2016: The Year When Disney Makes a Movie on Racism

We all know that kids aren’t the ones who sit and review movies for a living. Yes, I’m looking at you, the inspiration for the forever alone meme. No, it’s the adults who must drag their little kid to a theater because they wanted to see the movie about the bunny and the fox. The same people who don’t want to see said movie, but they have kept the kid happy. Only to turn around and post their mile and a half rants on sites like rotten tomatoes about how much they hated the movie. So why is it that kid’s movie is the #1 movie on rotten tomatoes top 100 lists for the first time since 2010 when Toy Story 3 topped the chart?

Spoiler Alert

If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it before you read this. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re probably live under a rock.

The Plot

Judy Hopps | Disney Wikia

The story begins with Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny from a little town called Bunny-burrow (Ba Dum Tsss). Judy Hopps dreams of being a cop in the central city called Zootopia, a sort of animal paradise where “Predators and Prey live in harmony.” The only problem is there has never been a bunny cop, a job only reserved for a few people within the city. Yep, in a metropolis that prides itself on peace, there is still discrimination. Big animals like Bison, Elephants, Hippos, Lions, and Tigers tend to the get the “cooler” jobs like being a mayor.

Zootopia makes it clear that the words “predator and prey” means the same as “black and white” in our world. Just as Judy is discouraged from joining the force, but when she does (while at the same time graduating top of her class at the police academy) Police Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) believes she is just a part of the “Mammal Inclusion Initiative.” A favorable action to help the little fluffy animals, kind of like the Civil Rights Acts.

Add that to having a predatory mayor, like Mayor Theodore Lionheart (J.K. Simmons), who seems to be obsessed with the fear of being mayor in a city of 90 percent prey. And the many various animal stereotypes about foxes being sly, sloths being slow, and rabbits loving carrots (I know, I know, carrots kill bunnies). Zootopia still has the classic Disney movie characteristics starting with a mystery, and unlikely friendship.

Nick Wilde | Disney Wikia

When Judy teams up with a stereotypical Fox named Nick Wild (Jason Bateman), they discover a drug is being released into the public to make the minority predators “go savage,” one of which almost tried to kill the unlikely duo. Becoming untamed these animals violently destroy property and attack other animals as animals. While the drug, known most commonly as “Nighthowlers,” has the same effect on prey as it does predators, it appears to the general public that it is only the predators being affected. And then the damage is done. Animals like Clawhauser (Nate Torrence), a fun-loving cop who greets everyone walking into the precinct, begin to lose their jobs due to discrimination. Playing into the stereotype that the prey can just not and never will be able to trust the predators.

However when Judy and Nick finally solve the case (for a second time) they discover that the drugs are being released into the predator community by none other than a big white fuzzy sheep (Now it’s beginning to sound like COINTELPRO). Who is this sheep you may ask? Well it is none other than:

Bellwether (A.K.A. Smellwether) | Disney Wikia

ASSISTANT MAYOR BELLWETHER (Jenny Slate)? She knew that if she could play into the existing stereotype that the prey should fear the predatory race, she could turn the prey against the predators, and make them easier to manipulate. Bellwether even explains to Judy “Fear always works! And I’ll dart every predator in Zootopia to keep it that way!” And yes that is the actual plot.

So What Does This Movie Mean?

It’s straight out of the scandal that members of the CIA either willingly helped introduce crack cocaine into minority communities in the 1970s and ’80s, even though the press and some political leaders denied it for years. The subsequent destruction of so many black neighborhoods made it easier for white political leaders and pundits to avoid the African-American communities, and think of them as being filled with “crack babies,” “welfare queens” and “super-predators.” People just don’t seem to realize that there can never be enough attention paid to this time and that if we don’t learn about it now, history is doomed to repeat. And even if it’s coming out of the mouths of cute little animals, it is still worth talking about.

So even though Zootopia is described as “A place where predators and prey can live in harmony,” is it? No way, Some of its racial messages are muddled. For example, after establishing that being called “cute” within the rabbit community is the equivalent of saying the “n” word (“A bunny can call another bunny cute but when other animals do it…). Judy Hopps is the perfect example of this as she tends to be referred to as “cute” by other animals throughout the film. And just like we think something is perfect it never really is, and never really will be, but the least we can do is try to keep our society as “perfect” as possible.


Black Lives Matter Official Logo | Wikiamedia

So back to the question I asked you earlier. Why is it that kid’s movie is the #1 movie on rotten tomatoes top 100 lists for the first time since 2010 when Toy Story 3 topped the chart? The movie is about so much more than the old Disney theme of “A women needs a man,” or doesn’t if you take in Frozen and the recently released Moana. And takes the adult entertainment to a whole new level. And the movie couldn’t have been released at a better time, with the “Black Lives Matter” movements sparking the nation into protests. The movie teaches us that no civilization is perfect and there will always be flaws. Feel free to disagree if you would like, and definitely leave comments if you do.

What to Learn More?

Then take 7 minutes of your life and check this video out.

Featured Image By: Zootopia Movie Poster | Disney Wikia

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