I must start with a movie confession from a movie buff. Last week was the first time I watched Zootopia. Today was also the first day I used my Disney+ account because I needed some goodness in my life. With everything going on in the world today, I’ve wanted an escape in some way. I’ve been watching a lot of videos from The Dodo, and any koala video suggested to me via Facebook. Today with the plethora of choices with numerous streaming networks, I could not be happier that I went with Zootopia for multiple reasons. Despite how happy watching the film is going to make one of my friends, this movie is vital in today’s world. Zootopia is crucial for today’s children and even some adults to watch. The message is one that was not lost on me, although I found myself falling for the traps of stereotypes within the movie as I attempted to figure out the villain.
The “truth” stumbles upon the viewers quickly. I felt that none of it made sense even after I typed away to two friends who had watched the movie ages ago. The “truth” had to be wrong. Slowly after I said what I thought to be accurate, I figured out that Bellwether (Jenny Slate) and rams had taken it upon themselves to create a serum to make the predators go savage. They wanted to slowly take over the world by convincing people to buy into the stereotypes of predators. Only predators can go savage. Only predators can destroy the world. Even at the beginning of the film, when introduced to Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), other animals are laughing at her forward-thinking. They do not believe that animals can grow up to be whatever they want to be. And the idea of a non-predator making it on the police force seems completely unbelievable. However, Judy is determined to defy those odds and break the stereotype. She does not have to remain on her parent’s farm with her siblings and sell carrots forever.
When she leaves home though her dad insists on giving her various anti-fox gear, she insists that she doesn’t need it but takes the equivalent to pepper spray anyway to appease her father. Judy debates on taking the spray for her first day on duty, but she leaves it on the table at first. However, ultimately the stereotype evokes fear and makes her run back into her apartment to grab it. Despite saying she doesn’t need it, stereotypes are hard to break because they are so ingrained in her mind. In a lot of ways, I think this is how we were all raised somehow. There was that one relative or person in our lives to point out something we knew didn’t feel right, but we gave into anyway because we could not help it. This remark isn’t to say we needed to remain that way or uneducated, though. Education should not stop after high school or even high education. We should all be attempting to make ourselves better people and breaking the troublesome mindsets we taught during our youth.
In the film, we think that Judy has it all together because she represents someone who doesn’t believe in the prejudices she learned within her life. How can she be prejudice when she is so forward-thinking? After all, when she first meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), it is in a store where he is trying to get a popsicle for his son. Judy takes pity on him and his son and even pays for the jumbo pop because Judy does not buy into the stereotype that foxes are all sly and trying to con the other animals. Then she realizes that he is the stereotype of a fox. After confronting him, Judy later ends up blackmailing to help her solve the case at hand, which is not like a bunny at all. Where are all the animals that have disappeared in Zootopia? And when the obvious happens, and she gets the mayor on film at the location with all the other animals, it seems too obvious.
Despite that, the film sets viewers up to think that Mayor Lionheart (J. K. Simmons) is up to something. He is the villain. And to some degree, the mayor isn’t on the up and up. However, when he said the situation isn’t what they thought, I believed him. It was instant, no questions asked. Then the press conference happened, and the more I listened to Judy talk, the more disappointed I felt. I felt the same way when they revealed Nick’s scout meeting flashback, and they put a muzzle on him. To make matters worse, when Nick goes to make a point that Judy thinks he’s just a predator even after all they’ve been through she still has the urge to reach for the spray her father gave her. She proves his point. As he leaves, she tries to chase him, but it’s seemingly too late. Predators are the only animals harmed during this because it’s their biological nature. That’s what the movie wants us to think.
Of course, we learn toward the end that this is not the case at all. Stereotypes must be broken and not taken so seriously. While they might have meant something once upon a time, that does not make them accurate. A rabbit is not just a dumb bunny and meek. A fox is not merely sneaky and can be loyal. In this case, the animals on the top of the food chain can be the most gentle and caring, even if they might not fully understand everything. And those animals that are deemed small and weak can be just as dangerous as the lion hunting its prey breaking all these types. The beauty of life is that while it might feel like destiny that we remain in our so-called circles, we must go out into the world and experience life. We must learn about all cultures and people.
My point is that if you’re having a hard time talking to your kids about what is going on in the world right now, Zootopia is the perfect place to start the conversation. For a film about animals coming together as one, I cannot help but think even with everyone’s flaws and predispositions; by the end, most of these animals realize the importance of not believing the stereotypes that have managed to try and stir clear from their whole lives. Just because we think one thing about a group of people does not mean it should end there. We should educate ourselves and help each other understand those around us, so we do not go through life having prejudices against one another for a lifetime. We have to remember to check ourselves as well as others if we meant to move forward together.
Although this may be a mere cartoon for some, the message behind this film is one that we genuinely need to take a moment look at right now because the truth is we can learn a thing or two from all these creatures. We must remind ourselves daily to check ourselves and remember that while there is some truth to stereotypes, they are not the end-all of our culture. There are so many conversation starters within this simple film and can be used to demonstrate mindsets that we all must get to so we can change the world and make it a better place for the future.