‘Zootopia’ Applauded for Tackling Social Issues


Photo By Jasmine Baten

Zootopia has tackled social issues.

By Jasmine Baten, Senior Writer

It’s a zoo over here.

Disney’s Zootopia was released March 4, starring Ginnifer Goodwin as bunny cop Judy Hops and Jason Bateman as hustler fox Nick Wilde, alongside guest voice Shakira as pop singer Gazelle and Idris Elba as stern police chief Bogo. The movie revolves around animals who have adopted the lifestyle of everyday humans, including Judy Hops, the first rabbit police officer, who is determined to prove herself a competent cop.

Even after only a few weeks in theatres, the movie has earned over $850 million in the box office and received an 8.4/10 rating from IMDb and 98 percent from Rotten Tomatoes.

According to Forbes magazine, in terms of storyline and audience engagement, Zootopia is the best Disney film since Beauty and the Beast.

High praise indeed. So what’s this movie done to deserve it?

Disney’s done more than give audiences dazzling graphics and breathless, wide-eyed, literal bushy-tailed characters. It’s worked numerous social messages into the movie, making it one of the most progressive movies the company has produced yet.

“The movie deals with stereotypes, discrimination, prejudice and the like,” senior Enoch Lee said. “It tackles social issues that are very relatable to our lives.”

The film’s social messages refer to multiple aspects of prejudice within everyday society ranging from sexism to racism to classism. Though Zootopia doesn’t draw explicit parallels between certain animals and a particular demographic, the general concept is powerful.

“I don’t think it deals with one specific kind of social issue—you can’t draw an equal sign between “Zootopianism” and a single one of our problems,” Lee said. “This movie lets us see how, in general, prejudice and discrimination affect society, and I think it does a good job of it.”

In the movie, the prey are the majority, though are usually treated as the weaker animals, and the predators dominate, reflecting the way racism appears in human life, where the dominant Caucasian race makes up less than 30 percent of the world’s population. Females in Zootopia are placed in subordinate roles, with female prey animals in the least rewarding/beneficial situations, mirroring the concept of multiple levels of injustice for those who must battle with being included in more than one discriminated-against group.

The main characters represent clear “types”—a hopeful cop and a con-man—one who is fighting everything she is told she should be to become everything she wants to be, and one who has stopped believing in anything he wants to become everything he is told he is.

Zootopia reveals the good and bad in multiple characters; subtly suggesting the radical idea that race and gender have very little to do with a person’s personality, abilities and degree of “goodness” or “badness.”

The film is another step in the direction that Disney has been taking towards creating material that tackles social issues. Its princesses are becoming more diverse in race and body type, and now movies like Zootopia are only getting bolder about gently criticizing our society.

“I’m down 100 percent for Disney making more of these kind of movies,” senior Lindsey Tait said. “Zootopia was a great example of how Disney can take serious issues and mold them into something younger kids can understand, but also makes these films more intriguing to an older crowd who can pick up on these themes more easily.”And this ongoing trend of addressing social issues is important. Even though we think that we’ve left behind the worst of racism and sexism, prejudice is outrageously clear in everyday workplaces and interactions. Zootopia highlights those interactions in such a way that it becomes glaringly obvious just how prejudiced our society can be.

“Honestly, people tend to overlook or purposely ignore important issues such as racism and stereotyping, and movies like these are a great way of making people pay attention to them,” Tait said.

Still, not all the whimsical sparkle is gone. Just like every Disney movie, the graphics are stellar and the atmosphere is magical.

“I loved the amount of detail that went into the graphics of the movie,” Tait said. “They created over 60 different kind of fur textures for all the different animals in the mo vie.”

Beyond that, it’s still appropriate for kids. Despite its deeper themes and messages, Zootopia is primarily a Disney movie, which means that at its core, the movie is a children’s movie.

“The messages in this movie are about sensitive topics but are handled in a way that doesn’t make them seem out of place,” Lee said. “I didn’t expect to like this movie more than my younger siblings, but I did. I guess I shouldn’t judge a movie based on its marketing.”That seals the deal. Zootopia is a family movie, with a solid story for younger audiences and a healthy dose of social messages for more mature viewers.

“Both kids and adults can enjoy this movie, and both should learn from it. The movie shows how how a little bit of social prejudice and fear can divide and ruin a community of a “utopia” where everyone, big or small, supposedly get along,” Tait said.

So take a ride on the wild side and watch Zootopia, CHS.