I saw Zootopia recently, after reading a million and one glowing reviews convinced me to. I loved it; it was glorious. So suffice it to say, the film receives a perfect five star rating from this site. I’ve decided not to write a formal review, but I can certainly recommend some stellar opinions on the film from We Minored In Film, Cinema Blend, and Assholes Watching Movies.
What you’ll find consistent in all three of these reviews is that each one mentions the astronomical messages in the film. Indeed, I must agree that Zootopia is abundant with life lessons for old and young alike (emphasis on “old”, actually). If you haven’t yet seen Zootopia, stop reading right now and go see the movie – because there are spoilers ahead. With no further ado, here are the social lessons of Disney’s Zootopia.
This is an obvious one. At the beginning, we see that the adorable Judy Hopps is judged based on the fact that she’s a cute little bunny. People (animals) tell her that she can’t be a police officer, because there has just never been a rabbit cop. Then of course, we later meet Nick Wilde, a fox who’s been judged because he’s a predator; another example of appearance-based stereotyping. However, directors Howard and Moore aren’t just trying to express that it’s wrong to judge others by their race or appearance. Their point is that you will be judged by how you look, and that’s something you will always be cursed (or possibly blessed) with.
Proving yourself worthy doesn’t mean that things will get easier.
As we see in the film, Judy defies all the odds and earns her badge as the first ever bunny police officer. Unfortunately, when she gets to the city of Zootopia, she is dismayed to find out that she has been assigned to meter maid duty. So, despite having proved herself as able as any other police officer, she’s told she’s not as good as the others because of her nature. And that’s true in life, as all the kiddies watching the film will eventually find out. After every successfully completed stepping stone, there’s another obstacle lying in wait, and often this obstacle will be in the form of another person who doubts you. Each time we’re faced with these new challenges, we can take them down through hard work and perseverance, just as Judy does.
Stereotyping discourages people from reaching their full potential.
Remember that tragic story that Nick tells of his childhood? He gets bullied by some non-predatory animals who believe that he is a bad animal because he is of a predatory species. So it’s no wonder the fox falls into the set stereotype: “you can only be what you are. Sly fox. Dumb bunny.” When people are confined to a set of expectations by those around them, it’s achingly difficult for them to find the ambition or even see any possibility of ever becoming more than those limitations. Nick Wilde would have been a different person, had he not faced the cruel treatment from his peers for wanting to be something considered atypical of a fox. This is something we should all consider before believing or participating in stereotyping.
Having hope is not the same as being naïve.
Judy Hopps is characterized as being ambitious and full of hope about her own future and the city of Zootopia. Characters like Chief Bogo interpret this optimism as stupidity. While Judy quickly figures out that Zootopia isn’t quite as it’s been advertised, she doesn’t dismiss the place where “anybody can be anything” as a pipeline dream. Because she’s hopeful. Naivety is a lack of experience or judgement; and through Judy’s journey we see her grow her wisdom through trial and error. Above all, she believes that the Zootopia she’s dreamed of is a possibility, and she strives to make it a reality. Moral of the story? Don’t dismiss feelings of hope, whether they be your own or someone else’s.
Even though we’ve come a long way since the 1800s, there’s still plenty more work to do.
The first time we ever see Judy in the film, she’s on stage at her school acting in a play that recounts how prey once lived in total fear of predators. But, not to worry! – because now predators and prey live in perfect coexistence, and what proves that more than the city of Zootopia? As discussed earlier, Judy quickly comes to find that the city isn’t the perfect place she’d expected. This story probably sounds familiar to you, and there’s a reason for that. Back before the 21st century of America, minorities have also had to live under the dominance of white people. Native Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans – and those are just the groups that immediately come to mind. While these people are no longer enslaved, no longer forced to walk a Trail of Tears, and no longer sent to internment camps, we still cannot accurately claim that we’ve reached a perfect state of equality. The sooner that people accept that there’s more work to be done in the civil rights movement, the better; because it’s a fact that we cannot continue to ignore. This is one of the greater, overall lessons of Zootopia, and such a bold, important declaration is one that people of all ages could stand to learn from.
Zootopia is now playing in theatres.