In today’s world, it seems as though everything has a hidden (or not so hidden) political agenda. Throughout this highly politicized world, it seems as though companies, film-makers, and politicians are trying to display their message anywhere they can. This is not only true about advertisements and certain products, but even in film. While using film to push a certain message is not a new concept, it is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s society, especially in children’s films. One prime example of this is in Disney’s film Zootopia.
This film focuses on a small but passionate rabbit named Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin). Her whole life she was told she would amount to nothing but becoming a carrot farmer like her parents before her, however her dream was to become a police officer in the big city of Zootopia. After becoming the first bunny to graduate from the police academy, she is stuck in the lowly position of a meter-maid. During one of her many uneventful days writing parking tickets, she is conned by a tricky fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). Once Judy learns of multiple reports of predators that have gone missing, she jumps on the chance to prove to her boss and coworkers that she is up to the task. With the help of Nick Wilde she uncovers a ruthless plot to get rid of all the predators in society by making the majority of Zootopia, who are prey, afraid of the predators. Zootopia explores many different political ideas, including the recent issue of police brutality towards minorities. Because this film explores issues in diversity and acceptance, Giannetti would place this film on the left side of the political spectrum.
One message that is especially prevalent in this film is that someone’s DNA or looks does not automatically make them a certain type of person. In the beginning of the film, Judy encounters a bully who leaves her scarred, and he just so happens to be a fox. When Judy encounters Nick Wilde later in the film, she is very skeptical of him due to the incident that occurred during her childhood. However, as the movie progresses, she realizes that even though Nick is a predator, he is a very trustworthy partner and has even experienced his own discriminatory bullying in his youth. This example goes along with the overarching theme of the movie, that even though the predators DNA tells them to eat the prey, they can all coexist with each other if they can see who people really are inside. While children watching the film may not grasp the hidden reference to the police brutality against minorities, they will pick up on the fact that people should treat everyone the same, regardless of skin color.
While the film presents many positive messages for children it also presents some fallacies in its arguments. One such example is in the use of a hasty generalization towards Judy’s coworkers and boss. Zootopia portrays her coworkers and boss as big, muscular predators who will not give Judy the light of day because she is a small woman. This message could teach young girls that because men would not give Judy an opportunity, that all male bosses and coworkers will think this. Young girls should be taught that they should follow their dreams no matter what, but it should not be done by portraying men as only wanting to see them fail.
Although this film displays some fallacies in its arguments, I believe that its positive messages present a stronger argument in the film than the negative messages. Zootopia is able to tackle some major political issues while still creating a light, family-friendly movie that can be enjoyed by all ages. Some of the references may go unnoticed by most of the younger audience, like the allusions to Breaking Bad and The Godfather, but the main theme of inclusiveness can be easily spotted by even the youngest of viewers. Because the positive message outweighs the negative message, I would rate this film four and half stars. I give Zootopia fours and a half stars because I believe that the film-makers did a phenomenal job at creating a movie that is not only entertaining for young audiences, but for an older audience as well. However, it loses half a star due to the negative message that they display in some parts of the film.