'Belle' director Mamoru Hosoda doesn't think issues like child abuse should be 'taboo' in animation

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'Belle' director Mamoru Hosoda doesn't think issues like child abuse should be 'taboo' in animation
© Provided by INSIDER “Belle” is about a girl named Suzu who becomes famous in the virtual world of U as her avatar “Bell.” GKIDS

  • Mamoru Hosoda told Insider that he didn’t want to shy away from depicting child abuse in “Belle.”
  • The director said it’s “important to depict and express these themes and ideas inside of movies.”
  • His new film “Belle” is ultimately an optimistic tale about the potential for good online.

“Belle” director Mamoru Hosoda told Insider that he didn’t want to shy away from dealing with child abuse in his newest film, despite feeling that such themes are often “tabooed” in animation.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

“As much as it is animation, ‘Belle,’ I believe, is also a film that needs to come face to face with certain current events that are very much happening,” Hosoda told Insider in a January interview, via a translator.

His newest film, which premiered in the United States in January, is a loose reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast” and half takes place in a virtual, online world with 5 billion users called U. Crafted by architect Eric Wong, it’s a design marvel in which a mirrored cityscape provides a surreal backdrop for streams of digital avatars, floating whales, and fairytale-like castles. 

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'Belle' director Mamoru Hosoda doesn't think issues like child abuse should be 'taboo' in animation
© GKIDS The world of U in “Belle.” GKIDS

The film follows Suzu, a teenage girl who lost her ability to sing after the death of her mother. When she enters the world of U, she rediscovers her capacity for music and her avatar Bell becomes one of the world’s most beloved performers. When she meets a user with a dragon-like avatar referred to as Ryu — this world’s villainized Beast, who wears a clock adorned with bruise-like designs — she befriends him.

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Eventually, Suzu learns that the dragon is a 14-year-old named Kei in the real world. After witnessing Kei’s father physically and verbally abuse him and his younger brother Tomo over a video call, she rushes to their hometown, shielding them with her own body.

Hosoda told Insider that he didn’t want to shy away from depicting this kind of visceral abuse in the film, particularly amid reports of rising rates of domestic violence amid pandemic lockdowns. 

“Oftentimes I feel these certain themes, child abuse, are tabooed in animation, because animation is often seen as a medium that will be viewed by families and kids,” Hosoda told Insider through a translator. 

“If you try to hide these and taboo it out of entertainment and media, it’s almost as though you’re saying that these issues don’t exist,” he told Insider, saying that he hoped the film would help people realize that similar instances may be “much closer to them than they might realize.”

Suzu’s heroic actions, as well as other moments in the film, reflect Hosoda’s optimism about the internet, which is a recurring theme in other films of his, like 2009’s “Summer Wars.”

Over the course of “Belle,” Suzu becomes painfully aware of the number of eyes on her on the internet, ranging from hateful comments to adoring fans to online media coverage. Eventually, she subjects herself to U’s ultimate punishment in order to gain Kei’s trust: “unveiling,” or stripping away someone’s digital avatar to reveal their true identity. 

'Belle' director Mamoru Hosoda doesn't think issues like child abuse should be 'taboo' in animation
© GKIDS Suzu sings as herself in the world of U. GKIDS

When she does so, however, the people of U don’t reject her. Instead, they rally behind her in one of the film’s most musically, and visually, stunning moments, singing along with her and continuing even as she breaks down in tears. 

“I didn’t want to focus simply on the fear factor that the internet presents to itself. I think younger generations are very sensitive and aware of this shift and they have to face it in their daily lives,” Hosoda told Insider. “I hope that this movie can give them that vitality, and help them navigate this really interesting and confusing world.”

“Belle” is currently playing in theaters in the United States. 

Read the original article on Insider

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