Michele Rech is one of the most popular cartoonists from Italy, but you’d know him better by his pen name, Zerocalcare, aka Zero. In Netflix’s newest animated comedy series, This World Can’t Tear Me Down, Zero stars as himself as he observes how people have fallen into apathy and selfishness in a town that he no longer recognizes. It all begins with a refugee crisis and snowballs into a clash between two parties, but Zero delivers a message that goes beyond riots, refugees, and government politics. Here’s what happens in this comedy series, This World Can’t Tear Me Down.
Why Does Zero Tear Posters?
Zerocalcare is coming off the high of earning a Netflix show for his cartoons; he’s bought a house, is always busy making comics, and the only free time he gets is spent with his buddies Sarah and Secco. Although he and Sarah haven’t spoken for a while, Secco’s biggest desire is always “getting an ice cream.” It’s during one such ice cream run that Zero is stunned by what they’re showing on the news. A few weeks ago, 30 old people, women, and children came to Italy from Libya by the sea route and were put together in a rundown center near a school.
Previously, they were staying in a place called Dicksville, but the Italian fascists with Nazi leanings shooed the helpless people off their town. So, their current address is in Zero’s town, but the Nazis here aren’t much different, and they want these Libyans gone. Zero, as a humanitarian and cartoonist, is very angry at the plight of these people and can’t tolerate the hateful posters the Nazis are putting up on the walls as propaganda against the Libyans. But if you’ve seen the series, you’ll know that with his noodle arms, pencil neck, and general lack of any physical skills whatsoever, Zero isn’t much help on the battlefield, so all he can do is tear down the posters.
Who Are Zero’s friends?
However, chaos descended on Zero’s town at the recent demonstration, where a girl who’d once helped Zero was arrested and put in jail. Worse still, the news anchor, Mr. Crocodile (yes, he’s an anthropomorphic crocodile wearing a jacket), is spewing hate on TV, and his guests are hell-bent on one belief: throw the refugees out of their town. Zero can’t take this abject ignorance of human rights any longer and wants to take action. He’s also annoyed that he’s meeting with Mr. Crocodile in the studio to plug his new show. His attempts to bounce ideas off the apathetic Secco come to a halt because Sarah comes to the ice cream parlor and announces to her buddies that she’s gotten a job as a teacher at the local school near the refugee center.
There’s yet another new person coming to the town, and it’s Cesare, Zero’s childhood friend, but he’s nothing like Zero. The cartoonist described Cesare as an 800-ton robot because of how massive and strong this red-nosed monstrosity of a boy was. With him around, Zero and his friends were at all times protected from getting beaten up, but Sarah had pulled Zero aside and told him to care for Cesare because she could see his inner sensitivity. Zero had really tried to connect with this giant with a gentle side, but as adolescence gave way to teens and teens to adulthood, their paths diverged, and eventually, the two went their separate ways. The last time Cesare called Zero, he needed money, and after consulting with his moral beacon, Sarah, Zero gave Cesare 75,000 lire, not knowing he’d use the money to put dirty heroin-filled needles inside his body. Cesare had mixed with the wrong crowd and lost his way, and soon after, he was sent away to rehab, where he spent two decades cut off from the world.
Why Did The Politicians Vote To Remove The Refugee Centre?
When Cesare returned, the people’s apathy toward him for being an addict and not being able to get a job made him join the only group where his talent as a muscular bonehead would be appreciated. No matter how much it disappointed Zero, Cesare was now a part of the Nazis, and they’d be launching a movement outside the refugee center in five days’ time. Zero goes over to talk to his childhood friend, but Cesare is a different person now; he barks at the cartoonist and shoos Zero away, and he has no choice but to retreat, given he can’t use force against this towering behemoth of a man. As if that wasn’t enough, Secco shows him a video where Sarah was being interviewed to gather the townspeople’s views on the refugee center being removed, and Zero’s hopes that Sarah would ‘show them’ were shattered when she answered.
Sarah said if need be, the center needs to be removed to allow for education. Disheartened, Zero decided it was up to him and a few other protestors to take the matter up to the council, where three kinds of animals represent the Italian state government body. The giraffes are liberals, the walruses are conservatives, and the platypuses—no one knows what their alignment is. Either way, when Zero, Secco, and his pterodactyl friend take a bunch of activists into the government body to decide the fate of the refugee center, the three parties unanimously voted to move the center away from the town. This is a social commentary that no matter how woke and liberal a political party might claim to be, in the end, it cares about climbing the political ladder, even if that means the have-nots might suffer.
What Happens At The Protest?
With no help from the political body, Zero readies to go to the center before his meeting with Mr. Crocodile at 4 p.m., while Secco is busy making bombs along with other protestors. The two parties meet outside the refugee center at half past 2, and a war breaks out. Zero spots Cesare on the Nazis’ side. Amidst exchanging blows, Zero is surrounded and is being kicked when his mysterious savior comes to the rescue and clears the crowd, and it’s none but the apathetic Secco, only this time, his eyes are glowing with determination. Sarah breaks up the fight as she takes the mic to announce that this is helping none but the scavenger-like journalists who are telecasting this riot, and she hands the mic to the school’s janitor. This old and decrepit woman says that the refugee center isn’t the deterrent to the school’s progress; it’s the lack of facilities that is making parents send their children to other schools. To Zero’s utter disbelief, Cesare begins siding with the janitor and says that he’s not angry at the refugees but at the government that treats their town as a dumping ground. But straying from the path earns Cesare a thrashing from his own Nazi brethren.
What’s The Aftermath Of The Protest?
The series begins with Zero, Secco, and Sarah at a police station, and that’s where they wind up after the protest to be questioned because a politician’s son was beaten up. Zero knows the guy who was beaten, and he’s satisfied because he’d tutored the reptile for three years—the politician’s son is actually an anthropomorphic reptile—and Zero knows what a nightmare this creature was. This entire narration by Zero, however, was him running it by his consciousness, like an armadillo, but when it comes to asking Zero questions, they tell him that he’s free to go. Outside, the cartoonist finds Sarah, Secco, and a pterodactyl friend waiting for him, and Sarah finds out who’d actually beaten the reptile. When the Nazis turned on Cesare for speaking out, the reptile had decided to get a few hits in, and it was Cesare himself who’d punched Zero’s former student in his slimy snout. The guys know that they’ll be harassed by the cops and media for a while and that their careers will be troubled, so all they need to do is take the video to the cops. But just then, they find Cesare coming out of the station, bruised, battered, and betrayed by the Nazis he’d chosen over his friends. Cesare doesn’t say anything but walks away quietly, and Sarah deletes the video.
What Does The Ending Mean?
Sarah knew that they could save themselves if they turned Cesare in, but then they’d be no different than the Italian government that wanted to shake responsibilities off itself and dump the refugees in the local town that worked as the trash can. If too many people begin shirking their responsibilities and morals, then humanity stops having value. Therefore, even in times of immense personal conflict, one must remember the need to be humane and look out for others’ wellbeing, especially those who have nobody else looking out for them. Cesare had been their friend, and even more than that, he was a misunderstood man who’d been used as a buffer by whichever party found him useful, but not beyond that. Therefore, this group decided to save their friend from being jailed because they’d rather all be harassed from time to time by the police than have one of their friends locked in a dark cell for the rest of his life. This is what humanity means, and this is the message of Zerocalcare’s graphic novel-turned-animated series.