“Sure, he's a brutal dictator responsible for incomprehensible suffering, but what's really bad is Kim Jong Un's taste in TV and music!” That's most of Kim's humiliation at the hands of The Interview. The Sony hack? The film's status as international incident? These are the effects of a movie whose central joke boils down to the affront of suggesting that the dictator likes The Big Bang Theory and Katy Perry. At some point during the Cold War, we began to laugh at Soviets (real and imaginary) who loved American culture, but enjoyed it in unrefined ways.
Laughing at those who misappropriate a dominant culture has deeper roots – certainly, Amos and Andy played on this theme as did Uncle Josh at the Motion Picture Show (Edwin S. Porter, 1902). But by the late-70s, Westerners seemed to look more explicitly across international borders as they subtly looked down on the reported Soviet obsession with blue jeans and laughed aloud at the Czech emigrant “Wild and Crazy Guys.” While Soviets were a prime target, this type of joke was never entirely limited to Eastern Europeans: Germans love Hasselhoff and French love Jerry Lewis, and post-9/11 comedies gave similar treatment to Middle Easterners, Muslims, and terrorists. From the perspective of a nation that exports more media than it imports, we can rest assured that our culture is superior.
In a blatant contradiction, the particular angle of The Interview's joke suggests that, unlike foreigners, we can tell that most of our superior pop culture is still shit. We can hardly blame the film for trotting out old Cold War tropes, since American news media approach Kim similarly. You probably know something of his nuclear ambitions and might be vaguely familiar with his human rights record, but you're probably more intimately familiar with his twin loves: Dennis Rodman and fancy cheese. The film celebrates its own cheap joke by suggesting that humiliation might kickstart a North Korean revolution and I'm sure it was satisfying to think that Kim was actually upset. Still, for all of the incredible repercussions, it's kind of an easy joke.