Satirizing the Nazis is tricky, yet possible

Adam Tumino

“Rhetoric does not get you anywhere because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy they stand no chance.”

This quote by Mel Brooks came to my mind regarding the upcoming release of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film by director Taika Waititi. It is described as a dark comedy about a young boy in the Hitler Youth who finds out that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl.

The boy searches for answers with his imaginary friend, who is a fictionalized version of Adolf Hitler. This sounds intriguing since the dangers of ultra-nationalism are so prevalent in our society right now.

This makes me think back to perhaps the greatest satire of Hitler and the Nazis ever made: Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.”

I do not want to detail the plot too much because doing so would ruin the fun for people who have not seen it.

Briefly, it is about two Broadway producers who realize they can make more money by putting on a bad show rather than a good one.

If they raise more money than the show costs to produce and put on a show guaranteed to close after one night, no one will expect them to repay the backers. They plan to take the extra money and run away to Rio de Janeiro.

They acquire the rights to a musical rendition of Hitler’s life, “Springtime for Hitler,” written by a former Nazi soldier and hire the worst director and cast they can find.

The musical is so poorly made that the audience finds it funny. It becomes an instant hit and the producers go to prison.

Satire can be challenging, especially when the target is something like Hitler and the Nazis. Even today, over 74 years after his death, filmmakers have been cautious when targeting Hitler.

Brooks did it successfully just 22 years after Hitler’s death in 1967. Some of the audience was upset with the use of Nazi symbols in the film and thought it was in poor taste. The horrors of World War II were still fresh in people’s minds at the time.

Brooks was able to get away with it by establishing characters so morally bankrupt that the audience is not shocked that they would take advantage of Nazi imagery to make money.

If Waititi has a solid approach in “Jojo Rabbit,” his message should successfully resonate. I hope he hits his target, although he picked a tricky one to hit.

Adam Tumino is a junior journalism major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].