Dissecting Guillermo del Toro’s Exploration Of Fascism In Netflix’s Pinocchio


“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is probably one of the best adaptations that you would get to see in recent times. Amongst a lot of other things, it shows metaphorically how fascists operate and the kind of methods they resort to in order to accomplish their goals. Though it is based on a children’s fantasy story, there is a sense of deep-rooted melancholy that the film expresses about the state of things through its characters. At times, it is heart-wrenching, and at other times, it is extremely endearing. Pinocchio appeals to your rational side and simply urges you to assess a situation based on facts and logic. It is hilarious yet profound; it is curious yet decisive; and most of all, it makes a 120-minute runtime seem extremely short. After watching the film, you resonate with Frank Kafka’s theory even more, and you would start believing in the absurdity of our existence.

As Benito Mussolini said, in order to let fascism thrive, one needs to bury the rancid corpse of liberties and rights. A dictator often paints this larger-than-life picture in front of his subjects and, through some devious methods, makes them believe that they have an important role to play in the scheme of things that will determine the future of the nation. All a dictator needs is the complete allegiance of the subjects towards him, but for that, he needs to put on a show. He needs to create this fake narrative that is soaked in patriotism with a false sense of pride attached to it. This narrative is created so that it becomes a yardstick to judge a person’s courage. People like Benito Mussolini, I believe, more than anything, knew a lot about human behavior. They made people believe that the display of violence and aggression was necessary to prove one’s manliness. There was fear amongst the people, mostly men, of being called cowards or maybe unpatriotic if they didn’t resort to violence. Being empathetic was considered a weakness, and the role of a soldier and that of a citizen was considered to be inseparable.

When Count Volpe tells Pinocchio that everyone loves a puppet, we know that it is a metaphor that tells us how a citizen is expected to be in a fascist regime. Though the strings of the puppets are in the hands of a puppeteer, the audience thinks that the puppets are acting out of their own free will. There are some in the audience who understand that it is all a sham, but the puppeteer makes sure that he hypnotizes and brainwashes the majority to such an extent that even if they are told otherwise, they are more inclined to believe that the puppets are real. I don’t know if it was intentionally done, but one specific scene in “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” reminded me of the deplorable state of the fourth estate in a fascist regime and how exactly they sell a person’s misery to their advantage. When Geppetto came to know that Pinocchio had not gone to school, he got very angry and went to fetch him from Count Volpe’s puppet show arena. Pinocchio got scared seeing his father, and he started to lie about why he had not attended school. As his nose started growing, the children around him started applauding and hooting as if they were watching a spectacle. Geppetto felt infuriated by the fact that people were meddling in his private affair, and for them, it was a source of entertainment. The scene reminded us how the media tries to impact the opinions and ideologies of citizens through the dramatic presentation of news. Drama sells well, and the media houses make good use of it, even if it means morphing the facts. An uninformed citizen (which I believe constitutes a majority) enjoys and cheers just like the children did after seeing Pinocchio’s nose, unaware of the nature of conflict and how it impacts them adversely in the long run.

Pinocchio couldn’t understand that if something is bad, then how can it be a law? It makes you realize that law and policy making should be that simple, yet it all becomes a tireless effort to make sense of something that is absolutely absurd and ethically wrong to an extent. The fascist leaders act in their own interests and then seek validation, which they can only get if they cover up their intentions. The role of the narrative that they create is to put a lid on the real issues and brainwash the citizens into thinking that everything is being done for the greater good of the nation. The idea of amicably finding a solution gives a nightmare to a fascist, as their breed thrives in a state of unrest. When Pinocchio and Candlewick hoisted their flags together in the army drill, they were made to be a part of; Podesta got infuriated. The citizens were made to believe that in order to win, they needed to defeat somebody. When Pinocchio and Candlewick showed the other children that there could be a scenario where everybody could win, the foundation of fascism started shaking. Independent thinkers were considered a threat in a totalitarian regime, which is why Candlewick was asked by his own father to kill his friend Pinocchio. Children are like molten iron who can be molded into any shape and form, and that is why you would often notice that in a fascist regime, special attention is paid to the school curriculum, and often the state tries to achieve a sort of uniformity where everybody is taught a few basic things. Going to war and attaining glory are phrases that are like two peas in a pod for any dictator. How else would you convince a person to sign his own death warrant if you didn’t glorify violence and war? A comforting illusion is created for the masses, in which there is no scope for humanity.

Though “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is set in the era of the Great War, it is more than relevant in contemporary times. The film tries to tell us how fascism aims at exalting a particular race, caste, or creed above the citizens, and yet we sit there like mooks, believing that whatever they are doing is in favor of development and progress. Even a bigot can differentiate wrong from right, but he chooses to close his eyes because he presumes that the sandstorm will never hit him. But a regime that purports treachery as a moral virtue isn’t loyal to anybody. 

See More: ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ Ending, Explained: Did The Wood Sprite Grant Sebastian J. Cricket’s Wish?

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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