Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, and Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit
There’s been a fair share of controversy surrounding Jojo Rabbit and whether or not the world is ready for a comedy about a young boy in the Hitler youth with Hitler as an imaginary friend. It’s certainly a bold premise. Can we ever really laugh at Hitler? Well after seeing the movie on Saturday and a Q & A with director Taika Waititi afterwards, the answer, at least in the case of Jojo Rabbit, is yes.
During the Q & A, Waititi discussed how his role as Hitler is meant to be portrayed from a ten year old boy’s perspective and is not meant to be in any way an accurate portrayal of the man (as he has made clear before). The film is overall much less of the sobering, depressing look at the Holocaust that we have come to expect from Hollywood. Waititi touched upon how most films about the Holocaust are color graded to add a somber feeling (Schindler's List comes to mind) whereas his is bursting with color, particularly in Jojo’s home and his mother (played by Scarlett Johansson), Rosie’s attire.
Jojo Rabbit, while certainly packed with many laughs, is not without its exploration of serious topics. It explores how children can be essentially tricked into believing and practicing certain ideologies without ever thinking twice about it and the great responsibility we hold to educate our youth because of that. For the most part the film never delves too far into the horrors and human cost of the Holocaust. In any other film this would definitely be the wrong choice, but here it’s absolutely necessary. The film is a satire and its one whose message is clear: rather than allow Nazis to hold power over us through fear, Jojo Rabbit asks that we reduce them to nothing through laughter.
Jojo Rabbit makes the argument that we’ve allowed Hitler and his doings to occupy too high a position in our minds by stressing the seriousness of his actions rather than taking the piss out of him by reducing him. By taking him seriously, we give him importance and validation rather than remembering and memorializing those whose lives were lost because of his actions. Comedy should be used to punch up. The only way to cope with tragedy is to laugh at it. Laughter is not the same as mockery. Laughing makes us human and by laughing in the face of fear and adversity, we take away an oppressors ability to dehumanize and degrade.
This film was certainly no easy feat. It’s a film that feels like it really could only have been made by Waititi who in his career has used the perspective of a child and his childish sense of humor to explore themes and ideas that would seem to daunting a task for most directors. Despite all odds, Waititi pulls it off with flying colors and provides us with an all too timely reminder of the power of laughing in the face of adversity.