By Joshua Ball
Last night I decided to watch the Netflix original film, Okja. The story of a young Korean girl, Mija, living in a remote mountain region with her grandfather rearing a super pig created by the multinational corporation, Mirando. The main story arc involves Mija desperately trying to reclaim her beloved super pig from the meat production company.
The film boasts some tremendous characters; however, the biggest sociopaths, Lucy Mirando, current head of said multinational and her twin sister Nancy (both played by Tilda Swinton), and Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) a broken zoologist and TV personality, really liven up what could have been another Free Willy.
The final twenty minutes of the film are the ones that hold the punches. I found my old dried up tear ducts leaking during a scene almost entirely acted out by CGI super pigs, which is something I never thought I’d write.
The film raises some excellent points. There is a scene towards the end set in a modern abattoir and factory where livestock are being readied, slaughtered and packaged. The scene itself only depicted modern day livestock production methods but it felt like something out of Doom or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There is nothing like the absolute truth to really shock you. According to Animal Equality, around 56 billion animals are slaughtered globally per year. That’s quite a lot. That’s a lot of animal farts, a lot of animal feed and a lot of water.
Another point raised is the smiley corporate nonsense that get shoved down our throats daily. From Captain Birdseye who apparently scours the high seas hand picking the finest fish fingers for our evening plate when, let’s be real, Birdseye use giant nets to scoop up half the sea only to select the nicest cod and dump the rest of the dead stuff back. Their website boasts a green captain and they promise that they “ensure our food is responsibly sourced and prepared”, whatever that means. Tyson, one of the biggest meat producers in the USA, promise no antibiotics are used on their animals, because they don’t care if an animal suffers whilst sick as long as we’re not eating it. Their website looks authentic, rustic and promises their products are 100% “real”. The shiny marketing gloss covers up the grim reality that they slaughter millions of animals per year to provide us with a product that we really could live without.
The final major point the move raises is the idea of GM produce and how it is slowly seeping onto our dinner plate, much without our knowledge. Now, the jury is still out for me on GM products. For thousands of years we have been genetically modifying plants and animals to suit our needs. Cows, for example, bear little resemblance to their ancestors. Humans have bred them to be big, meaty, cumbersome milk machines. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t do so well in the wild. Bananas apparently used to have seeds and the grapefruit is a hybrid of a sweet orange and a pomelo. We’ve been genetically modifying things for centuries, albeit in a slightly less sophisticated way. Should we be eating GM food or could it help improve production yield? It’s hard to say, as most scientific studies are funded by food manufacturing businesses and we all know the government gets backhanders all the time. *COUGH COUGH* Google.
For me Okja is a great film for children and adults alike. It is entertaining and thought provoking, if not a touch weird at times. It doesn’t push the vegetarian agenda, as the main character is seen eating fish and meat unlike some other similarly themed productions. It raises a vital point, which is highlighted at the start of the film when Jenny (Swinton), Mirando CEO, states that the world is starving and 30 million people are below the poverty line in the USA alone, so what is needed is cheaper, bigger and more eco-friendly meat, that tastes “fucking good”. Just think about that logically for the second.