Every Studio Ghibli Film Is Secretly About The Same Thing

The first is that Miyazaki is a deeply empathetic man—he wouldn’t be much of a leftist if he wasn’t. He’s not interested in making a one-dimensional polemic on the Evils of Capitalism. Consider that in Princess Mononoke, Lady Eboshi, the de facto leader of Iron Town whose pollution and expansionism are driving the forest gods insane, also cares for the town’s lepers. She cares for the sick because Miyazaki gives villains more moral credibility than their real-life counterparts.

Studio Ghibli

That’s why she wears a Superman shirt.

The second reason is that, at least in the United States, we’re so inundated by capitalism that realizing recognizing criticism is impossible if we don’t even there’s an alternative. Just look at how interchangeably “liberal” and “leftist” are used in some American political circles. Look how meaningless the word “socialist” has become if your most racist uncle uses it to describe Joe Biden, a man so deeply conservative he gave the eulogy for Strom Thurmond. It’s as meaningless a phrase as “new and improved,” “on the blockchain,” and “no, William, I won’t ever make fun of your weird feet.” It’s a conflict so gigantic, something we’re so immersed in, it feels invisible. Phrased another way: does a fish feel wet? If you were born in the Piss Factory, is there ever a time when you’re like, “Hey, it smells like piss in here?”

But I think the biggest reason is that American audiences are simply unequipped to understand leftist films because they’re such a rarity in the US film market. Despite the completely incorrect reputation Hollywood has as being a bastion of commies thanking Stalin when they win the Oscar for ‘Film That Most Hates America (Live Action),’ there are very, very few mainstream leftist voices in contemporary cinema.

In fact, Miyazaki is almost certainly the most known leftist voice in the film industry. Outside of him, there’s, uh … Adam McKay is a fellow DSA member, so him, and uh … oh! Bong Joon-ho, for sure! Is Boots Riley considered mainstream? No? What about Werner Herzog? Michael Moore is mainstream-adjacent; what’s he been up to? Other than that, umm … there’s, uh … Alfonso Cuarón snuck a hammer and sickle into Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabandoes that count?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Warner Bros.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Apparatchik

Ultimately, audiences failing to see Miyazaki’s critiques of capitalism (or seeing them only as hippy-dippy milquetoast pro-environmentalism) says more about audiences than it does about Miyazaki himself. Perhaps the movie he makes the next time he comes out of retirement, the Super Duper Last Movie He’ll Ever Make For Real This Time You Guys, will be received by an American audience that’s become more receptive to his ideas. Maybe he’ll be less subtle this time.

The Leader


I’d joke about a Sexy Karl Marx anime, but turns out one already exists.

Or maybe, just maybe, if we can make the American film industry more accessible to those who don’t come from wealth and connections, those who graduated with honors from the University of Don’t You Know Who My Father Is, we’ll See more films made by those with firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to live in a world where most of what you make is taken by those who already have more than you ever will.

William Kuechenberg is a repped screenwriter, a Nicholl Top 50 Finalist, and an award-winning filmmaker. If you’re interested in having more leftist voices in the film industry, consider hiring him to be a writer or writer’s assistant on your television show! You can also view his mind-diarrhea on Twitter.

Top image: Studio Ghibli

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