|Cast:||Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi|
Jojo Rabbit (2019): Zany, oddball antics provide an interesting background for a surprisingly profound ethical dilemma.
Initial impressions of child-centered protagonists involving the Second World War inspired thoughts of its genre contemporary, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008). However, instead of attempting to portray the collateral damage that harmful ideologies leave on both sides, JoJo Rabbitís director Taika Waititi opts to use his film as a comedic platform for the internal conflict of propaganda's impact on morality.
At first glance, it is easy to consider JoJo Rabbit a simple satire of the Nazi doctrine. The use of comedy, tragic as the subject matter might be, is a good vehicle to show the absurd bigotry that was needed to mobilize an idea like Nazi fascism. The exaggeration of harmful stereotypes and unfounded prejudices to bash the opposition is a common tactic of the media of all ages. Director Taika Waititi uses this to provide a meta commentary on how harmful that tactic is. No more is this personified than in the "Adolf" character, portrayed by Waititi himself. Silly, wacky, and not afraid to offer cigarettes to children, he is the poetic license the film uses to make fun of the dictator and his followers and to show that their beliefs and pride in the conflict are unfounded and slanderous.
This portrayal also proves a perfect explanation for how a 10-year-old would be swayed to pick up such beliefs. It is only in the mind of a child that such an evil individual would appear so cartoonish and unthreatening: it is the only way for such hateful behavior to be learned, served in a simple and friendly way. The character Johannes, the hitler youth protagonist, serves as the main victim of this kind of conditioning, being the primary advocate for the Nazi way of life. Despite the deft interwoven comedic pieces, it is in this struggle of propaganda fueled patriotism that Johannesís journey to the truth gains its depth. The soldiers created for such a cause are in a way victims themselves, raised from an early age in their unfounded view of superiority over their fellow man. Calling that view into question requires impressive efforts on their part.
The introduction of Jewish survivor Elsa Korr, played splendidly by Thomasin McKenzie, provides a catalyst to Johannesís realization to the true horrors of the Nazi doctrine. Their peaceful, non-violent discussions and arguments against each other's beliefs entirely clash with fascism's approach. The full-circle nature of their relationship throughout the film is a testament to the understanding of and appreciation for those different from oneself during the struggles of WWII.
JoJo Rabbit ultimately proves to be an intriguing investigation of the dynamic of nature vs nurture. The hate that is taught to our youth can only be countered by the willingness to learn and to include those whom we consider different from us. Any prideful attachment to archaic and barbaric leaders only gets in the way of truly understanding our fellow human beings.