Zootopia is packed full of many different social problems, racial prejudice being the most prominent and heavily relied on for the development of each character. The city of Zootopia is described in this movie as a place where both the predator and the prey can live together in peace. At the beginning of the film and at first glance it seems as if that is true, but as the film goes on it is revealed that biases will take over.
This is a clear reflection of our society as we co-exist with many different races, genders, religions and cultures, while at the same time holding onto our hostilities and prejudices, which is exactly what this movie showcases. The protagonist, a rabbit named Judy Hopps, is trying to accomplish her dream of becoming the first rabbit police officer. Despite her unmatched abilities, she goes forth but receives discrimination from her boss Chief Bogo, a buffalo, whom assigns her the duty of parking tickets on her first day.
Judy then meets a fox named Nick, which she immediately judges based off of a prejudice for his species and one bad experience with a fox from her personal past. She even carries a fox repellent spray out of fear. The movie does not hold back or disguise any of the underlying issues we face as a society. What is different about this movie from some of the other animated Disney movies is that the world they are portraying is not an unjust hierarchical system with societal oppression. Instead, it has the prey and the predators coexisting in a society of equal opportunity.
Every animal has a specific part to play in this environment, but each animal seems predetermined to play that specific part based on its biology. Judy was never denied her spot as a police officer, especially after graduating from the academy in the top percent. But her being a rabbit seems to inhibit her from police duties, because of the internal doubt from others made up by society’s expectations. Although Judy is celebrated by the police force and society as becoming the first bunny police officer, she is belittled by being put on parking meter duty.
Judy actually states rather bluntly that she does not want to be the “token bunny” of the police force, but wants to make an impactful difference. Later on the assistant mayor, the sheep Bellwether, tells Officer Hopps that the only reason that Mayor Lionheart hired her was because he “wanted the sheep vote. ” Ironically, both Bellwether and Officer Hopps are considered prey. They are prey within a predominantly predator driven government, only publicly noticed when their superiors are benefitting from it. This is point blank the most accurate portrayal of our government society today.
Our government publicizes their connections with people of diverse backgrounds just to try to show that there is no bias, they are even “friends” with diversity (Matsueda and Heimer, 829). The expectations made up by society and a bad experience as a child scout are the sole reasons why the fox, Nick, settles on being a street hustler. He makes this decision based on the thought process of ‘if being a fox comes with automatic prejudices, then my only option is to play that part and live up to the expectations.
Also, the experiences trauma from his childhood due to other animals judging and ridiculing him because he is the only predator in a scout group dominant with prey participants. It is a very negative thought process, one that is the exact opposite of Judy Hopps’ outlook, but a reality that they both encounter. The lesson with this example would be that the way you look does not define who you are as a person, or in this case, as an animal. It also shows that even at a young age there is discrimination being passed on from generation to generation.
An example in this movie showcasing that your looks do not define you is a street racing sloth named Flash that does not let his biology define him, as he is obviously naturally slow, yet he still chooses to race. One of the lines that stuck out and immediately grabbed my attention was when Judy said, “Only a bunny can call another bunny ‘cute’. But when another animal calls us cute, it’s a little… ” How many times has something identical to this line been said and used in our society?
The comment of Judy being cute was a compliment coming from the uplifting spirit of the Cheetah, Clawhauser. He immediately apologized, not knowing the demeaning connotation behind the word. This example specifically points to the certain provocative word, which has different meanings when coming from a Caucasian person than it does coming from and African American. Race is sociologically defined as a group of people (animals) who are seen to have the same traits in biology or different physicality (Matsueda and Heimer, 826).
Because of these notions, society makes stereotypes about an entire group based on these perceptions. This ideal affects the way a specific group is treated and the attitude towards other social groups, leading to discrimination (A. Smedley and B. Smedley, 26). In Zootopia, these stereotypes and discriminations are portrayed both ways. The prey are seen as small and weak, and the predators are seen as scary and dangerous. These stereotypes are broken in some instances such as, and most obviously, Judy Hopps becoming the first rabbit cop.
But another example would be the Clawhauser, a cheetah with a very positive and uplifting spirit. Both of those examples show the variety within and between social groups. Again, Nick the fox, despite his settlement in being a street hustler, he is smart and caring which does not fit the bill of what a fox is supposed to be, which is sly and manipulative. A specific example from Nick the fox would be after the press conference when he asks Judy Hopps if she is afraid of him and if she thinks that he is determined to be a savage in the future.
