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HNR 304: Autocracy vs Demrocacy

"Jojo Rabbit" Essay Artifact

A ten year old boy, an imaginary friend named Adolf Hitler, and Nazis. These are the foundations of the movie Jojo Rabbit (2019) adapted for the screen and directed by Taika Waititi. The film takes place in the final year of World War 2 and follows ten year old boy Jojo (played by Roman Griffin Davis) as he lives Nazi Germany. We follow Jojo as he tries to navigate the world whether it is being a member of the Hitler Youth, a boy scout esque organization that Hitler started to prepare children for war, or attempting to understand that Jewish people aren’t literal devils. 

The movie starts with Jojo giving himself a pep talk and his imaginary friend is boosting him and telling him what a good soldier he will become. His imaginary friend is revealed to be none other than Adolf Hitler (played by Taika Waititi). They go to a Hitler Youth summer camp where Jojo learns to fight and what it’s like in the battlefield as well as being taught numerous lies about the Jewish people and is bullied horrendously by the older kids. He is bullied because he doesn’t want to kill a rabbit and is overall afraid of fighting others. Jojo is singled out numerous times and to show that he isn’t a wimp he decides to throw a grenade which explodes right next him injuring him greatly, permanently disfiguring his face and removing most movement from his leg. He can no longer be in the Hitler Youth and now has to navigate as someone simply working from them. It is during this time that Jojo finds out that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl (played by Thomasin McKenzie). Jojo learns from the girl and becomes affectionate towards her as he realizes that the Jewish people are not like how the Nazis made them out to seem. At the same time his mother is found out to be helping the resistance and is publicly hanged leaving Jojo alone for the final days of the war. As the war finally hits his town and they’re liberated, Jojo and the Jewish girl dance on the streets.

Critiqued by a few on its content and at the same time being awarded many of the highest honors in filmmaking and screenwriting, the satirical film on Nazism, Jojo Rabbit successfully displays how propaganda and fear mongering leads to the continuation of facsism while also exposing how absurd the lies that are spread can be. The film displays continuous understanding of circumstances and how they can change and adjust a young person’s mind.

There are constant examples of Propaganda seen throughout the film. When Jojo is injured his only job is to put up propaganda posters of Hitler around the city, on every wall and column if there was space there was a poster promoting Nazis. This can seem absurd in the modern day, but it was an effective way of keeping the presence of a ruler (in this case Hitler) constantly in mind. Another bit of propaganda used was the classes being taught at Hitler Youth camp. Adults were teaching children about Jewish People and talking about how they have horns and can use mind control, and have other types of power beyond human abilities. The kids were being taught not only to view Jewish people as not even a person but instead monsters that deserved to be hurt and killed for their evilness. Waititi does a great job at showing how the Nazis actually taught children about the Jewish People, because while those situations seem absurd that anyone would believe such lies about a different religion it is really what happened. Through the use of propaganda, Nazis were able to perpetuate the cycle of Facsism by indoctrinating children and teaching them incorrectly about their enemies to provoke feelings of nationalism.

The other effect of Facsism that was clear was the use of fear-mongering to keep people in line. It is seen when the older teens harass and bully Jojo by trying to get him to kill a rabbit because a “jew is worth less than a rabbit” and that if he could kill the rabbit he’d be able to kill people (Waititi). All his friends isolated Jojo when he got injured since he was no longer viewed as someone who could help the Nazi Regime and therefore shouldn’t even be seen as someone to help. This is explored further when the way that Jojo finds out that his mother is dead is by finding her hanging in the middle of the town square, and from there he receives no contact from authorities or others to help and support Jojo instead he is completely alone and isolated from the outside world. Also, along with the propaganda that was previously mentioned about Jewish people it goes hand in hand with fear mongering as the kids are taught to be afraid of these creatures and that they shouldn’t interact with them but instead go to a higher authority for them to be dealt with. 

Fascism is made abundantly clear through Jojo Rabbit to the point that is one of the best examples of how the Nazis used propaganda in recent years. It helps teach the audience about what to look out for while still maintaining a sense of humor throughout the entire film, never letting the atmosphere of the play get too dark while still displaying atrocities that occurred everyday that the Nazis were in power.

Autocracy vs Democracy Reflection

This class focused on the exploration of the different forms that autocracy can take place in. This allowed students to learn and recognize the root of most political issues falling into either category. I specifically focused on the discussion of autocracy through media such as satire, film, and theater.

While I didn't feel as though much was learned during this course, the focus was more on having productive conversations and gaining perspective, I felt that the class allowed me to solidify my understanding of the political world around me. It allowed me to have scholarly literature that I can use to help further my understanding of the politics as a whole and different ways to approach discussing those concepts.

The biggest downfall of the class in my opinion was there were many times where it felt as though we were weighing heavily into why autocracy is bad and democracy is good. I would have much rather shifted the conversation to discussing the pros and cons for both allowing the students to come to their own conclusion instead of just telling use that autocracy is bad. Let us develop our own views on these ideas instead of just being told this thing is good and that thing is bad.

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