Thursday, January 16, 2014

N. Korea, Skyfall and the art of choice and democracy

An interesting article on the relation of pop culture to democratization. Is pop culture, modern art and speculative literature the perfect approach to addressing totalitarian models? It would not be a perfect process and in a worst case scenario you could emerge with shadow democracies where the people want the trappings of democracy but not the process that builds it. The wealth and glitz, the vice and lack of consequences. But still:

While making Secret State of North Korea for the investigative journalism series FRONTLINE, we found a group of defectors who are risking their lives once again to fight back against the regime of Kim Jong-un. 

As one of the smugglers said: "The men prefer watching action films," Jeong told us in his interviews for FRONTLINE. "Men love their action films. I sent them Skyfall recently. The women enjoy watching soap operas and dramas. The more people are exposed to such media, the more likely they are to become disillusioned with the regime and start wanting to live differently. Popular culture has the most important role in bringing about democracy in North Korea."

The article continued: "In the interviews we conducted for FRONTLINE with more than a dozen recent defectors, a picture emerged of a changing society. Each defector has a story of the moment he or she first saw the outside world in foreign films and television shows; the cars, the tall buildings, the abundance of food and the apparent freedom all made them question whether they really lived in the best country on earth -- as they are constantly told by the regime."

But on the other hand I can imagine it leads to all sorts of darkly comic scenarios:
"You are sentenced to death for illegal possession of White Girls."

"Human trafficking is horrible! You monsters!"

"No. The movie."

"And you didn't even get half of the jokes. Tragic!"
As artists, I can't help but think we have a responsibility to create the best works of art we can, even with our horrors and comedies, because there are people who will be killed for it under the right circumstances. Surely, we are obliged to make some of those deaths for something worthwhile. Another part of me say: It ought to be a riot when they get The Wolf of Wall Street.

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