Vegan and Vegetarianism has been on a steady rise for years. Environmental awareness can take some of the credit for the rise, but we’re here to talk about the PETA-meets-Babe sci-fi Netflix original, Okja.
The film was released last summer and made headlines for inspiring a mass exodus from the omnivore diet. It follows Mija, a granddaughter of a super-pig farmer, and her friendship with one special super-pig. When the Mirando Corporation retrieves the pig to be harvested, Mija is on a mission to save her best friend from its factory farm destination, where viewers learn all about the corporation’s degrading breeding tactics. Recently, GQ questioned why Okja was more successful in encouraging meat-free diets as opposed to documentaries like Food, Inc. or non-fiction novels such as Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.
What the writer suggests is that the simple fact that the feature film wasn’t a documentary helped. That makes sense: When one turns on a documentary, one is expected to be shown a series of facts as to why something should be changed. Documentaries often exhibit a strong stance of a one sided argument. Okja, on the other hand, almost sneakily plants the idea of consuming less meat through “humanizing storytelling,” newly vegetarian Abbey White tells GQ. Going into the movie, you don’t expect to be given a lesson on the harsh (though perhaps exaggerated) realities of mass factory-farming.
Director Bong Joon-ho uses the tear-jerking power of fiction to aid his message that super-pigs are friends, not food. In detailing Mija’s heartache over losing her friend to conveyor belt butchering and Mirando’s graphic dealings in animal testing and abuse, Bong makes it all the easier for audiences to relate to Mija than, say, a scientist in a documentary. Most of us have all had a childhood pet we wouldn’t dare to send to the factory.