You know those children’s books that are kinda scary and sometimes it’s hard to believe that they were made for children? I think we need a little more context so I won’t sound creepy in this video Or, at least, not the only one. Jon: “A curious thing is that I’m usually not scared by traditional scary movies, you know? But, on the other hand, gruesome fairy tales really scare me. Yeah, I don’t know, I think maybe because they have an eery vibe portrayed as a playful story it becomes something more fundamentally visceral”. Henrique: “After I saw Jon talking about this on his channel, I did some research and found Otesánek, a movie based on an European fairytale that, for my surprise, is incredibly good. Thanks, Jon! Go check his channel. Let’s see the movie. The plot is very simple. It starts with a couple finding out that they can’t have children and start to get paranoid by the pressure surrounding them. As you’ve already realized, they get a plant root and start to raise it as a child. Giving it showers, affection and food. At first, it was just a joke. But the joke gets more serious to the point where it comes to life. The little Otik. This obsessive nurturing turns Otik into a spoiled, whiny baby that wants to eat everything in front of him. The movie director, Jan Svankmajer, creates here a multiple-level allegory, even though its set is a small village. So, an erection works as an metaphor and everything else becomes a visual analogy. From masturbating to sex itself This scene is a metaphor for sex as well as for giving birth since Otik is born from it. From this part until the root comes to life, everything is loaded with sex. The movie also makes other points about it. One that specially got my attention happens as soon as Otik starts being fed with other foods besides breast milk. Yes, he is breastfed. His mother starts to take care of the baby, going for walks, makes food basically, she dedicates her entire life to this little creature. And, while playing peekaboo, he pulls her hair and starts eating it mercilessly I find very significant this image of the son figuratively devouring his mother, starting from one of the main symbols associated with femininity. The father is not very effective when he tries to help. What a surprise! Despite all eccentricities, this is not Jan’s biggest obsessions since he seems to have a serious fixation towards mouths. Or maybe this is a essential point to understand the point of the movie. Before Otik starts devouring everything, the cat, the mailman, the neighbors mouths are completely connected to consumption. Consumption? While the little Otik eats all kinds of food or any living being in front of him, his neighbors devours advertisements and products. Look at this shirtless dude watching a commercial for a iron that irons clothes by itself while, obviously, someone at his house is doing that job. Actually, the whole notion of having a baby is a product. Those TV commercials sell anything as an amazing experience, as banal as it may be. Otik himself comes to life because of human obsession and the need to escape from reality. He’s a magical toy that can redeem our lives. Here, devouring is the only source of pleasure and world ownership. Despite growing up, Otik is still a root. It never becomes a tree. Stuck on the oral phase of childhood, he also represents the perpetuation of childhood in our culture as to perpetuate consumers. Yes, the movie specially talks about our consumerism. Realizing that this director had a lot to say, I started looking for the things he had already said and found one of his most polemic statements or, at least, the most famous one. In interviews, Svankmajer blames “art for children” by Walt Disney as one of the leading destroyers of the European culture. According to him, “Art for children” is dangerous in that it shares either in the taming of the child’s soul or the bringing up of consumers of mass culture. He’s afraid a child reared on current Disney produce will find it difficult to get used to more sophisticated kinds of art. Otik is the surreal version of those kids though already grown up have an atrophied imaginary and are still stuck on the first stage of childhood, dependents of new breasts to feed on. In this case, the entertainment industry with an unbridled gluttony that results in relationships scarred by devouring and devoration. This could be just lip service but that’s not the case here. Similarly to what Disney did in 1951, the Czech director also adapted the Lewis Carrol book for the movies and here is easier to comprehend what he meant it. The thing is the book “Alice in Wonderland” is one of the most fascinating things ever written and probably the best book I’ve ever read. Part of my admiration comes from how innocent and accessible the story is while being ironic, provocative and defiant at the same time. Alice isn’t stupid at all and has some very clever statements, coming up with ingenuous ideas but also questioning established aspects. Maybe she tries to understand them but she doesn’t have to accept them. As a reader, I have lots of fun while