Disney’s Zootopia has many undertones that mirror the United States’ society that the casual viewer may miss. After taking a closer look, we are able to see a social hierarchy with the predators usually occupying positions of power, such as a lion as the mayor. As the movie progresses, prejudice against and stereotypes of predators become more visible. Themes coinciding with capitalism and bureaucracy become clear as well. However, perhaps the most prevalent feature of this film is a critique of white feminism and its failure to include intersectionality.
The plot of the movie is explicitly about racism. The film mirrors the binary idea of race that is seen in the United States. In the US, racial issues are usually seen as involving just blacks and whites. In Zootopia this is seen through ‘predators’ and ‘prey’. In Zootopia, prey posses an underlying perception that a predator will attack, eventually, because it is in its nature to do so. Similarly, there are stereotypes in the US that it is inevitable that a black person will steal, fight or break other laws. When you look a bit closer, this movie also criticizes white feminism and its lack of intersectionality. Judy can be compared to a white feminist. While she is oppressed due to her gender, she is blind to her internalized racism. To begin, she carries fox repellant with her constantly. This can also be seen through her interactions with Nick at the beginning of the film. She’s being as nice as she can, but she’s still a privileged member of the majority looking down on the failures of a minority man. And when she realizes that all the ‘respectability’ she liked about Nick was an act, she becomes furious. This is a metaphor for a white feminist trying to be an ally to a man of color and getting angry when he turns out to not appreciate her condescending help. If you dig a bit further, the movie really criticizes white feminism even more during Judy’s speech at the press conference. She claims that biological factors have meant “predators are reverting back to their primitive savage ways.” Despite seeing Judy as the primary victim of oppression up until this point of the film, it becomes clear that her privilege as a member of the majority species not only gives her a platform but also denies her understanding of the systemic experience of species-based (racial) discrimination.
Although Zootopia is seen as just another animated Disney film by most, the writers implement sociological undertones. Through Judy’s interactions with Nick and her internalized racism, sociological paradigms such as race conflict and critiques of white feminism and its failure to provide intersectionality are established.