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Racism in the Disney Movie Zootopia

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Racism in the Disney Movie Zootopia

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Research Objectives
  4. Research Question
  5. Significance of Research
  6. Scope and Limitation
  7. Definition of Terms
  8. Research Design
  9. Literature Review
  10. Resist Scene in Zootopia
  11. References

Introduction

From the beginning, we born with zero knowledge and no choice for us to choose our citizenship and skin identifications. It is hard to understand the reason people reinforce the idea of specifications could make us different than the others. The truth is there are no excuse for race discrimination.

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In almost all cultures there are racism issues. It sad to say that there are some people around the globe assume their races are better than the other and this make the connections are imbalanced at any angle. Therefore, this is how the racism progresses in human civilization. In my point of view, people should be treated in the same way even though different nationality and skin specification. Based on Alpikri research, He concerned about this issue.

‘’The risk or racial attitude among the various communities are increasingly concerned with the study by the Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita). (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia)’’ (Alpikri, n.d.)

The data from the survey shows that, the bond between Malaysian is still in good condition but there is a racial threat is increasing. If this data is nit uncounted, Malaysia citizens will prioritise their own ethnic interest in life.

By tackle these demanding issues in a simple and innovative way, Disney Zootopia film describes the risk of racism by how the children can comprehend with hope that the younger generation can develop their life with the open mind and possibly end racial issues. Based on Zootopia Disney movie, the story centred on what will happen when predators and prey live together in one community. The movie main attention on the main character who is a young bunny named Judy Hopps, who is very committed and passionate to become a police officer. Throughout the story, she makes an impossible unification with a fox which is a member of the predator family, named Nick Wilde. The plot expands when a few of predators become violent and interrupt the harmony of Zootopia, resulting in severe discrimination against all predatory populations.

Problem Statement

In this day and age, in our nation, racism has become problematic issues, in almost every country in the world. Due to the ignorance and lack of knowledge, that is why human race is overly influenced by the racism issues. People are not vastly different, the only difference is the colour of skin, nothing else. In fact, we are all humans and should be treated equally in all scopes of life regardless of our origin, nationality, and skin. Racism is a worldwide concern for all civilizations, which caused by people, who ignore the differentiation and specifications of various nations.

People awareness and continuous education is the solution to racism issues. The recognition of “us” versus “them” are the only thing that racism could give to human being followed by an indication of problems of races in our civilization. Disney Zootopia did such a move that could have the dominant voice when starts to show the film to the country, they also could widen the opportunity to make changes. Disney Zootopia main objective is to shows an innovative ways to handle racism. The film illustrates racial risks by how the children can comprehend and the expectations of the young generation to develop their life with an open minds and theoretically ending racism issue. According to (Allison Briscoe, n.d.) Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, a professor of psychology at the University of Berkeley, addresses Zootopia’s attempt to open the minds of children at a young age in order to conquer racism.

‘’The focus here isn’t to make kids feel guilty, but rather to help them put themselves in another person’s shoes and begin to identify behaviour that they might want to change.’’ By using this method, the movie able to encourage the children to have empathy and fairness in order to understand that is wrong to treat someone differently based on their appearance or ancestry.

Anthropomorphism. According to (Jardim, n.d.) Paul Wells in his book The Animated Bestiary says that ‘’anthropomorphic characters are effective to convey a varieties of portrayal due to their human and animal natures, being both at once, but not fully one nor the other.”

The character can be a reflect traits such as gender, ethnicity, race, generation and identity. Storyteller can say something that could not be talking about human due to political, religious or social by using animal to do someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.

‘’When the political, religious, social, or personal risks are high, when we are standing close to the metaphoric fire, the use of animals has long provided intellectual and psychological distance and allowed us to critically explore that which we would not be comfortable exploring directly”. (Burke & Copenhaver, 2004) The purpose of this study is to understand the writer of Zootopia on how to address real world issues and being able to teach children values that are not too controversial yet easy to understand, and being able to fully know how writers are able to create ways to educate people in a simpler manner.

Research Objectives

The research encompasses the following objectives:

  1. To identify the true racist sources with more accuracy, clarity and factuality.
  2. To analyse the way how Zootopia can teach children about racism issues in a simple and innovative method for easy understanding.
  3. To analyse how Zootopia use anthropomorphic characters to show the real world issues of racism towards children in uncontroversial ways.

Research Question

The research questions for this study are:

  1. What are the true racist sources in Zootopia?
  2. How Zootopia teach children about racism issue thru scenes?
  3. How Zootopia use anthropomorphic character to represent the real world issues?