also spend hours reflecting on what those pages have to say. It’s a book that never goes old and should be read by everyone on their childhood so they can return to it when older to see how much we haven’t learned. This surrealist director understood very well its purpose when transcribing it to a movie, using daily and lifeless objects that instigate us to look for a purpose based on their weird body movements. I find it amazing how doors and drawers gain even bigger proportions in his version, influencing Alice almost by an impulse to disobey or just out of curiosity. She breaks into any closed room on her way. The director doesn’t care for prettiness here, quite the opposite, it’s impossible not to be out of zone by it. The irony and leadership that Alice has in this scenario are extremely empowering It isn’t hard to think how much more docile the cartoon character version is. Disney’s version is considerably more expositive, colorful and harmless. All to cushion the experience for the masses which doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it’s just less challenging. I find amusing the way Jan chose to start his movie, saying through the opening credits “you will see a film for children”. But he has this as lifestyle. He states that childhood is the most revolutionary period of our life where we are owners of our freedom, constantly battling against and questioning repression. We want to disobey. And we always want to know the reason behind everything. Coincidentally, it’s probably the most creative time of our lives. Both of his movies cited here, he incorporates this to his protagonists to the maximum. Alice here is the perfect subversive version of the book’s and the little girl from Otesanek is by far the most intelligent character of the movie, articulating adults at her will and demonstrating interest in learning and understanding her surroundings, even finding out what was happening while the adults kept fooling themselves. If I had said it at the beginning of the video you wouldn’t believe me but those really are movies for kids, in a broader sense of the word. There’s critical sense and questioning, nothing beats that. So, there is a symptomatic problem in mainly commercial movies because, according to the director, there isn’t anything revolutionary about it. He grew up under a totalitarian regime but says with conviction that its censorship seemed less toxic to him. Today’s control is harder to see and it alienates and infatilizes. And how to achieve that? Exactly through mass culture and publicity. This little entertainment between work shifts starts to domesticate us little by little and manipulates our desires to a point where if we don’t consume we don’t exist. Then, we have an entire civilization marked by inequality, terrorism, war and violence that can be explained by a society that is always trying to destroy one another, displaying a childish behavior. To him, consumer society is the last stage of civilization since these devouring signs point towards the end. In his own words, he isn’t saying that our society is going to die but we are witnessing the consequences of the society we have. Terrorism is a consequence of inequality and devoration. Today, the USA drops bombs in Afghanistan and later, it will drop food packages. Well, if it was hard to understand, let’s make things even worse. Japan, one the biggest pillars of consumption and media products. But there’s a little detail. It was there that the other pillar of consumption and media products dropped two atomic bombs. Now we reach the last important work for this video: “Paranoia Agent” by the late Satoshi Kon, more used to direct movies and this was his only adventure with episodes. He nailed it. We start by following Tsukiko, the character designer responsible for the kawaii phenomenon Maromi. This inoffensive little pink animal that is absolutely everywhere: stuffed animals, cartoons, and any other licensed product. The conflict starts when the company she works at starts pressuring Tsukiko to come up with another product hit, something not so easy to do. So with increasingly tight deadlines and envious looks towards her, Tsukiko is attacked by a high school boy with a baseball bat and golden roller blades. The most thought-provoking aspect is that when she is hospitalized after the attack a weird relief feeling surrounds her. Her deadlines are postponed, and she can finally rest. During the anime’s first half we follow similar cases. Conflicted people that find some sort of relief in the skater boy figure. He starts to be investigate by the police and even gets a nickname “Shounen Bat”. In the comfort of the hospital beds, these people were free from their obligations. Satoshi Kon excels in various aspects here and satirizes Japanese pop culture at various levels. From mangas, with an episode that intercalates the story of an honored character that justifies with deep statements the deplorable attitudes of the main character; to videogames, playing around with being the chosen one creating a narrative and the whole idea of protagonism; to animes, with