arguably the best-written scene of the movie, Eminem’s willingness to mock his hyper-masculine public persona is unexpected, delightful, and admirable. Yes, Eminem’s lyrics are political and offensive. Yes, the issues that people take with his lyrics are valid. Yet for all the faults that we find in his lyrical content, Eminem can never be accused of taking himself too seriously. From “My Name Is” to 8 Mile to SHADYXV, Eminem has managed to keep a sense of humor about himself throughout his entire career. He’s never been afraid to call himself out on his issues, mistakes, and insecurities. More importantly, he’s never been afraid to make fun of himself and laugh. While that’s worthy of our respect, it’s often overlooked when we consider the political and social implications of his music.

On the rare occasion that we compare international relations and the rap game, it’s funny to think about the moves that political leaders and MCs make to prove that they’re the biggest, baddest threat on the scene. What would the world be like if our political leaders and cultural icons were able and willing to call themselves out on their issues, mistakes, and insecurities? If they were able to laugh at themselves once in a while for how ridiculous their behavior and psychology can be? That’s the point of The Interview. We should be able to say, watch, and listen to whatever we want, whether it’s a protest, a ridiculous Christmas comedy, or an obscene rap album. And, along with that, we should be able to laugh at ourselves. The virtue of humor is that it creates common ground between people as it defuses tense situations and makes bearable the darkest, scariest, and most vulnerable parts of our lives.

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