Jojo Rabbit: Imaginary Friends and the Psychology of Nationalism

Intro by Maria

The 2019 film Jojo Rabbit takes place In Germany during World War II. The movie’s protagonist is a German boy whose imaginary friend is a goofy Adolf Hitler. In the movie, the boy discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their apartment, and this discovery forces him to come to terms with the blind nationalism he has believed in for, what it seems, his entire life. 

The movie is funny—even when tackling such a heavy topic—but it is also heartwarming and heartbreaking. The movie’s genre play as it seamlessly drifts between comedy and drama makes it a unique one, something rarely seen when dealing with the atrocities of the Holocaust.

For the mental health section of this episode, Brandon talks about the psychology of nationalism. He gives us a brief overview as to why people turn to nationalism during times of distress and makes parallels between Germany after World War I and the United States after 9/11. SPOILERS: Americans are not impervious to nationalism. Shocking I know, but something that definitely bears repeating.

I go in a completely different direction away from nationalism and explore the psychology of having an imaginary friend, which, as it turns out, is a completely normal part of growing up—just like not having one is completely normal too.

Which reminds me—if any of you had an imaginary friend, please write us by going to or emailing us at Be sure to describe everything about your imaginary friend. What was it like? Did you physically see and hear your imaginary friend? I have so many questions about imaginary friends, all of which you will hear, and more, on this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show.

Show Summary


B: Based on a book—imaginary Hitler is not in the book; accurate depiction of what Germany was like during that time (happy, colorful)—nationalism; saw it in theater; first film entire family really enjoyed

M: Nominated for Academy Awards—won Best Adapted Screenplay; Waititi inspired by concerning statistics that state a good deal of Americans don’t know what Auschwitz is; first time seeing this


B: Film totally works; message about German nationalism was honest; genre play; natural relationship between Jojo and Elsa; strong female characters

M: Genre play; absurd details; movie is still true to its time; art direction


B: Not much; maybe haters out there don’t consider satire/comedy to be true art

M: Couldn’t think of much; maybe haters out there dislike the funny aspects of subject that is supposed to be serious

Mental Health

B: Psychology of nationalism; nationalism is an easy way to meet specific needs; related to military might; nationalism grows when threats come from other nations—after 9/11 nationalism in the U.S. grew; when intolerant white people know democracy benefits people other than them, they reject democracy and support authoritarianism; narrative of good vs. bad; this all happened after WWI in Germany too

M: First film that our podcast has done that takes place during WWII; dehumanization an issue; imaginary friends and child psychology—imaginary friends (or not having one) is completely normal


Next Movie

American Psycho (2000)

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