The Societal Influence of Propaganda: What We Can Learn from Jojo Rabbit

One invaluable aspect of movies is its ability to transport us into stories of historical events—it’s almost always one we would have otherwise not experienced! The movie Jojo Rabbit achieves this historical insight and gives a unique perspective on life during World War II as a young patriotic German boy excited to join Hitler Youth Camp. Throughout the film we see Jojo’s relationship towards the Nazi Party and Hitler unfold. At ClassHook, we’ve identified the important role this film plays in introducing students to the domination of propaganda during a heated political climate and the importance of being skeptical towards blind followership in response. 

What Is Propaganda? How Is It Explored In Jojo Rabbit? 

Propaganda is biased and misleading information utilized to popularize a political perspective or ideology. During World War II, Nazi propaganda was commonly expressed through posters and camps. In Jojo Rabbit, the Hitler Youth Camp is a form of propaganda itself as it aims to spread the ideas and values of the Nazi Party to young and impressionable German boys. 

For another example, the pro-Nazi poster above on the left reads “The Marshall and the Corporal Fight with US for Peace and Equality”. To the right of this, the poster reads “Our Last Hope Hitler”. Both of these aimed to influence Germany to support and defend these figures, as well as adopt their mindsets. 

Jojo Rabbit Hitler Youth Camp As Harmful Propaganda

This clip is a prime example of the Nazi propaganda. The activities and ideologies being glorified and taught by the Hitler Youth Camp are outrageous and bizarre, yet not once are they questioned. The boys in the camp are depicted to be practicing agility and strength in nature, throwing axes, wearing gas masks, wrestling, drawing Jewish people based on outrageous Nazi ideologies, and burning books. A number of these outdoor activities can be viewed as recreational, and are often engaged in today. These fun activities meshed with the harmful hate speech towards Jewish people and Nazi mindsets influence these young boys to believing these things are just as simple and agreeable. Such manipulation is shown to be very successful as we see the boys in the camp excitingly participating. 

With Jojo, however, we can see him being puzzled throughout the clips. This is specifically noticeable when he runs away during the fighting scene (0:40-0:50) and the book burning at the end. During the book burning we see Jojo posed with confusion, asking himself, “Why is this fun?” A few moments later we see him joining in on the boys’ dancing and cheering. This displays Jojo’s true involvement to be rooted in his wishes to be accepted, rather than the intrinsic agreement with what’s being taught. 

Another feature important to recognize in the book burning scene is Captain Klenzendorf’s depiction. He is shown with a face of disdain while looking at the pile of books. This can easily make viewers confused, as he is the leader of this camp. 

Why Is Captain Klenzendorf Upset? What Can We Learn?

What do these scenes of Jojo and Captain Klenzendorf mean? After looking at these characters in the context of World War II, the issue revealed, and what we can learn from this movie, is the confining socialization of propaganda. With Jojo, he truly is a naive child growing up in a time period where conforming to these values are part of being accepted by the dominant group. In other words, Jojo wants to be in the club. Not for what it stands for, but for feeling that he belongs. The severity of this is especially noticeable with Captain Klenzendorf. Even though he stands as the leader of the Hitler Youth Camp, this doesn’t mean much as he too is forced into acting with Nazi mindset. Throughout the movie we see the consequences faced by individuals who outwardly disagree with the Nazi party. One of the most painful scenes in the film displaying this is when we see Jojo’s mother, who secretly is against the Nazi Party, hanged in the middle of town. 

These popular ideologies of the Nazi party are inescapable, no matter the age—and this is an important angle to explore when looking at historical events. This is not to mean we should feel sympathy towards Nazi’s and dismiss the wrongness in their mindsets, but rather Jojo Rabbit is an important film because it displays the urgent need to conquer harmful propaganda with organized group rejection and retaliation. The sameness in the experiences and internalization of the Nazi party by Jojo and Captain Klenzendorf display that chances are, you aren’t the only one!

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