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, a fun-loving film just released by Disney, details the adventures of a small bunny with big dreams as she sets out to become the first bunny cop and make the world a better place. Officer Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) successfully accomplishes her dream of becoming a cop, but must face another set of challenges as she tries to crack her first case. Fourteen animals have gone missing in the city of Zootopia, and Officer Hopps is determined to figure out why.
But the plot is much deeper and more complex than you might expect from a typical animated Disney film. Officer Hopps combats assumptions made about her based on her species, assumptions that run rampant throughout this world of anthropomorphic animals based on whether they’re historically predator or prey. It’s no accident that these assumptions feel quite similar to the challenges of real-life prejudice and — dare I say it — racism. Here are five things from the film Zootopia that can be linked to real-world prejudice.
1. Coded language
When you see the film, you’ll notice that the language used by the citizens of Zootopia to talk about predators is very similar to language that has been used to discuss black people. Terms such as 'savage' and 'biologically predisposed' are wielded liberally as the city becomes fearful of predators.
2. “You can’t just touch a sheep’s wool!”
Zootopia cleverly intertwines this common black hair microaggression, as fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) simply cannot resist sinking his paws into sheep Assistant Mayor Bellwether’s (voiced by Jenny Slate) fur.
3. Being told you can’t
Photo: giphy.comOfficer Judy Hopps learns as a child that she will be told over and over she can’t achieve what she wants because she’s a bunny, leaving her to overcome the great obstacles of prejudice. This is one of the lessons of the film that feels the realest. People of oppressed communities are often told they can't accomplish something irrespective of their capability, and are left to prove that they
canwin that race
stick that landing, or in the case of Officer Hopps, solve that case.
4. The Night Howlers
Photo: giphy.comWithout giving too much away, Night Howlers are plants that become integral in
Zootopia’s plot. I’m not entirely sure if it was intentional (though the communications major in me thinks it was), but these Night Howlers felt a little reminiscent of the crack epidemic that highly affected (and tore apart) black communities in the late '80s and early '90s. It's a little like
It’s a saying heard in black households around the world: You have to work two, three, four or five times as hard as your white counterparts to accomplish the same goals. Officer Hopps experiences this first-hand, first in the police academy and again as she receives her first assignment from a prejudiced Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba). Hopps must constantly prove herself in order to accomplish the simplest of tasks. I loved
Zootopia — it’s a topical, engaging and profound film that leaves you with lots to unpack. It’s great to have a family film addressing some of the complexities affecting our world in a digestible way. If you ask me, it’s the first must-see movie of the year.
Photo: giphy.comCheck out the trailer and see for yourself.
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