‘Team America’ Was Briefly Banned Thanks to Seth Rogen

Paramount pulled ‘Team America’ from theaters 10 years after it came out
‘Team America’ Was Briefly Banned Thanks to Seth Rogen

It’s that time of year when we all celebrate America — or ‘Merica, if you will — by blowing up fireworks, wolfing down hot dogs and eventually passing out in our neighbor’s yard after drunkenly embarrassing our families.

But if you want to mark the occasion with a thematically-appropriate movie — and don’t want to watch Mel Gibson stabbing a redcoat with Old Glory —  there’s always Team America: World Police.

When it first came out back in 2004, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s all-marionette political satire wasn’t hugely controversial — unless, of course, your name happened to be “Sean Penn.” In fact, the biggest Team America scandal involved the MPAA’s censorship of a prolonged puppet sex scene. 

But Team America did end up getting pulled from theaters, albeit a decade after it was originally released, and mostly thanks to this guy:

In 2014, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview, which famously parodied North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was the subject of a major international incident. Hackers leaked internal emails from Sony, the film’s distributor, and demanded that the company pull “the movie of terrorism.” They also invoked 9/11 in threats that urged audiences to stay away from a comedy starring the two dudes from Pineapple Express.

The film was initially yanked out of circulation altogether, although this international incident somehow didn’t stop Hustler from producing an Interview porn parody. Caught in the middle of all this was Team America: World Police. Following the initial cancellation of The Interview, several theaters decided to screen Team America in its place, presumably since it also portrayed a fictional American military conflict with North Korea, and featured an unflattering, willfully racially insensitive portrayal of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il.

But Paramount, the studio behind the comedy, took the rare step of pulling Team America from circulation as well, offering most theaters no explanation for their actions. So screenings in cities such as Dallas, Cleveland, New Orleans and Atlanta were all canceled. 

Paramount provided no comment to media outlets either, but reportedly told one theater manager that the movie was “out of service,” as if it were a broken escalator, not a major motion picture.

At the time, Gizmodo published a scathing editorial calling the studio’s decision to effectively ban Team America, more than a decade after it was released, a “staggering act of cowardice,” arguing that “the Department of Homeland Security has found no credible threat.” 

The fresh controversy actually proved profitable for the studio, because after withholding Team America from theaters, DVD copies of the film reportedly “sold out on Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart.” Months later, when The Interview was finally released, copies of the movie were reportedly flown into North Korea via helium balloon, along with select clips of Team America.

It’s unclear whether or not any DVD-filled balloons were ever sent to Michael Moore’s house.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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