If you haven’t watched Okja, you probably should. It’s undoubtedly one of the best film this year that makes you think and reflect on the society.
I would say Okja addresses the concept of animal abuse and exploitation in our mass food system very thoughtfully and elegantly. I do acknowledge that I have been made aware of the rampant mistreatment and abuse of our animal livestock in our food system. The horrid conditions that these animals are put through when they are just treated as nothing more than meat to be slaughtered. There have been videos circulating on the internet of these places and many of the internet masses have been made aware of it. But when it comes down to it in our daily lives, I guess with most of the uncomfortable things that we feel we are powerless to change, we choose to ignore and forget about these atrocities happening half a world away.
I think this speaks about our modern culture, when we face problems at such a global scale and we are but just the end users of this entire system, we feel so powerless to do what in our conscience is right. We also have the luxury to forget, as these food systems have so little impact in our daily lives, we just see the end product as a slice of meat in our grocery stores. And in the end we as everyone else in this capitalistic system, we base our purchasing decisions solely on how cheap a product can be, not factoring in its impact to the environment, the exploitation of workers across the world and the moral conscience of how it is made.
And this is the exact type of informed viewers Okja manages to appeal to. The story first and foremost makes you fall in love with the lead character with its cute and semi-dog like nature. It manages to endear the relationship between a village girl and hippo-pig hybrid into our hearts and paints a very clear picture of the big bad money making corporations as the villains, maybe sometimes to an overly simplistic one dimensional characters. Okja brings viewers on a journey through these painful topics of animal exploitation, capitalism trumping all else and the uphill battle of fighting for what is right, while giving us the hope that fighting for what you believe in will work itself out. In the end though there is a strong tinge of reality as the corporate machine still continues on to feed the global market and the most Mija & Okja can do is to head back to their life in the hills while saving a cub in the process. Overall I think Okja does a great job to spread the awareness of our food systems to viewers who are quite jaded with videos that guilt us into facing global scaled problems with no glimmer of hope. And maybe through this it can re-inspire a generation to be more conscious about their food choices.
I think the movie highlights the issue of the current society where (1) we take things for granted, and (2) money/ business are main priority. The relationship between Okja and Mija (the caretaker) is sacred and deep. To Mija, Okja is more than a family. She would do anything to bring Okja back home. We can see the determination of this little girl, going through everything from rebelling against her grandfather to obeying the Miranda Corp’s order, she just want to keep Okja safe and alive.
I feel emotionally drenched when I saw the scene (and heard the cries) of Okja being systematically raped in the underground lab. Of course it did not just happened to Okja only. (I hope) It was a breeding process in zoos, research facilities. In the movie, we could see how Okja was physically and mentally hurt. She was mad at her caretaker when she saw Mija again. Animals do have feelings. Though they do not have as developed brain as ours to process higher thinking, they are living organisms who have emotions. Imagining this happening on human beings (which are already happening).. I feel this method of forced reproduction is wrong and against morality. I think we should let the animals make their own choice, be it partner or to reproduce, and we should respect that. Alternatively, IVF on those animals? It could be possible. I feel if there’s less demands, the animals need not go through all these to breed. Perhaps what we could do is start from reducing our consumption on meats. (Of course, IVF is not an ideal solution as it still touches on the animal rights and ethical issues, and of course, whether the technology is applicable to different species.)
I appreciate this movie brought in the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) team. It’s relieving to see that the team leader was willing to respect Mija’s decision after learning that she’s Okja’s best friend. Obtaining consent is a form of respect you have to others and to yourself. I admire his way of doing things even though he knew all his effort will be wasted if Mija said no. (Actually, sometimes I was thinking, Mija’s consent is not really that important isn’t it? She is not the owner of Okja, thus legally speaking, she has no right to make decision for Okja. But.. hmm.. if not Mija, who is going to speak for Okja -who could not express herselves like we do –
oh well, you see, we humans have been playing God anyway. The way we treat other living organisms, as if we have the right to decide which one becomes pure livestock and their lives don’t matter much because they’re born to be our food. Sad, but that’s a fact.) On the other hand, we’re able to relate to K when he mistranslated Mija’s decision intentionally. Though his action defied the principle of ALF, K had the good intention to make the mission a success and protect other innocent animals. Aren’t we all like that most of the time? Thinking we know best. Sticking to our own beliefs and do what we think it’s right, even to the extend of breaching the rules/laws at times. There’s pros and cons to it. You know, superheroes in the movies are like that as well, but because of this trait, heroes manage to save the world. Something like, if we don’t rebel, there won’t be any breakthrough *wink* It’s VERY touching to see the people riot against Miranda Corp and the blood and tears they have shed during the protest. Fighting for something you believe in and attempting to change it is not easy. It is very brave of every one of them.
Towards the ending, Nancy from Miranda Corp explained something along this line “no matter what, business is business, if the items are cheap enough, people would buy”. Nancy also close a deal with Mija after Mija purchased Okja with the gold pig figurine. It reflects the current society where most companies are profit driven and the consumers are blinded by price tags. It’s depressing to see our society’s selfishness and ignorance. We make decisions solely based on the largest profit we could gain. Businessmen should incorporate good deeds in their business practice. Profit is important to sustain a business but there’s always a loophole for morality to comes into play. As a consumer, doesn’t that line slap right at our face? We tend to purchase goods with the cheapest (or second cheapest) price. Perhaps we should re-evaluate our methods of selection before purchasing. We could understand the company’s practice and the origin of the goods beforehand. If paying extra for better cause and better quality, why not.
There’s so many things to discuss about this movie, from the character of aesthetic-focus Lucy Miranda to the self-proclaimed animal lover Dr Johnny. Their characters are interesting yet relevant to our current lives. I believer they are around us! Narcissist, hypocrite, saddist.. (running out of vocabulary…) Not going to discuss further on this here.
Overall, this movie really got me thinking. I have contradictory arguments on the actions and decisions of the characters. Yes, I’m sitting on the fence. However, I am supportive of ALF and their movement. Having said that, that doesn’t mean that I am going to become a vegan overnight. I feel a bit disgusted at the sight, smell and taste of meat (Okja just came to mind every single time). It is hard to completely change the diet of the whole human nation. Maybe someday everyone will just rely on the superfood (one pill a day for all the nutrients) and the world will reach its equilibrium state.
Originally published at qpskpii.wordpress.com on July 14, 2017.