I saw Zootopia recently and it met expectations. The execution of the racism theme was decently done in my opinion. The plot leaves with a feeling of being edge of your seat while the characters are relatable, especially to those who have personally experienced racism in their lives. While everyone is an animal in the setting, Zootopia illustrates how people in real life respond to the issues present in the movie.
Although Zootopia is shown to have segregated areas based on biomes due to different adaptability within the animal kingdom, this divide is less relevant than the conflict between predator and prey groups. Stereotypes and assumptions exist for each animal but the stereotypes and assumptions between the prey and predator groups drive home the conflict more. The racism in Zootopia resembles the modern version of racism experienced in real life. There were a variety of ways the movie showed how racism impacts everyone and how it manifests itself in different forms.
First, there is the institutional racism found in the police world, both in the department and academy. The career path is biased towards big strong animals with the training program and amenities (bathrooms) evident in testing strength and size, leading to those who fit the mold to graduate while others who don’t (Judy Hopps) fail to graduate or find other ways to compensate for lack of size and strength. The problem of favoritism towards a certain mold in the police world is shown to be so pervasive that while Judy Hopps demonstrated her competence in the academy by graduating at the top of the class, it is mentioned that her species as a bunny is significant enough to warrant her a “token status” by the mayor. In fact, Judy Hopps lampshades this when she wasn’t just a token bunny on her first day of work and that her being a bunny should mean very little. Indeed, when everyone is first assigned to their cases, Judy Hopps was stuck at being a meter maid because of the assumptions that a bunny isn’t capable enough of apprehending a criminal. We see later that this assumption is false since Judy Hopps was the only police officer small enough to navigate through the rodent portion of the town to catch the weasel. This would demonstrate that a one size fits all approach in selecting candidates for the job would’t work for all circumstances and that variety is desperately needed. While not every institution is racist, there is still a bias out in the whole world favoring a certain type of race. As companies has taken the steps to decrease the bias for hiring a certain race workers for the job, there are some with an overwhelming majority of a certain race of the employees that minorities are sometimes referred to as “token” x race for their group.
“Sir, I’m not just some token bunny.”
Another point to be made would be the reactions of the prey animals after the revelation of predators going uncontrolled and feral. The views of the prey animals towards predators could be said to be the mirror of real life reactions towards members of another group. Instead of considering other variables and factors for issues prevalent within a group, it is shown that is very easy for many resort to biological explanations as a way to explain the differences and attribute that certain races and groups have inherent qualities to them. The view that predators are biologically inclined to be dangerous and savage and thus are more prone to losing their minds and deserved to be treated accordingly is an example of black and white and us vs them thinking. This view is not accounting for the diversity within the prey group in which some traditionally prey animals such as hippos and elephants are capable of being one of the most dangerous and “savage” animals in the animal kingdom. The whole fiasco resembles the view that some races are criminals because they are viewed to be inherently more violent, dangerous, and/or immoral, therefore some members of the race are treated accordingly such as being avoided and heavily scrutinized. In the same way that the entire race gets tarred with the same brush due to the actions of the few, Zootopia condemned predators due to few individuals who happened to be predators going savage.
While the black and white thinking could be said to be present from some animals’ views before the events of the movie, the thinking is made even more widespread and polarized in Zootopia due to the media not investigating deep enough the causes and distorting the facts in process. With an incentive to make profits, the media isn’t always in the position to give out objective facts but could distort them with subjective interpretation of the events. Without fact checking on what Judy Hopps subjective interpretation of the events, the media ran with her words.
Neither the prey nor predator group is completely innocent on the racism issue. Members of each group illustrated the concept. Judy Hopps, Bellwether, and Nick Wilde faced prejudice from predators and preys but are not completely absent of prejudice themselves. Although Judy was bullied by a fox in her youth and faced discrimination in the police world due to her being a bunny, she mistakenly spread the notion that predators are biologically inclined to be savage despite not knowing the full causes of the issues. Furthermore, when her assumptions about predators were confronted by Nick after her speech, she replied that he was different and “not one of them”. The concept of generalizing a whole of people while maintaining that an individual is the exception to the rule could be common in cases when racists are friends or even in a relationship with people they are racist towards. Their way of decreasing cognitive dissonance is to conclude that the individual in question are different from their members of their group while holding all of the others have certain traits. This demonstrates while someone may faced discrimination and prejudice themselves, their experiences don’t prevent them from doing the same to other groups.
Overall, Zootopia hammered really hard on how racism manifests itself in the modern world. While there are some distinctions, the moral of the story is not judging on people of what they are but who they are.