In the perturbant and controversy-filled world we live in, it could be difficult to maintain, let alone establish what is and is not considered appropriate humor. Director Taika Waititi’s newest film, “Jojo Rabbit” can only be described as irreverent, meaning it uses topics most people wouldn’t make light of as its source of humor.
Set in 1945 Nazi Germany during the dawn of the German defeat, “Jojo Rabbit” is centered around ten year old boy Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, who is completely enamored with the idea of joining his favorite blond-haired, blue-eyed political party. However, upon discovering a Jewish girl named Elsa Korr, whom his mother has been hiding in their attic, Jojo slowly begins a series of personal and interpersonal revelations about his Fatherland as his relationship with Elsa deepens.
“Jojo Rabbit” deals with opening up to new ideas in order to better yourself and those around you. Additionally, it highlights the value of personal morality over societal dogma.
“With any type of sensitive subject, there’s this trend in society that now everyone is offended by everything,” senior Kevin Morales said. “It was bold of them to go out and use Nazism, without caring about exactly who was offended and who wasn’t because the message was clear and still there.”
Irreverence becomes a touchy subject when it’s displayed for the whole world to see, yet movies like “Jojo Rabbit” show us that even the worst of humanity can be displayed in a comedic fashion.
Despite a majority of the cast portraying Nazis with Waititi playing an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler himself, they are still shown with their own personal beliefs and sensitivities, which are exploited to fuel the film’s message.
“A great argument is: ‘When can we start to laugh and make fun of certain instances that aren’t normally supposed to be laughed at, and whether that is a good coping mechanism?’” English teacher Matthew Branham said. “The beauty of [irreverent media] is that no one is truly targeted or made uncomfortable.”
Shows like “South Park” and “Family Guy” similarly use the tactic of irreverence and dark humor in order to get us to laugh at what makes us the most uncomfortable with a large emphasis on shocking humor. However, not all movies and shows focus on extracting a laugh out of their audience.
“It really just depends on the subject matter,” senior Chris Rodriguez said. “I don’t think [Jojo Rabbit] got overly offensive, but I think if you were more in it for laughs, some of the messages can be more buried with all the jokes.”
While, irreverent films, such as the works of Wes Anderson, tend to create lessons and laughs out of taboo topics, some viewers may not be able to look past the touchy subject matter and either see it as redundant humor or an insensitive scandal. However, those who overlook its clamorous nature are able to dig deeper into the meaning of what they’re watching.
“If the creators of the movie intended for it to be offensive, then people wouldn’t want to go,” Morales said. “Those who choose not to go to the movie [because of its subject matter] won’t get the message it’s actually showing and that, in a way, is ignorant.”
“Jojo Rabbit” takes it one step further and blankets a heartwarming story, underlying an important message under a barrage of unsettling comments, rude stereotypes and offensive jokes. Additionally, it is an example of when such taboos can be ludicrously exaggerated in order to glue the audience to the plot and question what the message in the humor is.
“It was better than I expected it to be,” Rodriguez said. “Personally, I feel like its message is that life’s too short to think about the selfish things.”
Many shows and films that apply irreverence often use it to bring to light a new way of addressing a topic. Whether it be to bring up a global issue, start conversation about something or to address a ridiculous trend, irreverence in media serves a much larger purpose than to entertain.
“There’s definitely a time and place for [irreverence],” Branham said. “But, one of the greatest things we can do is include humor in our daily lives. If we can’t laugh about something, it makes things a lot harder for people to talk about it.”