TL;DR – Today we chart out just where Kim Jong-Il was going to blow up in Team America: World Police
Ever since I was a young child I have always been fascinated with maps, how they show and hide the world around us, how we determine all our lives based on where a line was drawn, sometimes by someone long dead, indeed it was this love of maps that lead me to studying International Relations. So it’s one of those things for me that when someone puts up a map of the world with markers on in movies/TV or Video Games almost all the time it is cartography gibberish. So today we start a new series called Map-It where we plot out those maps from Movies/TV and video games to see exactly where they were pointing at. So let’s dive in and look at our first example Team America World Police, and I should mention there are obviously spoilers for the move ahead.
Why Team America: World Police, well besides being a good example, it was also released around the time I was studying International Relations and it has a very interesting take on world politics that led to numerous discussions with my peers, so it has a special place in my heart, even if it does make me feel old. Now, of course, you are going to say this is a film where all the actors are puppets, Kim Jong-Il is a secret alien cockroach, they slice Helen Hunt in half with a katana, please can you really take this movie seriously? No of course not, but just because it is a silly movie does not mean it gets a pass when it comes to maps.
Original Team America: World Police Map
So to give a bit of context at this point in the film most of Team America has been captured by Kim Jong-Il the leader of North Korea and who is also holding a massive international world peace ceremony in association with the Film Actors Guild but this is just a ruse to get all the world leaders in the one place so they won’t notice the terrorist acts before they happen. So about 1:12:00 into the film just after the montage song we arrive in Pyeongyang and the ceremony is in full swing, but like all big bads of the past, present, and future Kim Jong-Il can’t help but explain his villainous plan, he has given ‘WMDs’ to terrorist across the world put them in position so that there is a massive coordinated attack at the end of Alec Baldwin’s speech. It is here at 1:13:21 that we get to see the above the locations of all the ‘WMDs’ he has placed around the world.
Now comes the interesting part, well at least for me the interesting part, mapping out all those dots. To do this I first tried to find the map projection they were using in the image. Now while I could not find an exact match I did find a project that was close enough to be able to do some generally accurate projections, and thus we have the locations mapped out.
Team America: World Police Locations placed on a Robinson Projection World Map
So once we had all the places mapped out on the projection we had to find out where those locations mapped out to in the real world. For this, we used a number of programs and maps, including Google Maps to try and find as close to the locations as we could. Since this process is not as precise as we would like, we gave the film the benefit of the doubt and picked the largest populations centre near the location rather than the exact pin point to allow for some human error, and with that, we get the following targets.
Now we have the locations the flaws in Kim Jong-Il’s plan starts to become more and more apparent. So what is Kim Jong-Il’s motivation, well it’s to ‘change the world’ with implications that the world order would be changed with him being on top and that governments would topple across the world. Now the question is what is Kim Jong-Il using to target these locations? In dialogue, he describes them as ‘WMDs’ Weapons of Mass Destruction, which usually comprise of either Biological, Chemical, Radiological, or Nuclear sources. Now the issue is that in 2004 when the film was released, North Korea while heavily suggesting that they were developing Nuclear Weapons after leaving the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 2003, it would be two more years before they would test their first Nuclear Weapon in 2006. As well as this, in the film, some of the terrorists set off their ‘WMDs’ early around the Panama Canal, however, the explosion shown is that of more conventional explosives, and not WMD. Now putting aside the fact that experts believe that even today in 2017 North Korea only has ten or so nuclear devices¹ of the 116 targets only 15 of them are major cities, indeed many of the sites are actually in wildernesses or uninhabited area, and the vast majority are from incredible small towns some with only a handful of residents.
This being said if we do entertain the notion that North Korea had 116 nuclear weapons, which would put it on par with India and Pakistan, would this lead to the world change he is after… well it would depend on the actions of others. For example, there would be massive flows of people out of the affected areas creating a mass migration event that we have not seen in most people’s living memory, especially around parts of Canada where Kim is actually quite good a targeting major cities. Also, he does target seven of the eight other nuclear powers including Paris the capital of France and some major cities in USA and Russia. So it is not inconceivable that elements inside some of those countries may start a launch of their own weapons amplifying the destruction, but if that was a case you would think Pyeongyang would be pretty high on a couple of people’s lists of targets, so that would not work out for Kim. However, the big danger is even though most of the strikes would cause very little structural damage on their own, well not if you live in St. Petersburg, Tripoli, Detroit or Albury-Wodonga but generally, the amount of particulate matter added to the atmosphere from the strikes and the inevitable fires that follow, would lead to a significant cooling of the planet and would have the potential to heavily impact global agriculture².
So, in the end, what can we infer from this map, well for one Kim Jong-Il does not have the best grasp of geography, and his targets are mostly unimportant low population centres or completely inhabited areas. As well as this, it is most likely for the data presented in the moved, corroborated by real life that these ‘WMDs’ were probably conventional weapons, reducing the impact of this strike even further, and if they were nuclear weapons the outcome would most likely be just as bad for Kim Jong-Il as it was for everyone else. So what can we take away for this, well one thing is clear Kim Jong-Il was an awful despotic madman who enjoyed the fine things of life whilst his people starved and he also appeared in puppet form in Team America: World Police as a man who is really bad at his job.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen any odd maps in Movies, TV or Video Games?, let us know in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
¹ Moon, Ci. 2016. ‘North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and the Search for a New Path Forward: a South Korean Response’ Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 72(5): 343-344.
² Turco, RP, OB Toon, TP Ackerman, JB Pollack & Carl Sagan. 1983. ‘Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions’ Science. 222(4630): 1283-1292. ‘
Credits – The Robinson Projection World Map that we used was created by Daniel R. Strebe on 15 August 2011 which is shared with a Creative Commons License, The original map comes from Team America World Police credits below.
Directed by – Trey Parker
Written by – Trey Parker, Matt Stone & Pam Brady
Music by – Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography by – Bill Pope
Edited by – Thomas M. Vogt
Starring – Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa Moyo, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche, Chelsea Marguerite, Jeremy Shada & Fred Tatasciore
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14; NZ: R; UK: 15; USA: R