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Jojo Rabbit: A Young Boy’s Understanding of War and Patriotism


Nuzhat Tanzim Khan


It’s 2020, and the world has heard one of the loudest calls for civil rights in many years. It has been months since George Floyd was shot and voices were raised against the systematic oppression of Black people after the incident. Personally, I had never seen such engagement from the people of my own community in a civil rights movement ever before, let alone a movement for the rights of a different race. You would think people would have a proper understanding of human rights by now, but that is where the issue lies. People engaging in a movement because of all the sound it is making is not enough. Being not racist is not enough. Being actively anti-racist means keeping the purpose of the movement alive even when the sound has decreased. I have recently realised this when an individual, who had been vocally opposing racism during the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, casually made the remark, Hitler was a cool man. He made sure those vile Jews had suffered.”

After almost a hundred years since World War II, it is now normal for us to view the personalities involved in the war as figures that we can study— their actions, decisions, purpose, and strategic executions during the war. However, such studies leading to the reinforcement of racist values within us is, in no way, an ideal outcome. If you think Adolf Hitler had a cool personality, I may not agree with you. But I would be open to discussions on why you think so. Although the stark racism within a person shines through when they declare an entire race of people as vile, discussions regarding such beliefs will reveal that they are hypocrites for standing up for one race while applauding the termination of the other. However, this hypocrisy isn’t always the easiest to be pointed out to the person concerned. So, when this person made that remark, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of asking them why they think so, I did what I often do with the people around me—I recommended them a movie and asked them to get back to me on Hitler and Jews.

Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is an unorthodox take on films surrounding World War II among the films that I know of. The genre of the film is comedy-drama, and it does a marvellous job of making you laugh throughout the movie. This may give rise to a fair question—how is a movie with such a high comic factor supposed to change deeply instilled racist values within a person? Well, my objective while making this recommendation was to raise questions within the individual. Questions against their belief of Jews being vile. Moreover, the question that whether all people belonging to the same race should be generalised, and if the entire race deserves to be condemned because of the actions of a few. The comedic nature of the film aided in making the person sit through the movie without feeling like he was being asked to change his beliefs, just because he was being told to do it.

Jojo is a ten-year-old Hitler Youth who has every Nazi ideal indoctrinated within him. He is what you can call a super-fan of Adolf Hitler. He views Hitler as his hero; so much so that he conjures up a supportive imaginary friend of his own who is a buffoonish version of the real one. In the movie, you’ll see Jojo often listening to Adolf’s advice in different matters, and with his help, approaching situations that he himself is not the most confident about. Jojo’s patriotism is so strong that you will see him reprimanding his mother, Rosie, for lacking it. That brings us to Rosie; a German woman who opposes Nazi ideals and believes that the war isn’t necessary. She doesn’t view the Jews as enemies. We get evidence of this when one day, Jojo finds his mother secretly providing shelter to Elsa, a Jew teenager, in her attic. Jojo is understandably shocked at this, and it’s after this discovery that he tries to find out Jew secrets by interrogating Elsa. Jojo intends to understand why Rosie is sheltering an enemy and somehow prevent her execution in the hands of the Gestapo if they were to find out about Elsa.

Jojo is an innocent 10-year-old before anything. We are shown his innocence during the first part of the movie where he is unable to kill a rabbit when he is asked to do so. His ideals keep him from learning to be compassionate. However, after a series of events and communication with the Jew in his attic, he soon starts to understand them. In this movie, we see a young boy’s standpoint evolving as he encounters events that change his ideals completely. It is a truly wholesome and important film that not only shows us the perspective of a German youth during the war but also teaches us the importance of respecting human rights and understanding things through the perspective of people who we are taught to despise.

It pleases me to say that my objective of recommending this film to the person describing the Jews as vile was fulfilled. It takes one step at a time. A person’s beliefs cannot be changed with assertive tones and aggressive arguments that drive them to a defensive mindset. It is only when they can see the wrong for themselves that they can do something to make it right. So, lastly, take this as my recommendation to you to watch this pleasantly funny and thought-provoking movie whenever you have time.

 

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