Zootopia: A Fascinating Insight to Systemic Social Injustice with Humor [Review]
When the teasers and the official trailers for Zootopia were released I do not think anyone suspected Zootopia would turn out to be a powerful narrative about institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, queerphobia, and internalized racism. There are so many ways to read the situations in this movie that I’m sure I probably missed few other issues presented in the film. As I walked out of the theater with my niece, aside from intensely shipping Nick and Judy, we both talked about how were the writers of Disney able to accomplish this and capture conversational nuances that happen amongst people of color? Let’s be real here Disney has historically been known to create problematic representations of people of color while they have tried to rectify that over the years, their movies can be a hit or miss. I like to think that there was a lot of consultation with communities of color and multiple rewrites to the script because there were so many moments that not only hit me emotionally, but I can also say I have experienced some of the issues presented in the movie.
So what is this movie about? The basic premise is that Judy Hopps moves from her hometown Bunnybrow in order to fulfill her dreams of becoming a police officer in Zootopia a city that was created so that predators and prey could evolve together and live in peace. First off, Zootopia is a beautiful city that was carefully designed and the sections of the city were made to fit the natural habitat of particular species. It is a place anyone wants to live in and Judy goes to the city with grand ideals and optimism about how perfect everything is over there. Along the way, she meets Nick Wilde a fox who knows how to hustle in order to survive in a city that he sees as hostile. Despite the differences between these two, through hilarious reasons they come together to solve the disappearance of several predatory animals in the city.
Despite the brevity of the synopsis, the movie explores the several socio-political issues and the characters are multi-dimensional species with their own distinct histories that inform their life experiences. The movie does not depict anyone as clearly good verse evil, but instead the animals are complicated and messy because socio-political norms prevented them from being acknowledged as equal. Even animals with the best of intentions can fall under narrow-minded assumptions about other animals based on their “biology”. The movie goes into dark places about how society pushed down animals that wanted to be something different than what their species are perceived in society (a reference to white supremacy anyone?). The movie literally tells us this is not a fair world and that the animals have to struggle in order to survive and if they are lucky to achieve their dreams.
It is clear that Judy’s world is shaken when she realizes that corruption and political conflicts run deep in the city she idealized, but despite those obstacles she keeps trying to make the world a better place. In contrast through Nick’s character, we see how hard it is to struggle to survive and sometimes trying leads to giving up. The forces that surround these two characters are real and are tough issues to confront on a daily basis, but through their interaction, they both remind each other that there is something worth fighting for. My only criticism of the movie is that I disliked how the police were represented as ultimately “good” considering the ongoing issues we have with them in regards to the lives of people of color. I understand why they decided not to fully address that issue considering it would have pissed a lot of people off, but to the movie’s credit they did address that the inherent system of the police is problematic despite the fact that there are good individuals in the profession.
It is difficult to continue discussing this movie without going into spoilers, but I think it is safe to say almost everyone can interpret scenes in the movie about various different situations that have happened to them. This is a wonderful film that needs to be seen by both children and adults especially with the current socio-political climate that is addressing these on-going issues.
Lastly the theme song “Try Everything” by Shakira is not only a catchy song but its also one of the most empowering songs I have heard this year from the English market. Go see this movie!! You won’t regret it~~~
*A special note to fanfiction writers I eagerly await for marvelously written stories about Nick and Judy. Seriously their chemistry with each other is off the charts*