The Most Effective: Propaganda by Annie Ge

There are many mediums available to the creative writer or director. However, perhaps the most effective medium for conveying thought and convincing audiences is the propaganda film. Mitsuyo Seo’s film Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is a silent, animated propaganda piece about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Seo takes his own spin on the classic tale of Momotaro and transforms it into wartime propaganda. In the film, Seo uses food to send a simple and clear message to the audience, making this work the one which uses food most effectively.

Propaganda within itself is an extremely effective means of swaying audiences to its message. Unlike the documentary or other such persuasive films, the propaganda is not bound by fact. The makers of propaganda are free to exaggerate, especially during war time propaganda. In times of war, a nation’s people are already rallied together against their enemies, and so are more susceptible to the messages of the propaganda. The enemy is portrayed as inferior and evil, no proof or citations needed. Propaganda is also completely one sided. The story of the enemy is never shown, so audiences are exposed to a very biased story. However, this bias and freedom from facts are precisely what makes propaganda films so effective as a means of persuasion. The maker’s viewpoint is clearly stated.

Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is an exemplary propaganda film. Although the piece is about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there is none of the violence associated with such large scale military attacks. No living creature was hurt in the movie, not even the antagonists. Instead of Pearl Harbor, the animals in the film are attacking “Demon Island”, an obviously fiction place. This pull form reality helps to draw the audience in with a relatively relaxed atmosphere, rather than focusing on the gruesomeness and seriousness of war. Also, rather than using an original mascot, Seo chose to use Momotaro, a lovable hero that everyone in Japan grew up with and knows. This, combined with the lack of violence, help to endear the characters and the characters’ actions to the audience. On the other hand, Seo makes the enemies, the “demons”, seem inferior to the Japanese troops. The sailors of what is supposed to be the American side are shown to be clumsy, rotund, and cowardly as they scramble to flee the attacks, many of them stumbling and falling down in the process. The animals on the Japanese side, on the other hand, are courageous and intelligent, such as the monkey diving out of the plane and changing the direction of a misfired missile. It is clear whose side the film maker wants the audience to be on.

In Momotaro, Seo uses food as a very simple yet affective analogy. In the original folk tale, Momotaro is provided with millet dumplings before heading out on his heroic journey. Similarly, the animals under Momotaro’s command are given dumplings before taking off for “Demon Island”. Before launching their assault, the animals eat the dumplings and gain strength and vitality from the food. The American soldiers, however, drink alcohol, even in the midst of being attacked. The drinks disorientate them and hasten their defeat. The contrast between the two is obvious. On one hand, we have the millet dumplings, a traditional Japanese food pulled straight from the original folk tale, which grants the eater power and success. On the other hand, there is the alcohol that the Americans drink, which leads to ridicule and defeat. Each country is analogous to the results their food produces. Seo uses food as a simple message: Japanese good, American bad. The simplicity of this statement and of its portrayal is what makes this film’s use of food so effective. Audiences do not need to think very hard in order to get the message. The director’s opinion is clearly presented.

Of all the films and works studied in class, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles presents the most effective use of food. Being propaganda, it is not bound by the limits of facts and reason. Seo is able to make normal millet dumplings into devices of strength and power. In other works studied in class, food brings about change and influence, but possesses no special ability by themselves. Also, the simple yet obvious differences between the Japanese and American side is enhanced through food. In many other works studied in the course, food does not play such an obvious role. Thus, it is difficult to ascertain what the author means by using food within his work. Thus, the reason for the effectiveness of Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is its basis as a propaganda film and the simple way food is used in the movie.


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