Don’t you think that a rabbit becoming a cop is so cute? Well, watch out! According to Zootopia, you’re being species insensitive. When you think of a movie about a charismatic rabbit cop and a sly fox running around a city trying to save its citizens, you don’t think about it having a strong underlying message. You usually think it’s just going to be an extremely entertaining movie with a cute rabbit and a fox coming together despite all odds. However, Disney’s Zootopia is much more than just a fun movie that’ll entertain your kids for the night. Zootopia is an allegorical movie that depicts the negative effects of racial profiling on society. Its action packed, heartwarming, and comedic story do more than just amuse the audience, it teaches them too.
When we first enter the world of Zootopia, we meet our main character Judy Hopps. Judy is a rabbit from a small farm that has always had the dream of becoming a cop in the big wonderous city of Zootopia. She is so infatuated with the city she even goes on to call it “Zootopia: Where anyone can be anything.” Nevertheless, throughout the movie’s narrative we see that that may not be so true. The film has many instances where the different species of animals – specifically the differences between predator and prey – cause harmful stereotypes to befall our characters. When the issue arrives that some predators have been reverting to walking on all fours, attacking, and growling, it is termed “savage”. The underlying species bias then is brought to light in many animals in Zootopia. Even Judy makes a public address and tries to blame the events on “reverting to their primitive savage ways.”
In the article “The Racial Politics of Zootopia”, the author Gavin Mueller states “Scientific racism is wrong…. Racial categories are instead, to use a popular term, social constructs, meaning that they are products of human history, specifically, a history of violent oppression that erected a caste system of racialized populations that continues to be reproduced institutionally and ideologically to this day.” Mueller mentions that Judy’s statement that the animals are reverting to their “primitive savage ways” is Judy projecting scientific racism. The way that this had caused a negative social effect upon these animals is that the prey began to fear the predators. They began to assume that every predator was going to go “savage.” Most prey species began to avoid predators, stereotype them even more, and even suggest quarantining them all. This being an example of how Mueller stated scientific racism causes violent oppression, we see that oppression happening to predator species in Zootopia. This can be correlated to harmful stereotypes in our society as well. For instance, that all African American’s are criminals or that those who are Muslim are terrorists.
In the ebook “Racial Profiling” by Fred C. Pampell, he articulated that “[minority groups] claim that stereotypes wrongly depict them as involved in drugs, crime, illegal immigration, or terrorism. Indeed, only a small part of any group participates in illicit activities, but racial profiling treats all members of the group as suspects. Profiling may violate civil rights of minority groups, reduce public support for the police, and ultimately increase crime.” The harmful stereotypes in our society and the detrimental effects they have are paralleled to the treatment of predators in Zootopia. Only a very small portion of predators have gone “savage”, but the entire city is treating it like all predators are dangerous, truly depicting the symbolism of the movie to today’s society. Zootopia not only depicts harmful racial profiling on predators, but also individual species as well. This sets back our characters and their achievements by far to their other species counterparts. Our main character’s initial drive in the movie is to become the first bunny cop. Judy pushes herself, defies odds, and proves that she can do just that. However, the moment she becomes a cop, she is given busy work. Every animal surrounding her in her field stereotype and criticize her, telling her that she isn’t capable because she’s “cute.”
To Judy being called cute means “a bunny can call another bunny ‘cute’ but when other animals do it it’s a little….” It’s a form of racial slur like the many that exist in our own society. We also learn that Judy’s sidekick throughout the movie, a fox named Nick Wilde, took on the sleuth and shady stereotype that surrounded his species because he had been muzzled and tormented as a child due to the stereotype. In “Stereotyope Threat: An Overview” by Steve Stroessner and Catherine Good they explain that “Research has shown that stereotype threat can harm the performance of any individual for whom the situation invokes a stereotype-based expectation of poor performance.” In our society, there are many minority groups that are stereotyped to be incapable of great performance. This very often in turn causes that group to do poorly because they are made to believe it too. Judy almost gave up on her dream of becoming a cop due to the stereotyping by her coworkers. Nick himself gave up on his idea of having friends and joining the Cub Scouts due to the fact he was horrifically stereotyped because he is a fox. Overall, the stereotyping of species in Zootopia correlates with stereotyping in our society and cause detrimental effects to the characters, their lives, and what they believe they can achieve.
In closing, Zootopia is much more than meets the eye. The movie effectively depicts what harm can come to a group of people if they are racially profiled. Whether it be the generalization of all predators to be dangerous or individual species being stereotyped, the negative effects are prominent throughout the story. This is very prevalent to our society today and brings on a moral lesson that we should not assume one’s capabilities or intentions based on racial or ethnic background.
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