#OnNetflix: Zootopia

Anthropomorphized animals convey the sociological challenges of diversity to kids and adults alike. 

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Judy Hopps is one tough bunny. From an early age, her only dream was to be a police officer and to help out her fellow animals. When she succeeds and moves to Zootopia she quickly discovers that no one believes in her, and being a cop – a real cop – requires more than just a naive wish to do good. Enter Nick Wilde, a sly fox with a good hustle who teaches Judy a thing or two about life in Zootopia.

Through the lense of these characters we watch as Judy learns that there are defined roles for different types of animals in society. All the animals have comically innate tendencies, but there are exceptions. While Predators and Prey get along peacefully, it’s difficult for any little bunny to be a cop. Foxes have a bad rap and get discriminated against because of it. Little mice, or voles, can be squashed easily due to their size or they can have immense influence and power over life and death.

As Judy works with Nick, we’re shown time and time again that what we think is not what necessarily happens. Reality is messy, and people are people. Sometimes they lie, sometimes they hustle, but if we want to get along we have to be willing to look past exterior appearances to get to know the individuals involved.

Zootopia is an action-packed allegorical discussion of American values and American politics. We see races from all over the world being crammed into a small city, and somehow everyone manages to get along. Living in NYC, the very same realization has hit me many times over the years, and it’s always an endearing reminder of the inherent good that resides within most people.

~MINOR SPOILER ALERT~

Unfortunately, there are always other people who are somehow attempting to divide us and pit us against one another. In Zootopia, we see this through a conspiracy to use a plant-derived chemical cocktail to drive predators “savage.” When exposed these predators become mindless, hungry, and aggressive – similar to their ancestral state.

Thankfully, Judy is on the case and with help from Nick they eventually are able to figure out whodunnit and why. I’m not gonna spoil it completely. 😛

It’s weirdly applicable now, more than ever and maps pretty well to Western demonization of Islam and Muslims. What we see in both the film, and in real life, is that powerful people are able to conspire in secret in order to influence the political discussion. Certain subjects are met with joking derision, certain opinions unspeakable. Protesters have been physically assaulted – attacked – by liberal rational academic types for disagreeing – rather animalistic behavior you can see in some of these videos.

The use of animals going savage represents tendencies towards interpreting reality through the lense of bias without pause for reflection and critical thinking. The immediate effect is an emotional reaction and no wee one either.

Without the capacity to pause, consider, discuss and reflect upon new information, it’s impossible for any man or woman to come to a conclusion, and when confronted they attack – much like the savage predators in Zootopia who’ve been juiced up with a mysterious chemical cocktail.

In the film, animals can manage to get along, even when one species used to be food for another. In real life, humans can achieve peace amongst ourselves when we can share perspectives across social and cultural boundaries. The only caveat is that we have to willing to have a dialogue. We have to be willing to consider that our political ideas aren’t the only valid position. Without discussion we’ll retreat into our own political echo chambers which will lead us into being corralled into antagonistic camps, effectively divided and conquered. Instead, we should be will to try everything. 🙂

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