Okja is a Netflix film sensation that takes speciesism to new heights. Bon Joon-Ho, the director, originally created the idea to address the problematic issues regarding animals in film. In an interview for The Guardian, Bon Joon-Ho says, “Films either show animals as soulmates or else we see them in documentaries being butchered. I wanted to merge those worlds. The division makes us comfortable but the reality is that they are the same animal.” He certainly does an excellent job in addressing speciesism in the world. The film revolves around Mija and her companion Okja, and her struggle to get Okja back from a multinational corporation who wants Okja for their new “eco-friendly” campaign. The story is highly emotional and heart-wrenching, and I am still struggling with my emotions from watching the film.
Bon Joon-Ho isn’t afraid to blend dark realities with blatant humor in the film, which makes the movie so amusing. Mija and Okja are arguably the two only sane figures with sane perspectives in the movie. Lucy Mirando’s corporate persona, a cheery figure that claims to be a philanthropist for the environment, is so overly exaggerated it blurs fiction and reality. Her enthusiastic demeanor and meme-like presentation of the Mirando corporation is so exaggerated that it’s comical. Johnny is an alcoholic scientist who is desperate for money, and will do anything to get paid. The Animal Liberation Front are passionate about animal rights, yet funnily over-apologetic and stereotypically portrayed that they made me laugh. However, there is still a foreboding notion of violence and brutal realities you don’t really pick up in the beginning of the movie.
Despite the funny and cheerful personas, there is the grim fact that animal abuse and cruelty are being performed in the Mirando Corporation factory. The superpigs and other animals are treated as commodities: products for their new line of “healthy” and “happy” meats. This is what makes the movie so eerily scary: it illustrates so realistically what is happening in our carnistic society. Nancy and Lucy both embody corporate perspectives that animals are only meant for business, which is comparable to how corporations are advertising meat and dairy products to the wider public through mass media. Video footage from the Animal Liberation Front reflect videos and images taken from undercover investigations done today. I love how Bon Joon-ho depicts the stark realities of the meat and dairy industry in his film, and asking viewers to rethink their choices in eating meat and passively participating in violence. While some of his antics and visuals were highly saturated with satirical humor, I appreciate his message and the moral he is trying to tell in his dark fairy tale.
I wasn’t shocked at the violence depicted by the Mirando Corporation. This type of animal cruelty isn’t new to me, probably because I have read about and watched videos of footage from factory farms. I was, however, emotionally moved from the movie. The visuals, storytelling, and plotline are amazingly well done. I was extremely invested in Mija’s relationship with Okja, and Okja’s love and admiration for this young girl. I was crushed when Okja was taken away, and angry when Mija’s grandfather suggested that Okja is only a pig and nothing more. I was revolted at Lucy Mirando’s and Johnny’s commodification of animals. I was left with a sense of also empowerment through my heightened determination to become vegetarian and sparking conversations about speciesism and animal rights to my friends. That is, ultimately, doing Bon Joon-Ho’s movie and the animal rights movement justice.