Zootopia: Predator vs. Prey, Big vs. Small, Us vs. Them
Ahhhh Zootopia, the movie that no one saw coming and could not have come at a better time. From the amazing use of plot devices to the not at all subtle commentary on social issues, Zootopia will have you completely captivated from start to finish. I’m going to be honest, I really underestimated this movie: on the surface, it just looked like another dumb, buddy-cop adventure that I would expect to come out of DreamWorks, but man was I wrong! Not only did Disney manage to grab my attention from the very beginning, but they then continued to shock and amaze me with how blunt they were on the issue of discrimination.
Right out of the gate we meet a young bunny named Judy Hopps who has dreams of one day changing the world for the better by becoming a cop. However, growing up in a small farming community, made up of primary other rabbits, you wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the other residents aren’t as open minded as she is. She is told repeatedly that being a cop in Zootopia is no place for a cute little bunny and that she should stop striving for something that is never going to happen. This made me immediately identify with Judy; as a girl who has met her fair share of doubters, I know how difficult it can be to keep going. That’s what makes her so remarkable! Despite what everyone says – too small, too cute, maybe even too much of a girl – Judy isn’t going to let anything stand in her way.
However, Zootopia isn’t exactly the peaceful city, where predators and prey live in harmony, that she was lead to believe. Life is messy and underneath the façade of harmony is a society fraught with social tension. The city is highly segregated; some is obviously necessary (I mean it’s really not practical to have the rodents living just out in the open) but some was just because of pure racism. The biggest, and arguably the most powerful, example of this in the ice cream shop scene. After a rather disappointing first day on the job, Judy notices a shifty looking fox (our other main character, Nick Wilde) wander into an elephant ice cream shop. Now back in her hometown, Judy had a very traumatizing (at least for me) encounter with a fox, causing her to be a little afraid of them. Of course, she isn’t the only one who isn’t a fan of foxes; almost everyone harbors an unwarranted prejudice against them for being untrustworthy. When Judy follows Nick inside she is met with a shocking example of racism at its finest. Not only does the elephant in charge refuse him service, even after learning that “it’s his son’s birthday” and “he wants to be an elephant when he grows up! He just wants a big popsicle” the manger still turns him away, not only because he’s not an elephant, but because he’s a fox! Disney even went so far as to put a sign on the counter saying that the manager has the right to refuse service. Sound familiar? Judy then, despite her own prejudice, stands up for Nick and helps him out! Of course, Nick was scamming them, but that is beside the point!!
My jaw was literally on the floor during this entire scene! I just couldn’t believe how blunt it was; there it was for everyone to see, no skirting around the issue and pretending it’s not there. And this frank display doesn’t stop there; not only is the core of the movie literally about making predators out to be the bad guys due to “biology”, but it then openly challenges that by showing that we are all the same; not only predators can go bad. This “us vs. them” mentality shows its’ true colors in Nick’s backstory. Just like with Judy, Nick had big dreams of being the first ever predator to join the Zootopia equivalent of Boy Scouts. He was so excited to be part of this group and really wanted to fit in with everyone else. At his first meeting, things seem to be going great, that is until the lights cut out. The other members then proceed to beat and ridicule Nick and even go so far as to put a muzzle on him, saying that it’s the only way you can trust a predator. This scene was reminiscent of a 1950’s lynch mob! He was 9 years old!!!!! I have only ever cried in two movies and let me tell you, this just broke that record.
In this time where racism is at the front of everyone’s mind, Zootopia is definitely the wakeup call we needed. Disney has beautifully provided a way for kids to understand the world around them. Life is complicated and messy, but it should never be blamed on “them”. When you get down to it, whether you are a confident little bunny, or a cool sly fox, we really aren’t so different from one another. We all have dreams and aspirations of that perfect world where everyone can feel safe and happy. There is no “us” or “them”; just a world of individuals who couldn’t possibly be lumped into a single group. Zootopia truly shows us that we can do and be anything we want regardless of what others say we are.
Well done Disney! Thank you for giving us the slap in the face that everyone one else was too afraid to even attempt!
About The Author
Shannon McCarter of Nashville TN
I’m a lover of movies, TV, and books (especially books) and I love to talk about them! I am often seen reading and when I have headphones in I’m probably listening to a book. I post written spoiler free reviews of what I’ve been reading on my blog at http://plantnerd96.tumblr.com/ and every Monday I discuss the books a little bit more in depth and try (fail) to contain my inner fangirl on my YouTube channel Still Waiting For My Satyr!