“It’s not about how badly you want something. It’s about what you are capable of” – Zootopia Chief Bogo
When I went to the movies to watch Zootopia recently, it was just like any other family evening out. It was the weekend and we needed a place to take our 9 year-old to, so we looked online and opted for Zootopia since the trailers seemed appealing and there was already such enthusiasm around the movie.
There we were on a chilly Friday afternoon on our way to the movie theater. I was asking myself why I didn’t stay home playing family games and sipping hot chocolate. We usually have a good time! Instead we were braving the mean cold Canadian wind chill. The whole way I was brooding in my mind on the inevitable boredom another movie for children will bring at a point or another.
Don’t get me wrong! I’ve watch several amusing kids movies, but as an adult my expectation is rarely met as it is difficult for me not to question the plot. You have to be a child to simply accept things without comparison whatsoever. But still, I was getting mentally prepared to endure my fate just to make my little one happy. I guess this is something parents do.
Now I am glad we did because our journey was worth it. Not only I had fun and probably laughed more than my daughter, I also learned a great deal about how to effectively convey a difficult message. The following are six crucial lessons I think the world can draw from Zootopia. This is not a movie review, but just unexpected things I learnt as Walt Disney (and partners) definitely embraces the path of politically engaged movies. Frozen or Home were paving this path. Therefore, I highly encourage people who have not to go watch this fun and educational movie for the whole family.
Here’s the ‘Zootopia Official US Trailer #2′
Who knew a Disney movie could bear such a deep political and sociocultural dimension? Who knew a movie for kids could be so educational, not only for kids but particularly for adults?
1 – REAL diversity MATTERS
Disney understood a long time ago that it’s easier to spread a message through anthropomorphic channels by “ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human” (dictiornary.com). The diverse human personification present in Zootopia would have been difficult to display in a movie with real people. Now I am sure many can argue that predators remain the dominant face as Mayor Lionheart, head of the city is part of the predator family while his assistant is a small sheep, a prey. However, diversity comes in many forms in Zootopia. The city is home to all animals regardless of their breed. It is not perfect, but diversity can also be translated by the varied breed of animals, small and big and of different forms who work in the Mayor’s office or the police staff for instance. The Chief Police Officer may be big, but he’s from the prey’s group.
In 2016 the world is what it is with lingering scars of past wars, genocides, slavery and segregation, bullying, rape, racism, and other prejudices. How do you picture an almost perfect world in which a mom lives in harmony with the murderer of her child? How do you draw a neighborhood where victims and rapists live together as good neighbors?
This is probably one of the greatest challenges of diversity depicted in Zootopia: having a city so diverse that “animals of all breeds can live together in harmony”. This harmony can only be reached if predators learn to control their natural need to eat other animals and if preys learn to forget the past and forgive predators for killing their ancestors. Can our cities be diverse and inclusive to the point that we succeed in controlling our animal nature and our tendency to judge based on our own preconceived notions? Can we go past our grief to forgive those who hurt our family and look at their descendants with compassionate eyes?
2 – Humanity and respect of all lives ARE crucial
Zootopia is a city where all lives matter whether it’s a predator or a prey despite the fact that “life can be a little bit messy”, as mentions Judy Hopps.
True. Just like in real life Zootopia isn’t perfect. Although the city is structured in a way to fit the large diversity of animals, crimes, intrigues, deceptions, and prey’s lingering sorrow are also integrant part of this town.
Zootopia is no different from other multicultural and diverse communities in the world. There are ethnocultural groups and centers for like-minded people. Of course frictions between groups are common practice based on individual differences and diverging opinions . Nevertheless, there is a great lesson of humanity in the movie as Judy Hopps learned from her own mistakes and drew on her inner judgement to bring a real difference in the city, to remind everyone of the real meaning of diversity: all lives matter regardless of background, physical attires, level of education, or world view. Her own fears and accepted ideas have undermined her friendship with Nick. Fortunately, she learned to forgive and understand how to deal with her own emotions.