an brilliant episode where he shows us a good part of the production of an animation and the pressure behind it; up to suicide, in one of the most amazing moments of the show where a trio meet for a collective suicide and even lament that Shounen Bat doesn’t get to them. In all those situations, Maromi is there. Amazingly, none of this is told in a tragic way. The narrative is acid, ironic and funny. Satoshi Kon uses the 3-episode format to completely explore language, experimenting a lot. The pinnacle, for me, is when he shows all the situations where Shounen Bat shows up in an episode where the residents of a building are gossiping about their neighbors and the dramatization of the events is an experiment field for the director. The cherry on the cake is the last frame of the episode, an idea that only a true genius could have to illustrate his argument. But with the investigations going nowhere and suspecting that the first attack of this mysterious figure was a farce, a question comes up: “Is Shounen Bat real?” Yes. He’s real. But it’s intangible. He couldn’t know who is failing school, or keeping up with a diet, the Paranoia Agent is an idea. Shounen Bat is the perfect metaphor for our modern times. Times where we wait for a miracle that can redeem ourselves from responsibility and guilt. As the iron that irons by itself. But since I’ve warned you that things get a little more dramatic here, let’s analyze Maromi. Another essential piece for our puzzle. This lazy, passive creature that tells you to chill and not worry about it now is nothing more than the ultimate symbol for escapism and alienation in modern Japan and its presence everywhere, through all ages, it’s the perfect representation of a Japan immersed in guilt while not taking responsibility for its actions. Maromi is an escape from reality. The virtualization of life. It points out a nation poisoned by mass culture and advertising strategies that suppress pain and offers happiness. A fictional version of Pikachu. All these cute creatures that suffocate the Japanese market. So, Maromi is Shounen Bat’s shadow. But what would be its equivalent in real life? The researcher Ben Hamammoto states that if in the anime what turned the Japanese people into blameless victims, wiped away their memory of history and left them hollow, amiable and passive was Shounen Bat, in reality it was the atomic bomb. He wrote that in his article “Hello Kitty and the Rape of Nanjing”. The link will be in the description for anyone who wants to read it in English. The also called Nanjing Massacre he cites here it’s only one of the many atrocities committed by the Imperial Japan that were simply erased by the atomic bomb – one of the biggest atrocities committed by humans. The bomb turned the aggressive Japan into a helpless child, totally dependent of the United States today without any economic and military autonomy. But why Hello Kitty? With its short rounded body members, a blank stare, and the lack of a mouth it is, just like Maromi, a mask for the bloody cadaver that the Imperial Japan was. A country that still faces diplomatic problems with other Asian countries like China and Korea for not taking responsibility for extensively documented war crimes and not treating the subject as it should in its public education system. Either be because of the bomb or Shounen Bat, what Hello Kitty and Maromi encourage is the escape from suffering, from doubts, a life without any problems. Looking back to what the Czech director stated, isn’t this exactly the fake corporate advertising speech that affirms everyone can live a full life in a state of constant happiness if we work hard enough to have enough money to afford it? With the psychologically weak youth of today, the rampant consumerism of mass culture is sold as the answer. If the bomb infatilized an entire nation like Japan, here is like we had never stopped being a child. We’re roots that grow but never become trees. In a scene from “Otesánek”, at the movie exit, after watching a horror movie, the couple finds the movie stupid, that movies should be about common people, more human. You know why all that, why this baby root, Alice’s world of wonder, stuffed animals, even Hello Kitty, look so scary? It’s because they are extremely human. [opera playing] [baby laughs] [baby cooing] My name is Henrique and I have two things to say: First, you guys must’ve noticed the long length of the videos this one was specially hard, and this is possible because of our supporters and the people who buy from our Amazon links, so I ask that if you guys want us to continue to produce more check our funding campaign. By supporting, you can be part of our Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Buying any books? Buy from our links! I’ll leave this Alice hardcover edition link as well as other sales in the description. The second thing is to go check on Jon’s channel. He was part of today’s video and is a huge inspiration for me. Everything in the description. This was a very laborious video so if you liked it, give it a like, share and subscribe to our channel. Hugs!