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California School of the Arts

Movie review: ‘Okja’: Pigs are friends, not food

Bacon used to taste pretty good. Hot dogs were all right. I never particularly cared for steak or jerky, but they were okay. Except now, having just finished watching “Okja,” I don’t know anymore.

The awful truth behind life, survival, food, and everything else is that there’s no way for everything to be clean-cut and “moral.” For every cause there is an effect, for every action taken there is something changed, and for every, well, pig, pet or not, killed there are bacon sandwiches made.

With this in mind, one can hardly blame the Mirando Corporation’s grand views that an entire collection of “super-pigs” could potentially solve for world hunger (while being an effective business.)

Starting off as a vision of a “genetically engineered colossus with a ‘sad’ face and ‘lovely’ disposition,” Bong Joon-ho’s newest film “Okja” gives audience a powerful image of not only the food industry capitalistic approaches but also a touching reminder of the shared love between humans and animals.

Over the course of two hours, the audience is introduced to a courageous and strong young girl, Mija (An Seo Hyun,) whose love for her pet “super-pig” (Okja) is greater than the power of those who want to take her beloved friend away. We are swept into an intense story that takes us from the birth of what seems to be a noble idea to the South Korean mountains, careening through the streets of South Korea, trudging through a New Jersey slaughterhouse, and finally out into a bustling city celebrating the products of seemingly heartless actions. Not only does the film show us the terrors animals face in their final moments before turning into the packaged meat in our grocery stores, it challenges watchers to interpret its morally ambiguous ending.

Though we may find it hard to forgive the actions of the Lucy Mirando, the main advocate of the slaughter, is it really wrong to desire a successful business? Is it truly wrong for humans to consume animals? If the human slaughter process is considered inhumane, would we also be in a position to call the natural hunting process of other animals inhumane as well?

If killing Okja, and the hundreds of other “super-pigs” would cure world hunger, would the treatment of the “super-pigs” be justified? If the Animal Liberation Front had decided to aid Okja’s rescue, does that make them responsible or morally obliged to save the rest of the “super-pigs?”

Director Bong Joon-ho tells us in the Netflix Production Diaries that he wanted to “make a movie that transcends ethnicity and borders” and that he feels that he has done so.

Interweaving a colorful and poignant picture of two cultures and the two drastically different worlds of the city and countryside, “Okja” is not a movie we will soon forget. Given the depth and multilayered story of love, morals, the darker side of business, and of nature, we can only wholeheartedly agree that the movie transcended both ethnicity and borders— as well as the usual singular moral viewpoints.