Today in 'Capitalism Will Kill Us All': Disney Worried That Anti-Nazi Satire 'Jojo Rabbit' Will Hurt Its Brand
You may have heard of the movie Jojo Rabbit. Directed by Kiwi Pajiba favourite, Taika Waititi, and developed under the Fox Searchlight umbrella, the film is an anti-hate/anti-Nazi satire in which Waititi plays a child’s imaginary friend—who just happens to be Adolf Hitler. As Kristy described it in her write-up of the trailer linked above:
Roman Griffin Davis makes his screen debut as Jojo Betzler, a bullied German boy in the Hitler youth whose admiration for his favorite Führer is so great that Hitler is his imaginary bff. But Jojo’s understanding of his hero and his nation are challenged when he discovers his mother (Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. Just in case anyone tries to get it twisted, the trailer makes clear this is a satire attacking hate, not another drama humanizing Nazis.
Considering the state of the world, to call the movie ‘timely’ would seem to be an understatement. It’s more than likely to be a valuable addition to the discourse.
You may have also heard of the tectonic industry shift that was the Disney-Fox merger. That diabolical capitalist gorging that has led to one company controlling approximately a third of the film industry. In terms of franchises and box office take, Fox was one of the main counterweights to Disney, owning as it did things like Avatar, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, and many more. Now, with all of those big earners falling under the shadow of the Mouse’s ears, the picture of the industry—already in dire shape thanks to the slow death of the mid-budget studio movie—is looking even more like a staid and depressing corporate circle-jerk. It’ll be Disney competing with Disney competing with Disney competing with Disney. A lovely logical endpoint to the capitalist commodification of an artform. Capitalist love to deify competition, claiming that what they live for is a level playing field of ideas on which hard workers and innovators will flourish; when in reality what actually guides their steps as soon as they are one level above the baseline is a burning desire for consolidation, control, and monopoly.
In a detailed write-up yesterday, Variety documented how the managerial hand of Disney has already been plunged deep into Fox, stirring and shaking and smashing in a bid to mould the bought studio into acceptable shape. The key part for me comes right at the end of that report, when we get to this bit:
The only bright spot for the film operation would seem to be Fox Searchlight, the long-operating darling of the indie film world, which will test Disney’s patience with the wacky Hitler drama “Jojo Rabbit,” from “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi, this fall. The movie is expected to be a major awards contender.
The scathing takedown of Nazism may, however, prove a little too edgy for Disney brass accustomed to producing movies suitable for parents and kids. Searchlight has started to screen the film for its new parent company. Halfway through one recent viewing one executive grew audibly uncomfortable, worrying aloud that the material would alienate Disney fans. His unease may have been over the film’s cutting-edge satire, but it was also an expression of the culture clash taking place as the two studios embark on their new union.
Excuse me while I weep bitter tears for the bell chiming last orders for the film industry as we know it. You can bet good money that this one little revealing display by one executive in one screening is a behaviour and a mindset that is being replicated a thousand times over. Bit by bit, whatever creative spark or innovative spirit that doesn’t run exactly in line with the ‘Disney ethos’ will be smothered and wiped out. They may call it ‘family friendly’, what it really means is ‘uncontroversial’ (also capitalist-friendly, natch).
Now, of course, I’m not claiming that everything was peachy before Disney’s devouring of Fox, but the fact is that things have gotten worse. Again. With every consolidation, things get worse. Every time another voice is silenced it’s a blow to the creative integrity of the industry. Whatever amount of creative integrity you may have ascribed to it before this merger, it’s now lessened. I’m not talking about crying for the mega-corp that is Fox itself, but of the general direction of travel the quoted paragraph illustrates.
Similarly this isn’t an elegy for Avatar. F*ck Avatar and all the other big properties. This is about yet another narrowing of opportunity for the smaller stories. A culture is defined by the stories it tells itself. Vibrant, multi-coloured mythical landscapes that reflect its values, priorities, and hopes. In those spaces, rebellions can spark. Rebellions of thought, of heart, of action. With each capitalist consolidation, the platforms afforded to creatively and politically dissident voices are minimised more and more. Before long, one company will dictate the thoughts and dreams of generations, and on a world already teetering, one foot slipping over the edge, that’s not something that we can afford as a species.
Oh and hey, apropos of nothing, who remembers all those industrialists and big brands that supported the Nazis because they were good for business? Hi Hugo Boss, IBM, Coca-Cola, Bayer, Kodak, AP!
Header Image Source: Fox/Disney