My Korean parents react to ‘The Interview’


With all the hoopla surrounding the release of the comedy, “The Interview,” there was no way I wasn’t going to watch the film when it was finally released online a few days ago. But instead of giving you my review, I thought I’d share the reaction to the new Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy by two of the wisest Koreans I know – my parents.

interview1First, some background. My parents are first-generation Korean-Americans who immigrated to the U.S. a little over 40 years ago, a year after I was born. They are churchgoing Christians and generally pretty conservative. They’ve seen their share of American movies, but have never heard of Seth Rogen or James Franco. They weren’t even aware of “The Interview” until Sony’s cancellation of its release made the news. My dad’s side of the family actually is from North Korea, and while he has no love for that country, he was curious how it would be portrayed. So when I told them it had been released online and suggested that we watch it together, they were excited to see it. What follows is a summary of some of their reactions. Minor spoilers ahead:

  • The first scene shows Franco hamming it up as talk show host Dave Skylark. My dad asks me (in Korean) “Who is this joker? He’s a terrible actor.” I answer, “Dad, that’s James Franco. He’s been nominated for an Oscar.” He answers back, “I don’t care.”
  • A celebrity guest on Skylark’s talk show reveals that he’s gay. My mom starts laughing for some reason. Memories of Margaret Cho imitating her mother asking, “Is he the gay?” in a heavy Korean accent enters my mind.
  • Then another celebrity guest reveals that he’s bald on the same talk show and my dad starts cracking up. They’re so weird.
  • Another 10 minutes or so of the film goes by, and my parents have started to snack on some crackers. I hear my dad say, “These peanut butter crackers are really good.” Oh no, are they losing interest already?
  • The sight of a North Korean helicopter with “All Americans should die” written in Korean on its side gets a big laugh out of my parents. Uh oh, I hope they’re laughing because it’s funny and not because they agree.
  • A male character has a huge erection. My mom exclaims, “Oh my God!” while my dad just cracks up. Apparently we both laugh at dick jokes. Yes, we are related!
  • My sister then calls to wish us a Merry Christmas and I’m forced to pause the movie for about 10 minutes. Come on, it’s not even Christmas yet! We’ll talk to you tomorrow. Can we go on with the movie please?
  • Mom asks me, “Did they really film this in North Korea?” Gotta love my mom’s innocence.
  • The main characters visit North Korea and are shown a supermarket full of bountiful food by their escort to prove people aren’t going hungry. Both my mom and dad call BS and say almost simultaneously, “I don’t think so.”
  • A large tiger gets ready to attack one of the characters. Mom lets out a “Oh no!”
  • A character is forced to hide a large capsule in his butt to avoid suspicion from North Korean officers. My parents both laugh out loud. Who knew they’d appreciate a good butt joke?
  • Skylark plays basketball with Kim Jong Un. My dad asks “Where’s Dennis Rodman?” Glad to hear he’s keeping up with current events.
  • Then a sex scene happens. My mom says her second “Oh my God!” of the night.
  • Kim Jong Un and his staff are sitting at a table and smoking cigarettes. My dad says, “Yeah, I heard he smokes a lot.” Time to call the CIA with this intel!
  • A head gets shot off at close range. My mom cries out in disgust, “Gross!”

interview2After the film, I asked them what they thought. They agreed it was very funny and said they enjoyed it a lot. When asked to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, my dad gave it a 7.5 and my mom gave it an 8. Whoa, that certainly was a high score from my super Christian mom for a movie with jokes about erections, feces and homosexuality.

As for me, I too liked the film a lot. I’ve seen all the Rogen and Franco collaborations and am a fan of their adolescent humor. But what I enjoyed most was being able to watch it with my parents. I love them both tremendously and was so glad to be able to spend the holiday evening bonding over immature dick and fart jokes.

Happy holidays everyone!