The cinema scene in Porco Rosso tells us a lot about how stereotypes are assigned onto animals through media to serve specific agendas, in this case they are largely political. The pig on screen is portrayed as a villain, but certain similarities make it impossible not to draw connections between the pig onscreen and Porco. By doing this the film makes the viewer evaluate the villainous stereotype of pigs portrayed in the cinema scene by setting it up in opposition to Porco.
The scene opens in a silent cinema where a pig is shown on screen having kidnapped a woman. The lack of music in the scene emphasises the children’s gasps of terror clearly showing the pig to be a villain and something that they are afraid of. Also, the fact that the movie is silent means that the symbolism and gestures are recognisable enough to highlight the pig as a villain to a child audience. While pigs are not considered predatory animals in daily life, the fact that the woman is struggling emphasises the pig as a threat and a villain. The scene then cuts to Porco, who is sat watching the film, drawing a parallel between Porco and the pig shown on screen. This is reinforced by the fact they both have a moustache and anthropomorphic traits such as flying planes. When talking to Ferrarin Porco says “I would rather be a pig than a fascist” further framing some possible context for the clip onscreen. When considering the scene is taking place in fascist Italy it is hard not to connect the villainous portrayal of pigs to Animal Farm by George Orwell. Therefore, it is possible that the fun children’s cartoon being shown on screen is anti-communist or pro fascist propaganda.
Pigs have been used often in children’s media usually in a fun way, however, the book company The Turtle Twins have accused children’s cartoon Pepper Pig of promoting socialism and communism.[i] Pepper Pig is far from overtly political and the fact that this connection has been drawn shows not only the way in which communist images are imposed onto pigs, but also the fear some people hold of the influence media can have. This parallel emphasises that such representations of pigs are not limited to the world within Porco Rosso.
However, the figure of Porco himself conflicts with the portrayal of the pig onscreen as while complicated, he is clearly the hero of the film. In the scene Farrarin constantly uses pig related insults such as “you really are a pig aren’t you?” While this is clearly a critique of Porco’s stubbornness, in context his desire for freedom is admirable. The fact he is a “blatantly unpatriotic pig” aligns him with the portrayal of the pig onscreen in the eyes of the rest of room, however his status as the hero of the film questions the validity of this perception. Furthermore, Farrarin himself is warning Porco of the secret police’s intentions implying that Porco “deserting the air force” is not something he holds against him on a personal level. (Figure 4)
Therefore, there are two layers to the portrayal of pigs in this scene that cause a viewer to question animal stereotypes and political agendas. The pig in the film is clearly a villain and likely being used as anti-communist propaganda. Porco however, is seen by the state as a villain however his desire for freedom is admirable and he is the hero within the film. This contradiction of the portrayal of pigs causes the viewer to question the authenticity of not only the pig on screen but also the political connotations behind it.
[i] Nolan, Emma. 2021. ‘Peppa Pig Branded a Communist in Bizarre Children’s Book Ad’ Newsweek <https://www.newsweek.com/peppa-pig-communist-bizarre-childrens-book-ad-tuttle-twins-1611754> [Accessed 13th January 2023]
Porco Rosso, dir. Hayao Miyazaki, (Studio Ghibli, 1992)
Orwell, George, Animal farm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021)