As soon as “Okja” started streaming on Netflix on June 28, it started to generate intense online discussion about genetically-modified food, animal abuse and the virtues of a vegetarian diet. It is, in short, the type of film that gets people talking. Here’s how “Okja” will change your life.
#1: “Okja” will make you more aware of genetically modified foods in your local supermarket
The fundamental premise of “Okja” is that an evil corporation called Miranda Corporation is breeding genetically-modified superpigs. As part of a 10-year experiment, the company has placed 26 GMO superpigs around the world, to see where the most conducive environment is for breeding and raising these superpigs in the future.
But that’s where things go terribly wrong, because “Okja” – a superpig residing in South Korea with young Mija – is destined to become meat in the local supermarket if someone doesn’t save it. Miranda Corp. is ruthlessly breeding these superpigs as part of a broader strategy to solve the world’s food shortage problem. The superpig – which tends to resemble a really cute hippopotamus more than a pig – is a source of sustainable protein that “just tastes f***** good.”
Of course, that raises a bigger question about the role of genetically modified foods in today’s world. Do you really know what’s being sold in your local supermarket, and why? As we see in this really thought-provoking film, corporations can come up with an upbeat, positive marketing campaign for just about anything – and that includes pigs that are being bred to huge proportions as part of a master plan to solve the world’s food shortage.
#2: You’ll become a crusader for animal rights after watching “Okja”
One of the sub-plots of the movie involves the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a group of radical animal rights activists that are determined to free these genetically modified superpigs from captivity. Along the way, there’s even an epic scene where young Mija rides her superpig through the streets of Seoul, South Korea in an attempt to avoid Mirando Corporation.
As we’re shown time and time again in the movie, the Mirando Corporation often resorts to cruel and unethical treatment of animals in order to advance its corporate goals. No wonder PETA has become a champion of this film. And actor Paul Dano, who plays the role of the ALF activist Jay, has given interviews about the way the film has really affected him. Talking about Okja, he noted, “She’s beautiful, and feels real to me… and very emotionally real, too.”
Even pigs, it turns out, have emotions and thoughts. As PETA points out, pigs are social, playful and form emotional bonds. They can learn tricks, like sitting for a treat, and can often recognize their own names. And in the film, Okja is just so adorably sweet and wonderful – she’s like a hippopotamus that learns little tricks and is very loyal to little Mija. Who would possibly want to harm that wonderful creature?
#3: You’ll stop eating meat after watching “Okja”
The film also takes us behind the scenes to see how the meat is made at slaughterhouses. Your stomach will go sick from seeing these scenes – you’ve probably never seen what a mass killing factory looks like, and how little animals are ruthlessly slaughtered in the most inhumane way possible. The director of the film, Bong Joon-ho (who also directed “Snowpiercer”), himself visited a pig slaughterhouse in Colorado before making the film. And that experience alone completely turned him off meat.
Some, like foodie blog Eater, have declared that “Okja will turn the world vegan.” That might be overstating things – especially since BBQ is such a national pastime in South Korea, where the film was made – but it does suggest that people will re-think the role of meat in their diet. Some have also compared “Okja” to the 1905 masterpiece by Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle,” which chronicled the unethical and sickening behavior of Big Meat in America.
If you want to get started with a vegan diet after watching this film, PETA has you covered. They’re currently offering a “vegan starter kit” to help wean you away from meat. Every time you pass the meat section of a supermarket, you’ll be reminded that every beef burger is the byproduct of a cow that’s been murdered in some horrible way.
#4: “Okja” will make you yearn for your youthful days of innocence and purity
One of the real highlights of “Okja” is the very young Mija, played by South Korea actress Ahn Seo-hyun. Some have suggested that “Okja” conjures up the feelings and emotions that we felt a generation ago, when we watched Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” That movie, too, had a certain innocence and purity to it, reminding us that even strange alien beings can possess human-like emotions and thoughts.
And just as young kids rescued E.T. from harm, it’s the youngsters in “Okja” who must rescue the superpigs. It’s that scene of young Mija riding a superpig through the busy streets of Seoul that will leave an indelible mark on you. You won’t be able to get that vision out of your head.
The exact opposite of this innocence is represented by Lucy Mirando (played by Tilda Swinton), the evil CEO of Mirando Corp. Whereas the children are innocent and delightful, Lucy Mirando is ruthless and calculating (and just a little vulgar about the way she describes the superpigs). It turns out that the real “pigs” are the humans like Lucy Mirando and her evil twin sister Nancy Mirando (also played by Tilda Swinton).
Overall, “Okja” really packs an emotional wallop. When the movie first premiered at Cannes, it received a four-minute standing ovation from the audience. People loved the movie and it how it told such an important story in such a clever way.
This film will really change your life. You’ll become much smarter about topics like GMO foods and the perils of a world food shortage. And you might just decide to give up meat forever. Okja the superpig is more than just a cute pet – she is a symbol of something much more, and that’s why this film is so powerful and will resonate with audiences everywhere.