Civic Imagination

Zootopia: Disney's Introduction to Reality for Children

Judy Hopps, a bunny from a rural farmland, succeeds in becoming the first species of her kind to become a cop, and moves to the city of Zootopia where her dreams of fighting crime dwindle when she is assigned to parking duty by Bogo, a bull that doubts her potential. Willing to prove herself, Judy takes on a serious and tough case. She teams up with Nick Wilde, a fox that is not one of her kind, and through clues and interviews, they find that animals are ‘going savage.’ At a press conference after supposedly solving the case, where the mayor of Zootopia had these savage animals in a lab, Judy upsets Nick by saying that there is a biological cause for the predator behavior, or the minority group. Tensions between predators and prey only grow stronger over time and with the institution of a new mayor. Judy then learns that a plant is the reason for the severe psychotropic behavior, and finds that the new mayor, a lamb, has been responsible for the events in order to gain power. 

This story is extremely relevant to social issues that are happening in America today. Judy is a female, petite bunny where the strong and robust animals (lions, boar, etc.) don’t believe in her capabilities in a male dominated career. Prey and predators represent race, and predators, a minority group, are being targeted, and the government is a catalyst in these events. The most important message to take away from Zootopia is that prejudice is the underlying cause of racism, and that in order for us to defeat institutional racism in America and the world, we and our children must learn to overcome prejudice—which is only possible through not the mere integration of different groups and the false ideology of “not seeing color,” but the acceptance and appreciation of others’ differences.

I first encountered this movie with my father; watching Disney movies with him has always been something we shared. However, instead of a princess movie where the girl relies on a male figure to save her, my father and I had heated discussions throughout on current events that related to the story. What appealed to me most was that this story, with themes that are obvious, are not that transparent to children, who the story is targeting with talking animals. It made me wonder what would have happened if I saw this movie in my childhood rather than now; would I ask more questions? Would I understand the problems that the characters faced? In any case, I hope the film is thought provoking enough for these children to shape their actions towards a common good; and that when they see these issues in reality, they have an educated, proper response. Just by the numbers of people that saw this movie, the story is broadly known, but still new. Disney used to say through their stories that if you believe hard enough, you can achieve your dreams, whereas now, they try to address real and pressing issues at an elementary level.

If anything this movie has inspired debate and has people communicating about the issues, but it also introduces these topics to children in a way that they can understand. In turn, it educates them on, particularly, how to treat people that are not like themselves, and has twisted the message from believing hard enough to working hard enough in order to achieve something.

feminism, race, young narratives, prejudice, Disney.

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