When you sit down to watch a family film that the kids can enjoy with you there’s a few things you can be almost certain of – slapstick humour, happy endings (the innocent kind, get your mind out of the gutter) and moral lessons to be learned along the way.
These are movies aimed at young, impressionable minds after all and there are certain moral codes and formulas to follow so you can be fairly sure you aren’t going to be subjected to racist allegories, occult symbolism and other such unsavoury stuff like murder, suicide and child prostitution. Or can you?
It turns out - according to the deepest and darkest recesses of the Internet (so Reddit and Tumblr then) - that some kid-friendly films are nowhere near as innocent as we’d like to think. Of course, these are fan and conspiracy theories and the product of an insane amount of over-analysis, wild interpretation and borderline obsession. As such, they should be taken with a rather large grain of salt.
But then again, even if you pick away at them, they do kind of make sense …
10. Spirited Away: A Metaphor For Child Prostitution
Think the theory about Totoro being a god of death was depressing? Think again! There’s an even more disturbing theory about Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away that’s had fans looking at the enchanting animation in a whole new light.
To recap the movie’s plot: ten-year-old Chihiro is moving to a new town with her parents when taking a wrong turn unwittingly transports them to a strange spirit world populated by gods, witches and other odd creatures. After her parents are magically turned into pigs, Chihiro is stranded in the spirit world and to avoid the same fate she finds work in a local bathhouse under the watchful eye of the evil Yubaba.
With the help of new found friends in the spirit world, Chihiro and her parents eventually make it back to the real world and we’re left with a charming story about friendship, loyalty and growing up. But let’s rewind for a second and talk about those Japanese bathhouses.
Historically, during Japan’s Edo period, bathhouses were places of ill repute where men folk could go to get – ahem – serviced by young women. Basically, there were brothels. The young female ‘attendants’ were referred to as ‘yuna’ (the same occupation Chihiro takes up in the bathhouse) while the women running the bathhouses (basically the brothel madams) were known as yubaba.
Then there’s the fact that all the bathhouse’s customers appear to be male and Yubaba makes Chihiro change her name to Sen after employing her – a common practice forced upon sex workers by their pimps, apparently. And there you have it folks: Spirited Away is a thinly veiled parable for child prostitution.