Significance of Research

The findings of this study will verify that there are an alternative and innovative ways to deal with massive and sensitive issues such as racism to be applied for children. Children need to be told this issue in the hope that the younger generation can grow up with open mind and potentially eliminate the racial problem. This study provides an awareness on society where Nick’s character most prominently displays the dangers of racism and how stereotypes can have a deep impact on a person’s life. With children as a major audience, we can investigate what can appeal to children to understand a story or message they want to convey to them. And one of them is to use animation where many attractions such as the colour and shape of the character itself.

Scope and Limitation

The focal point of this research is on the animation film of Disney Zootopia which has been released in 2015. This research gives an attention on the issues in Disney Zootopia which is racism that Disney try illustrates to the audience.

The limitation size of this study is the research might not have an interview with the film-maker since the distance of remittance, different languages use and as a university student we didn’t have a strong influence to meet the film-maker easily. In this film, there are many scenes that blur the meaning headend with the viewer’s eye familiar with an oddity in terms of color, character design, humor and more. Each different scene needs to be analyse one by one and it requires references from big names or influential people to be able to see it in more detail views.

Definition of Terms

In order to trouble-free the readers, researcher have provided the explanation on the terms that had been use throughout this research:

Anthropology is the study of human beings. While, anthropomorphic is derives from the Greek word anthropoid, which means ‘human being.’ A mankind prefer to anthropomorphize animals and inanimate objects. If that sounds fancy, just think about a kindergarten student putting a smiley face on his drawing of a sun. (“anthropomorphic – Dictionary Definition,” n.d.)

Psychological are refers to human mind and feeling. For example, he claims that the constant aircraft noise has a bad psychological effect on the residents. (“Physiological and Psychological Impact of Racism and Discrimination for African-Americans,” n.d.)

Research Design

This research focus on how Disney can make a film to tackle a huge and sensitive issue, for instance a racism issues in an innovative way. In Malaysia racism is a supremacist issues but it is not as constant as in U.S. Therefore, Disney accepts this open door to reveal the sensitive issue successfully by making the tyke a noteworthy gathering of people. As a result, the youthful age are able to grow up with an open-minded perspective with expectations of to get rid with racism among us. The theories propose by (Jardim, n.d.) Stated that, ‘’Anthropomorphic characters are capable of carrying a large variety of representations’’. Because it relates to the way Disney presents this movie by using animal characters to replace humanity to convey sensitive and severe issues in adult view.

By focusing the issue of racism that Disney portrays in the animation film of Zootopia, researcher use the qualitative method. By using articles obtained from the internet, it could help to describe more about racist as has been mentioned in the introduction, which is racial give a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ ensues. Nevertheless, this issue is a trouble for the society as well as with Malaysia’s with variety of ethnic such as Malays, Chinese and Indians.

YouTube also plays an important role in conducting this research. For example, researcher is able watch the scenes that have a meaning of racist. There are many scenes that can watch a racist issue as in a scene where ” a bunny can call another bunny cute, but when another animal does it hmm. ” Means his personality refers to the sensitive issue of Nigga’s call among blacks.

Literature Review

This section will explain the background study that have a correlation with the issue of racism in the animation film of Zootopia that released in 2015. It will be highlighted on how Disney show to the younger generation about baggers and sensitive issue that they can understand in hopes that can open mind and end racism.

Racism

The risk or racial attitude among the various communities is increasingly concerned with the study by the Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita), University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). (Alpikri, n.d.). Data analysis shows that ethnic relations in Malaysia are still good, but racial risk is increasing and if not dealt with it will cause people to prioritize their own interests in the life of action. Professor Dr. Mansor Mohamad Noor says ‘’political factors are the main cause of racial tensions as well as differences in religion, politics, country, race, economy and social mobility.’’ (“PressReader.com – Your favorite newspapers and magazines.,” n.d.).

There were three levels of racism: institutionalized (general unequal resources and opportunities in society), personally mediated (different assumptions and behaviors towards individuals based on their racial identities), and internalized (accepting unequal status). These three levels are connected with one another, but the elimination of institutionalized racism is more crucial than others as it can lead to the absence of the other two levels in the long run (Jones, 2000) described a stress and coping model that predicted the same environmental stimuli do not necessarily have the same effect on different individuals, because various factors (such as personal traits and situations) affect the perception of stress, coping style and therefore the outcomes (Folkman, Lazarus, Gruen, & DeLongis, 1986)

According to Structural Racism and Health inequities, (Gee & Ford, 2011) stated that health inequities among racial minorities are pronounced, persistent, and pervasive. (Sondik et al.). Besides that, one of the cause of inequities is racism. Based on past study they find that individuals who claim experiencing racism show worse health than people who did not claim it. (Williams and Mohammed, 2009). From Research of (Mosley, 2010), Lazar’s (2007) have explores preservice teacher’s towards teaching in urban schools after participating in a course that (a) focus on cultural diversity in readings and experience or (b) did not embrace a focused practicum and reading on cultural diversity. From analysis Lazar found that those students whose class focused on cultural diversity had more confidence in teaching, described students in terms of their strengths rather than shortage, and had a desire to teach in urban schools. There are studies of framework of anti-racist literacy practices illustrate how white teachers create ‘ways of being white that transcend predictable performances of more typically racialized identities’, as mention by Raible and Irizarry (2007).

