‘Zootopia’ Brilliance Shows A Dark America Behind Its Mask | Film Review
~SPOILER DISCLAIMER~ Some key plot elements of the movie are expressed in this article.
“In the animal city of Zootopia, a fast-talking fox who’s trying to make it big goes on the run when he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Zootopia’s top cop, a self-righteous rabbit, is hot on his tail, but when both become targets of a conspiracy, they’re forced to team up and discover even natural enemies can become best friends”.
Disney have been right on the ball with their latest animation movies; landing lucky with the critical and financial successes of Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, and Inside Out. Their most recent release is the adorable Zootopia, a further movie added to the success streak.
Following the tiny bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) on her journey to become a police officer – the job she’s told consistently can’t be fulfilled by “just a bunny”, Zootopia outlines the blissful place where all species live peacefully together, both prey and predators alike. However, Hopps soon discovers that Zootopia doesn’t live up to the name, not being quite the utopia she’d expected, as she witnesses discrimination and stereotypes against other species everyday.
The once harmonious place soon becomes fear-filled, after a growing number of ‘predators’ go missing after becoming “savage“, and displaying extremely violent behaviour. The city are led to believe that because these few animals were from species once classified as predatory, chances are that the behaviour was not coincidence; putting two and two together and making five by jumping to conclusions.
This animation, while still appealing to children and families with its cute and comedic aspects, is brilliant in how it manages to delve into the deep issues of today’s society, focusing on xenophobia, racism, and the recent force of Islamophobia. With Zootopia mirroring the diverse culture of America today, Disney draws attention to the lack of acceptance inhabitants of America may have for African-Americans and Muslims following the influence of media. Cleverly, it is also attended to that perhaps America is not quite be the utopia it may appear to be.
With a well-timed release bang in the middle of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections where a candidate is an open promoter of xenophobia and racism, how much of a coincidence can this subplot be? Especially after Hillary Clinton’s controversial ‘super-predators‘ statement in 1996, renaming African-American youth as criminals, and leading to #BlackLivesMatter campaigns and a recent apology to African-Americans (watch the clips if you can).
All predators are ironically voiced by black or Hispanic voice actors (coincidence?), and after the ‘prey’ animals become fearful of the predators, predators are treated like criminals, demoted from jobs, and are avoided at all costs. It’s finally revealed that the cause of predators turning savage is due to a high prey political figure forcing a form of drugs onto predatory animals, as a means of manipulating the prey community to prejudice against the predators.
Now, if this article hasn’t yet convinced you that this movie is a direct comparison to white supremacy, this sub-plot compares almost exactly to the introduction of crack-cocaine into African-American communities by members of the CIA in the ’70s. No coincidence there! The random savageness of the predators could easily also be a connection to the growing classification of Islam to terrorism partially due to media representation.
The incredible screenplay and story-writing of Zootopia, not to mention the beautiful artwork and animation, both bring a quality to the movie that are relatively rare to find together. Disney, as a huge influence on children’s lives, is using this to teach them crucial values to live in today’s world. A movie for adults, children and families, this is a lovable and respectable animation that deserves full marks for execution.
“We may be evolved, but down deep we’re still animals”.
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