Advertisement

The Kim Jong-il you never knew

A few not unkind words about Kim Jong-il

2 minute read
Quiet on the set!
Quiet on the set!
His body's barely cold, but already I miss Kim Jong-il. Did North Korea's Dear Leader really deserve all those rotten tomatoes we've been pelting him with for the past 17 years?

This thought first occurred to me several years ago, when a nuclear test supposedly authorized by Kim prompted the London Telegraph to quote a political psychologist's instant analysis of this Napoleonic tyrant: "Malignant narcissism, extreme self-absorption, grandiose views, paranoid tendencies and defensive self-aggression."

In short, a fun date.

"Not many have escaped to tell of the habits of the man now the most dangerous dictator in the world," the Salon writer John Gorenfeld framed the issue way back in 2003, "armed with nuclear and chemical weapons, and seemingly touched by madness."

Could this Kim Jong-il be the same despot who boasted that he wrote 1,500 books in college?

After Kim claimed authorship of a 1973 movie-making "instruction manual" called On the Art of the Cinema, the TV writer and comedienne Merrill Markoe labeled him "the Syd Field of North Korea." Very funny. Watch your midpoint!

Ahem. Supposedly, the self-styled Dear Leader once aspired to nurture a nationalistic film industry that would "sway a world audience to the righteousness" of his politics. To that end he reportedly produced some 60 movies a year. Movies of the people.

As Kim himself astutely pointed out in On the Art of the Cinema, "The capitalist cinema, which promotes a few 'popular stars' to curry favor with the audience, is in essence a reactionary art form which reduces the stars to puppets and the film to a commodity. There cannot be a genuine creative spirit, and the beautiful flower of art cannot bloom..."

Although Kim is said to have called for "more cartoons" in his own country, Kim is one of the central villains of an American cartoon: Team America: World Police (2004), the brilliant, darkly humorous, audaciously satiric movie from the creators of "South Park." As an equal-opportunity offender, Team America also demonizes the USA's tendency to gobble up the globe, PAC-man-style, for its own destructive delectation.

Surrender to Kim? Never!

In Team America, Kim's character is portrayed rather complexly: He laments that he's lonely while feeding Hans Blix to his pet sharks. I'm told the film infuriated Kim, who supposedly threatened to sue. He may yet get his wish. Where he's probably going, he's likely to bump into plenty of lawyers.♦


To read a response, click here.

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation