Finding Jojo’s Mojo: How Taika Waititi’s New Film Combats Hate with Humor

Beck Williams, Staffer

Taika Waititi’s movie “Jojo Rabbit” is a new comedy that uses humor to cover a topic not usually seen as a laughing matter: the Holocaust. Waititi masterfully employs satire to create a movie that is simultaneously entertaining, moving, hilarious and horrifying. The movie manages to infuse humor into the horrors of the Holocaust but does so in a way that doesn’t feel disrespectful. Although it is a comedy on the surface, “Jojo Rabbit” puts the evil of the Nazi regime on full display and shows how Hitler deceived and brainwashed the German population into supporting his absurd policies.

The movie opens with 10-year-old Jojo Betzler, played by Roman Griffin Davis, in his bedroom as he prepares for a weekend training at Hitler Youth camp. Here, viewers are introduced to Betzler’s imaginary best friend, a childish and playful Adolf Hitler, played by Taika Waititi who seems almost likable to someone who doesn’t know the real Hitler. The imaginary Hitler delivers a short pep-talk, after which Betzler “heils” him multiple times, and Betzler runs off to meet his real friend, Yorki, played by Archie Yates).

The two attend a weekend-long Hitler Youth camp where they meet Captain Klenzendorf, played by Sam Rockwell and Fraulein Rahm, played by Rebel Wilson. Here, Betzler reveals that Yorki is his “second-best” friend, the first spot being reserved for the “Führer.” Later, he runs away after being unable to kill a rabbit in order to demonstrate his willingness to kill for Germany. He permanently disfigures his face after a grenade-related incident in which he attempts to prove his courage to the rest of the camp.

Betzler ends up working for the Hitler Youth office in his hometown, as he is not allowed to go to school. One day, while he is home alone, he discovers that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa Korr, played by Thomasin McKenzie, in the bedroom of his deceased sister, Inge. Although he is an avid Nazi and has fully bought into even the most insane anti-Semitic propaganda, Betzler is convinced that he cannot tell anyone about Korr, as it will lead to the execution of him and his mother.

As the movie goes on, Betzler starts to slowly become aware of the wrongs of Naziism and even develops a crush on Korr. Meanwhile, Hitler starts to question Betzler’s loyalty to the Nazi Party, and Betzler’s mother becomes involved in anti-Nazi resistance. This comes to a head when Betzler finds out that his mother has been publicly hanged for her actions. At this point, Betzler finally gives up his last bit of loyalty to the Nazi Party.

With the help of Klenzendorf, Betzler and Korr continue to hide until the city is taken by American forces from the West and Soviets from the East. Betzler finally abandons Hitler, who has reached the peak of his diabolical derangement in the movie, by kicking him out of a window. The movie ends as the main characters celebrate their liberation from Nazi rule.

Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” is an intelligent portrayal of the horrors of the Holocaust and the evils of Nazism, shown in a way that entertains and captivates audiences. Although it is not common to write a comedy about the Holocaust, I would say that the movie came off quite well. Some critiques of the movie contend that it made light of the Holocaust in a disrespectful way, but I would have to disagree. I believe that one can make fun of horrible people like Hitler and reprehensible ideologies like Nazism in a way that advances society’s understanding of why these ideologies and figures are so bad. The use of comedy in “Jojo Rabbit” puts on full display the absurdity of the Nazi ideology and makes a powerful case against racism and oppression.

Another thing that I believe the movie gets right is the way in which it avoids modern politics. It is very easy for movie-makers to use film as an outlet to demonize their political opponents and insert their own beliefs, and I appreciate the restraint shown by the makers of “Jojo Rabbit” in showing a harrowing portrayal of the Holocaust without blatantly promoting a political cause.

One critique that I do have of the film is the fact that it does not depict anything that is truly new or has not been seen before. Although the Holocaust is something that we should always be reminded of so that we never allow it to happen again, “Jojo Rabbit” fails to tell any new stories about the Holocaust or any other topic. Although it is told in a new and interesting way, the story is one that has been told many times, just in slightly different versions. I think it would have been great if the filmmakers had branched out and told a new story either about the Holocaust or something different entirely, such as how Jewish people (like much of my family) were persecuted in similar ways to the Nazis by the communists of the Soviet Union.

Despite having a few flaws that could have been addressed in a better way, Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” is an excellent movie that tells the horrendous story of the Holocaust in a fresh way that is simultaneously funny and devastating. Through the effective use of satire, the movie manages to make fun of the Nazis in a way that respects those they had victimized, and it manages to do so in a way that is timely isn’t subverted by a political agenda. I personally would recommend “Jojo Rabbit” as a movie everyone should see, both for its entertainment value and its important message.