‘Jojo Rabbit’ and Nazi Satire: Why It’s So Hard to Mock the Bad Guys, and How to Get It Right

‘Jojo Rabbit’ and Nazi Satire: Why It’s So Hard to Mock the Bad Guys, and How to Get It Right
It’s impossible to address the challenge of Nazi satire without considering “The Day the Clown Cried.” Jerry Lewis’ misbegotten 1972 production found the comedian directing himself as a Jewish entertainer at a concentration camp. To date, the completed work (if it exists at all) has never been seen. Lewis was reportedly ashamed of the project and managed to hide the footage from the world for the remainder of his life. “Jojo Rabbit” is some indication of why Lewis wanted to bury it: It’s no easy task to turn the Holocaust into a punchline.

There’s a difference between confronting evil and actually dismantling its assumptions. For all the good intentions of “Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi’s “anti-hate satire” never contends with the Nazism at its core. It would be a different story if the movie, in the grand subversive tradition of “The Producers,” appropriated Nazi iconography by positioning it
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