But she answers him with, “No, you are not like the other. ” Which is interesting in itself because just the term “not like the others” shows her preconceived notion that foxes are or will be savages. Her prejudice towards that group is contradictory to her behavior towards Nick, an individual within that group. Nick would be an exception to the rule, which allows the stereotype to be retained despite the situational conflict in reality (A. Smedley and B. Smedley, 17).
Taking away from this movie and everyday life in society is that race is most definitely not a biological construct, but a social construct that can be maintained through social structure (Matsueda and Heimer, 827). This is blatantly portrayed towards the end of the movie where the predators’ biological makeup is not what caused them to become savage, but a plan made by the mayor, a sheep named Bellwether, due to her hate towards the predators. Which shows that even though she is a sheep and not a predator, she acts in a savage nature with a plan to kill Judy Hopps.
Emphasis seen in this movie is the difference in values and character is what sets them apart from one another, not race. Another specific example is the line that states, “It’s in their DNA. ” This line was said by Judy Hopps’ childhood bully, the mean fox she encountered that would begin her prejudice towards that species. The bully, Giddeon Grey mocked Judy, telling her that bunnies are weak and cannot become cops because of her inferior DNA, bringing forth the immediate connection of white supremacists believing that other races are inferior based on their genetic makeup (A. Smedley and B. Smedley, 19).
Even though Judy was bullied and experienced this prejudice firsthand, it did not stop her from stating at her press conference that the predators are savage because it is in their DNA. This links up to writing off African Americans as “savage” or naturally violent which enforces stereotypes in law enforcement despite the contradicting evidence that states otherwise. Another straightforward comparison between Zootopia and our society would be the celebrity involvement in politics and civility.
In Zootopia there is a celebrity music superstar named Gazelle. While the discrimination against predators is at its peak, Gazelle, despite her being prey, advocates and protests for the rights of predators. Which is in line with our society today. There are so many celebrities that use their power and recognition to fight and protest, especially in our history of civil rights. For example, Justin Timberlake even plays his music at the Black Entertainment Awards, despite him being white. He advocates and campaigns for equality and equal opportunity for African Americans.
Or even in our history, widely known superstar and legend Frank Sinatra (white) would not play for an audience if the club would not allow African American’s to attend or entertain. One quote from assistant mayor Bellwether, “fear always works” really showcases our society and mindset. She uses this quote when organizing the savagery of the predators against the weakness of the prey. This is seen regularly within our law enforcement. For some reason our society has a mindset of scaring people will make them do the right thing, when in fact, it has the opposite effect.
It creates controversy and unorganized riots and terror which results in a hectic rage But it does not make people behave differently in a positive way. Zootopia was not trying to make people feel guilty or to make you feel like you are racist because you have had a preconceived notion of some other race, culture or gender, but to show that as a society we have continuously been taught and held onto those notions. Just like the two main characters, Judy and Nick. Nick doubted Judy’s ability to be a system changing police officer, but later sees that she has excelled in this position and completely changes his mindset.
Officer Hopps has her preconceived notions of foxes being sly and untrustworthy, but later apologized to Nick for making the statements that she did about generalizing his species. The point is, neither of those characters are bad people because of their subconscious prejudices, they accept their flaws and are willing to learn and try to understand. In conclusion, the city of Zootopia is full of different types of animals living together in a community. They have to coexist with each species, predator and prey, in order for their community to be a working system.
It expresses the nature that in the United States there are many different races, religions and cultures, yet they all coexist and live as neighbors. In order to make a change it has to start from within an individual (A. Smedley and B. Smedley, 19). Each person has to be willing to try, learn and change internally when it comes to preconceived notions. If the people do not try to learn, there will be no hope for harmony among differences. A sly fox and a small bunny, completely different species, set aside their differences to learn, grow and realize that they are not sly and they are not small.
There is no reason why different races, genders, religions and cultures of the same exact species, human, could not do the same. In order for that harmony to take place, the individual will have to be willing to choose to change their preconceived notions (Matsueda and Heimer, 834). Then that individual, along with all the other individuals, must work together as a community to make the difference and teach that preconceived notions are just that, preconceived notions, and are not in any way, shape or form a fact to rely upon when making judgements (A. Smedley and B. Smedley, 29)