Anthropomorphism

The way that Disney uses in this Zootopia film is by using the theory of (Jardim, n.d.) ‘’anthropomorphic characters are capable of carrying a large variety of representations due to their human and animal natures, being both at once, but not completely one nor the other’’. That’s mean, the character can do a reflect traits such as gender, ethnicity, race, generation and identity. Storyteller can say something that could not be talking about human due to political, religious or social by using animal to do someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others. When the political, religious, social, or personal risks are high, when we are standing close to the metaphoric fire, the use of animals has long provided intellectual and psychological distance and allowed us to critically explore that which we would not be comfortable exploring directly. (Burke & Copenhaver, 2004)

Anthropomorphism is the perception of humanness of the other, whereas objectification is a process of dehumanizing the other (Loughnan et al., 2010; Vaes et al., 2011; Waytz et al., 2010). In most cases human image are identify as the most anthropomorphic, followed by animals, with objects normally perceived as the least anthropomorphic (Nowak & Rauh, 2005, 2008). Anthropomorphism increases perceptions of social potential, and more anthropomorphic images are predominantly perceived to be more realistic, describes the predicted path from anthropomorphism to realism. However, there are different dimensions of realism, the one considered here is realism as typical, probable, or likely to exist offline (Nowak, Fox, & Ranjit, 2015)

The study of the evolution of Mickey Mouse by Stephen Jay Gould’s can help us to understand the relationship between juvenile features and anthropomorphism. In ‘A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse’ (1980), he assign a period of time of Mickey Mouse’s appearance, stating that “over the years, his appearance became more youthful… a larger relative head size, larger eyes, and an enlarged cranium–all traits of juvenility” (1980: 102). Gould also argues that, “When we see a living creature with babyish features, we feel an automatic surge of disarming tenderness” (1980: 102). In identification of universalise process animals had been used as they are “empathy-arousing objects in Western culture” (Crafton, 1982: 299).

Minds of children

According to (Allison Briscoe, n.d.) Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, a professor of psychology at the University of Berkeley, addresses Zootopia’s attempt to open the minds of children at a young age in order to conquer racism. The idea here isn’t to make kids feel guilty, but rather to help them put themselves in another person’s shoes and begin to identify behaviour that they might want to change. By taking this approach, the movie able to make children feel empathy and fairness in order to indirectly understand that it is not right to treat someone differently based on their appearance or ancestry.

As blogger Zach Blumenfeld argues in his article praising the social commentary of Zootopia, “Prejudice can have the effect of creating an unbridgeable gap between groups.” (Blumenfeild, n.d.). It is clear that no society can prosper when there is a prejudice which prevents equality of growing. When children starts to grow older, they will become more focused, better at planning and have an eager to learn more. Additionally, young children are impressive learners and good at learning about causes. Preschoolers, toddlers, and even infants construct everyday causal theories about objects, living things, and minds (Gopnik, Griffiths, & Lucas, 2015) Recent studies shows that young children are remarkably skilled at learning specific causal relationships (Lucas, Bridgers, Griffiths, & Gopnik, 2014)

Resist Scene in Zootopia

And there the following are the scene that Zootopia addresses racism in a more meaningful way than most films:

