Over Sunday family lunch, one of the conversations led to me making a bold statement, that I refuse to watch “Jojo Rabbit” the movie, because I disagree with the principle. I don’t want to see Nazi being tamed by introducing them into popular culture, I said, making it goofy and “lovingly funny”. This sparked a whole new discussion, as some people around the table had watched the movie.
“But you know, in the end, Hitler and his ideas are discredited”.
“But you know, the boy’s mother is hung at the end”
“But you know, it’s a well know New Zealand director with Jewish heritage”
Regardless of a movie being well made, well directed, having the best actors or delivering a compelling story, I don’t want to see little boys hailing Hitler. I don’t want to see Hitler being funny. Because he wasn’t. For me, the genocide is not material for a light hearted comedy, even under the excuse of the blackest humour.
Then someone asked, so have you actually watched the movie?
No, I didn’t, I said. And she won’t watch it, added S., with whom we were discussing the issue previously.
I can honestly describe myself as an opinionated person, but it’s not as simple as it may sound. In my head, I’m constantly questioning my beliefs, opinions and statements. I work through my thoughts over and over again, justifying them in front of others, but even more so, in front of myself. Usually late at night, instead of sleeping. I know how easy is to fall into the trap of seeing the world as black and white, as “us and them”, as “agree or disagree ball bouncing”. However, inspecting the issue from different perspectives, quite often makes our bold manifestos verging on the ignorance / misunderstanding / being short sighed. In other words, there is always “yeah, but” hiding behind the corner, hunting me every time I find myself feeling strongly about something.
So that Sunday, lying in bed at night I was thinking, should I watch the movie to be able to fairly judge it?
Still, the answer is no.
Because I’m not judging the movie, I disagree with the principle.
And then, asking myself what does it actually mean, I went through a simple mental exercise.
If restaurant “X” serves food only to white people, do you need to have at least one meal in that restaurant to be able to fully justify your decision of refusing to go there, because you disagree with their policy of racial segregation? Does it matter if the food is well sourced and well prepared or cooked by the well know chef?
No, because I’m not talking about the kind or quality of the cuisine, I disagree with the principle.
Then my internal demagogue came out and questioned the deeper appropriateness of this example. Ok, for the sake of the logic, we could argue that this is not comparing apples to apples. Fair enough.
So let’s try this: What if this was a movie about a paedophile? Or a rapist? Would we expect a victim of either or their family member, or their next door neighbour or actually anyone, to watch a camp for small boys being taught how to become a rapist or a paedophile? With a rapist/paedophile light heartedly portrayed as funny, silly and yes, proven wrong at the end, but still?
So, I guess my opposition to the concept of the “Jojo Rabbit” movie comes down to the question: How well are we teaching history today?
Given the fact, that “the next generation” knows the movie / YouTube / Instagram celebrities better than historical characters, let’s imagine a person, born in a country other than Central Europe after the 2000s. When asked about Hitler, what do we think will be the first thing to come to mind? The boring voice of their school teacher talking about names and places that can hardly be pronounced, and are located so far away in terms of time and distance, who would really care? Or that Hollywood movie with Scarlett Johanson? Yeah, Hitler, a man who was solely responsible for a mass murder of 5 to 6 milion people in the most inhumane way, was bad guy, but also funny, right?