With the unusual but precious friendship between a predator and a prey Zootopia invites humans to fly above racial, ethnic, cultural, physical, and sociopolitical foolishness. The analogy can easily showcase relationships between rich and poor, between people of different religions, levels of education, or skin colors. This paradigm calls every human being to stand up for what’s right even when their own beliefs are being questioned.
3 – It takes more than sheer good will
Zootopia has demonstrated that sheer good will is not enough to succeed. Judy Hopps came to the city with her good intentions to serve as a cop and protect others. Despite her eagerness to prove her parents wrong and show that a bunny can do anything, Judy’s innocence, lack of experience, and accepted ideas put her in a difficult situation.
Just like Judy we often judge people based on our preconceived notions of reality. Unconsciously, we categorize people based on what meets the eyes for instance skin colors or ethnic origin. Like Latinos are lazy, Blacks are violent, Asians are submissive, and Whites are self-centered or fragile.
“We all make mistakes”, reminds officer Hopps, a lesson she has learned at her own expense.
In an iconic scene, Hopps let her fear and ignorance directed her first public speech instead of using her judgment. She ended up creating a public panic and hurt people she cares about in the process. I was reminded at this point of the importance of knowledge. It is vital to know your stuff and understand how people quickly react to whatever they find in the media especially with the notion of spontaneity brought by the speed of social media that allow people to share news within seconds. Hence the need to measure our words carefully before we talk to avoid doing regrettable harm.
4 – Team work makes the job easier
Judy Hopps had a big goal for her stay in Zootopia, but she quickly understood that neither her good will nor her perfect academic record will be enough to fulfill her dream. When by chance she got her first real mission several obstacles stood in her way. She then realized that having a partner is her best strategic option. This is how a troubled, hurtful at times, but fruitful relationship started between Judy and Nick.
To me this is another reminder that we cannot succeed alone. We always need partners, collaborators, friends, and family to share the workload, to offer insights and brainstorming, to support our work, to lift our spirit and to celebrate with us when time of triumph comes. Hopps’s attitude in the end is a good example of how to deal with those who helped us climb the ladder. Hopps made sure her friend and partner was recognized in the end. I think this is a must, at our time of victory to recognize, to thank, and to help back those who supported us in a way or another.
5 – Evilness does not come in big nasty packages
“We may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals”. Mr. Big – Zootopia
In many Disney movies the “villains” are easily recognized by their physical appearances. Yet in Zootopia there is no particular villainy face, which had the audience hold their breath for the big reveal. If you have seen Zootopia you may have been shocked to discover the identity of the villain-mastermind. It was indeed a character you wouldn’t think of before the end was getting closer (sorry no spoilers).
This analogy of the unexpected mastermind tells us that evil figures with red eyes and long horns are just myth for as human beings we all host our own devil. Indeed, “We may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals”. We may have a social veneer, but it doesn’t dismiss our animal nature, a side of each of us that is difficult to control. As human beings we are all capable of the worst and the best. It’s true that some of us can push their evilness or animality to the limit, but it does not mean we are better than them.
An important thing here is to be cautious and not let our naivety lead us to out-of-hand situations. On the other hand, we should be opened to give others second chance just as we deserve forgiveness when we get out of line. The worse that could happen is letting ourselves blinded by fears, angers, and hurts and start killing each other in fights where there can only be more hurts.
6 – Let the past bury the past
As a land of utopia all animals are supposed to live freely and happily in Zootopia. However, the city’s harmony remains on surface. The relative peace of the city is apparently reached because predators seem to find other ways to satisfy their hunger while preys have learnt to forgive and accept predators.
The movie has explored significant political and social venues that touch scars rooted deeply in our collective mind. Can we as a world go past our prejudicial and discriminatory thoughts to live in harmony with our fellow human beings? Can we go over our grief to forgive and move on?
Zootopia has delivered a message of hope for humanity. A wish that one day bullies and victims can live in harmony because bullies will change their behaviors and learn to respect all lives. A hope that victims will find a way to cope and accept that people can change for real.
Officer Judy Hopps has beautifully put it, “No matter what types of animals you are, change starts with you”.
Click this link to watch the trailer on Zootopia Disney Official website. Enjoy!