  1. ‘Cute’ Is an Offensive Term. ‘’A bunny can call another bunny cute, but when another animal does it hmm.’’ Jody Hopps just turn cute into the bunny equivalent of the n-word? When Judy first speaks with the lovable Officer Clawhauser, he calls her ‘cute’ in a complimentary way. As Judy explains to Clawhauser, however, ‘cute’ is a demeaning word to describe bunnies, to which Clawhauser immediately apologizes. This touches on a certain incendiary word, one that has different connotations coming from a Caucasian person than an African American one. (Erik, n.d.)
  2. Demagogues Pitting People Against Each Other. When Bellwether makes big reveal her as the mastermind behind the predatory savagery, she says that over 90% of the population of zootopia is a prey and that it would unify the community to have the predators as a common enemy. This type of backward thinking is behind many historical atrocities that had white Americans from different cultural backgrounds unite against non-whites such as forming Jim Crow laws following the Civil War and forming Japanese internment camps during World War II. This is also reflective of the current mindset among politicians that really ‘patriotic’ Americans against practicing Muslims. It also touches on the prejudicial suspicion and ‘do not make eye contact’ attitude faced by many Middle Eastern Americans in America today. (Erik, n.d.)
  3. We reserve the right to refuse service. Early in Zootopia we are introduced to the film’s deuteragonist, Nick, as he is attempting to buy a jumbo sized ice pop for his ‘son’ at an elephant ice cream shop. The cashier holds a sign up with his trunk and yells at Nick, ‘Can not you read, fox? The sign says we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone! This is not unlike the many ethnic groups faced discrimination during the early 1900s in the United States where businesses refused to render services to non-White Americans. Even some business that did allow patronage from any ethnic group gave off a sense of hostility that embodied institutionalized discrimination-that is, unequal treatment towards a certain group regardless of direct or indirect intent in the country. ‘(arielle, n.d.)
  4. Reverting back to their primitive ways. The notion of the separation between groups is at the root of many problems in our society, and it is perfectly represented in Zootopia when some predators turn “savage” as they begin to inexplicably attack prey in an out-of-control manner. In one of the most important scenes in the movie, Judy publicly claims that the predators could be “reverting back to their primitive ways,” as seen in the press conference scene

References

  1. Allison Briscoe, S. (n.d.). Three Lessons from Zootopia to Discuss with Kids. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from Greater Good website: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_lessons_from_zootopia_to_discuss_with_kids
  2. Alpikri, Z. F. (n.d.). Sikap perkauman makin membimbangkan. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from Utusan Online website: http://www.utusan.com.my/berita/nasional/sikap-perkauman-makin-membimbangkan-1.491210
  3. anthropomorphic – Dictionary Definition. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2019, from Vocabulary.com website: https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/anthropomorphic
  4. Arielle, Haddad. (n.d.). Zootopia braves the world of racism, prejudice, and discrimination | DisneyExaminer. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from http://disneyexaminer.com/2016/04/04/zootopia-braves-the-world-of-racism-prejudice-and-discrimination-film-opinion/
  5. Blumenfeild, Z. (n.d.). Lexia: Undergraduate Journal in Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication – PDF. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://docplayer.net/amp/66555921-Lexia-undergraduate-journal-in-writing-rhetoric-technical-communication.html
  6. Burke, C. L., & Copenhaver, J. G. (2004). Animals as People in Children’s Literature. Language Arts, 81(3), 9.
  7. Erik, B. (n.d.). 12 Ways Zootopia Addresses Racism in a More Meaningful Way Than Most Films. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from Ranker website: //www.ranker.com/list/zootopia-addresses-racism-v1/erik-barnes
  8. Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Gruen, R. J., & DeLongis, A. (1986). Appraisal, coping, health status, and psychological symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(3), 571–579. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.50.3.571
  9. Gee, G. C., & Ford, C. L. (2011). STRUCTURAL RACISM AND HEALTH INEQUITIES: Old Issues, New Directions. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 8(1), 115–132. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742058X11000130
  10. Gopnik, A., Griffiths, T. L., & Lucas, C. G. (2015). When Younger Learners Can Be Better (or at Least More Open-Minded) Than Older Ones. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(2), 87–92. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721414556653
  11. Jardim, T. (n.d.). Title: Animals as character: Anthropomorphism as personality in animation. 70.
  12. Jones, C. P. (2000). Levels of racism: a theoretic framework and a gardener’s tale. American Journal of Public Health, 90(8), 1212–1215. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.90.8.1212
  13. Lucas, C. G., Bridgers, S., Griffiths, T. L., & Gopnik, A. (2014). When children are better (or at least more open-minded) learners than adults: Developmental differences in learning the forms of causal relationships. Cognition, 131(2), 284–299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2013.12.010
  14. Mosley, M. (2010). ‘That really hit me hard’: moving beyond passive anti‐racism to engage with critical race literacy pedagogy. Race Ethnicity and Education, 13(4), 449–471. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2010.488902
  15. Nowak, K. L., Fox, J., & Ranjit, Y. S. (2015). Inferences About Avatars: Sexism, Appropriateness, Anthropomorphism, and the Objectification of Female Virtual Representations. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(5), 554–569. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12130
  16. Physiological and Psychological Impact of Racism and Discrimination for African-Americans. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.apa.org website: https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/racism-stress
  17. PressReader.com – Your favorite newspapers and magazines. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.pressreader.com/

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