okja movie poster

My Problem With Okja

Here’s some more “I’m old and all you young people are wrong” blog posts that I know everyone loves.

Aw, look at the widdle girl with her pwecious walking sandwich

I’d been looking forward to Okja since it was announced. Netflix produced, made by the same guy as “The Host” who blended comedy and horror into emotion, and plus I’m a sucker for “A boy and his X” stories ever since E.T. (Other formative favorites include Short Circuit, Flight of the Navigator, Homeward Bound, The Neverending Story, Norby, The Enormous Egg, Charlotte’s Web, I even had “A Boy and His Blob” on NES.)

But there’s also the message of small-town farmer against Mirando, the big mega-corporation that wants use these cute widdle animals for food and resources. Apparently that’s murder if the animal has a name. I hate movies like this that paint the businesses as “evil” and this is a particularly egregious example.

So in the movie, Mirando claims they “discovered” a “superpig” in some remote village. This animal could wipe out world hunger, but first they took twenty-five of its babies to various farms around the world for them to raise and “introduce to the world”. It’s a silly premise — why would a corporation “get” a newly discovered
animal. Given there’s only one, it would be considered endangered and
swamped by zoologists. But it turns out this is all a PR stunt because the animal was in fact genetically engineered in a lab, probably like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs. And this is all to get the public “used to” the animal.

Okay, so first thing — you don’t need to convince me. I say bring on the GMOs. I have no problem. EVERY animal is a product of genetic engineering. Cows, dogs, horses, pigs, they’ve all been bred selectively over centuries to get the biggest and best. Seedless oranges are a mutation. Nature should have wiped them out, but we kept them going. The very experiment that founded gene study used genetic engineering (Mendel’s pea plants). So I say, bring it on. I would definitely eat vat-grown meat. I eat beef sticks, summer sausage. Those aren’t too far off.

The “superpig” is designed to breed like rabbits, fatten like seals, and poop like deer. It’s more cower than cows, more piggy than pigs. I’m guessing it must be fiscally efficient to raise too, since a family of two can ranch it in the Korean mountains. It’s not even that the movie says it’s wrong to create animals to be killed, it’s dropping the anvil on ALL meat-eaters, doing the old “pink slime in the factory” routine. Ooh, animals shouldn’t be kept in cages, shouldn’t be given hormones. I do not give a fuck how it got to my table. It’s a resource, it’s non-intelligent. If you want to pump it full of morphine to make its life more bearable, fine, but that means your shoes are going to cost more. They’re animals. Humanity doesn’t apply because they aren’t human.

I think, in the context of the story, they’re creating a lie because they don’t think people will react well to an animal that was created in a lab rather than naturally evolved. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I say it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make (which is to say, it’s no sacrifice because humans have been doing it for millennia). Especially because… (moving to the second point)

THIS THING WIPES OUT WORLD HUNGER. The corporation made it for that reason. What business does that? What business dedicates itself to such a noble, world-saving cause? Tilda Swinton is following the path of Bill Gates and Elon Musk. And some little Korean kid is going to stop it? Fuck her. I don’t care that you fell in love with your cuddly hippo-pig. There are bigger things at stake here. About 780 million things.

Third point: Hey, kid, this is not your pig. Maybe you spent all that time raising it and playing with it like Horton Hatching an Egg, but I have no doubt that you signed a contract (or your grandfather did, since you’re a minor and not allowed to legally own property yet, so it’s not even really yours in two ways, but I’m digressing). And that contract says “we pay you to raise the pig for ten years, then we take it back”. This is established at the beginning of the movie, so I’m not conjecturing here.

This is not like adoption. This is an animal. It’s property. It’s owned. Not just that it was born under the care of someone else, it was CREATED by someone else. You don’t even own the license to Okja. You don’t get to dictate whether or not they “get to” take it back just because you developed feelings. This company can do what they want with THEIR pig. And they want to stop people from starving. So step back. 

Also, Jake Gyllenhaal is in this movie. He plays Gay Alcoholic Jack Hanna.

Last, even if it wasn’t a world-saving pig, I hate movies that paint evil business against the little blue collar kid. Mirando is doing what it’s supposed to be doing — making money. It’s not evading taxes or exploiting poverty-stricken black folk. It’s making a legitimate product to sell.

Businesses gotta make money. It takes money, people, and time to make product. You might argue against “big pharma” drugs costing a lot, but it’s more than just the pill — it’s the research, the employees, the logistics, the commissioned studies, passing the FDA tests and following the government rules that keep the drugs safe and stop snake oil from selling. This country went from AIDS being a death sentence to a disease you can live with. And who did that? Drug companies.

NOTE! that this does not excuse people like Martin Shkreli or EpiPen, who raised prices on their products with no justification. In those cases, the products had already been priced, then raised it like protection money. That’s a different scenario and a most evil one.

I think I’ll name him Stampy.

I’m not saying big business gets a bad rap or is really an angel in disguise. But they have a mission and it’s not personal. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always kind. But in Okja, CEOs are labeled as “fucking psychopaths”, portrayed as the flamboyant Capitol zealots in The Hunger Games, just for doing their job — getting people food to eat.

I found the solution — combine the director’s two movies

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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