This article will contain some spoilers concerning Zootopia
I finally got the chance to sit down with the family and watch Disney’s animated Zootopia, and it was brilliant! As usual, Disney delivered colorful animation, age pervasive comedy and a valuable lesson. But this lesson isn’t primarily for the kids. Our lesson today is Racism.
Your keyword is “Savage” and your minorities are “Predators” (since the Prey are thriving at 90%). Predator’s are discriminated against by the bulk of the population because it is intimidated by them. While these animals have quite obviously evolved with the rest of them, into the civilized culture displayed in the film, there is still an underlying fear due to species (racial) bias. Like in today’s society in America, some of us are hyper aware of those bias’ and are easily offended by the prospect of one stereotyping them like Gideon, when he and Judy were young near the beginning of the film. Others are honest victims, or products of society’s upbringing, and as such, are so blinded by racial bias that they don’t realize that they perpetuate it at times, even if their hearts are in the right place, like our primary protagonist, Judy Hopps.
The film is genius, strategically placing Judy into the the role of a police officer, easily one of the most volatile professions in terms of the issues with racial disparity, as they are charged to uphold the law while remaining fair and impartial to all despite any apparent racial pretext. Early on she meets a fox, Nick Wilde, and stereotyping, immediately figures that he is up to no good, and prepares for a possible arrest. Before she can, she sees him actually trying to buy his kid an ice cream for his birthday, and she helps him. She later finds that he was indeed being a “sly fox”, and confronts him, but it’s here that the movie really starts diving into the subversive nature of racial bias and how it poisons all of our minds.
Later we find out that the black folks, I mean “Predators” are becoming savage, reverting to their old ways of over violence. This greatly upsets the Mayor Lionheart (who is a Lion), as he understands the impact that this can have on all Predators, and is doing his own secret research to discover the root cause of the problem. With Judy and Nick on the case, they uncover the fact that Bellwether (a lamb), the Assistant Mayor, had been secretly dosing the Predators with a drug called “Night Howlers” to cause them go feral. See any similarities with the black community?
On a daily basis the media reinforces the stereotypes and associations of the black community with the hood, drugs, and most of all violence. It highlights black crime and and the illegitimate activities of urban youth at when in fact our country’s history placed them in the circumstances that caused them to be associated with such negativity to begin with. The movie’s drug “Night Howler” is practically screaming Crack Cocaine, which was introduced into the black community back in the 80’s by the government which led to terms like “Superpredator”, and gave the government a reason to go after people of color.
There is an inherent fear concerning the success of the minority. It was no accident placing a Lion in the Mayor’s position in Zootopia. Our country has a black president. The “Prey” feel intimidated and think that perhaps one day the “Predators” will all turn feral, and as a result, attempt to paint the picture of what they most fear, to instill an institutionalized system of control of the likes that is still going on to this very day. (For more information read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander).
Aside from the major “Predator” and “Prey” ordeal that is analogous to “Black” and “White”, in the plot, the movie hits on several other levels of stereotyping in small form, such as it being a slight to call a bunny “cute” (like calling a black person “nigga”) or the idea of a fox being “sly”, and not to mention a weasel being… well, a weasel. In either case the movie is packed full of lessons for racial bias, and should be an eye opener for anyone who watches it. It definitely isn’t 2004’s “Crash” but it will certainly make anyone with an active brain conscious of the issue of racial bias, and in concern to the issue in present day america, cognizance is the first step. 10 out of 10.