How Zootopia could have saved Los Angeles
Riots in the streets of Los Angeles caused more than a billion dollars in property damage. Riots in Baltimore cost 9 million. But one movie, made at a cost of $35 Million, could potentially have prevented billions of dollars in damages around the United States. This movie, with its upbeat characters, outstanding script, and superb message was very effective because of its appeals to logical and emotional arguments. The film brings forth the arguments against various forms of racism and sexism by showing us a world filled with animals who have evolved beyond their previously savage, or dare I say feral, ways. The different animals exemplify different things with the largest most imposing creatures representing something like a strong male. Naturally, this means that the largest animals make up the police force as well as, I’m assuming, the military if they have one. Now this isn’t always the case as there were moments in the film where we are shown a large animal as the owner of a candy shop of some sort, but even in this we see the larger animal refusing service to the lowly fox because foxes can’t be trusted. More on this later. The point is, that the rhetoric was very convincing because the situations that were being shown have been witnessed up close (and personal in some instances) by the vast majority of the audience that was watching, and I found myself being sucked into it as well.
The Movie Zootopia begins with a play put on by children (animal children, just go with it) about the history of animals and how they evolved to have the society they have today. The children discuss the different things they can be now that they don’t have their animalistic urges and stereotypes holding them back. Enter Judy Hopps, a high energy, happy-go-lucky bunny (get it, Hopps?) who reveals her life-long goal of one day making it as a police officer in the big city Zootopia. She is so committed that she even has her own little sticker badge and attempts to stand up to the fox bully, though she pays a price for attempting to stop the crime being committed. Throughout the film we see a few situations we could see in society today and that appeals to our emotions as we see the events as things that could potentially happen to us, or to someone that we know.
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Judy Hopps eventually grows up, and thanks to a police training montage we get to see her starting out as one of the lowest of the low scorers on everything from the academic to the obstacle course, to eventually becoming the best of the best, hopping over hurdles and making her way through the obstacle in record time. The Mayor of the town, a lion, even talks her up during her graduation and makes sure that she gets hired on in Zootopia’s inner city, just like she’s always wanted.
It’s important to note that Judy Hopps is a modern woman, someone who wants to make something of herself and doesn’t want anyone telling her that she can’t. It’s important to note because that’s who she is supposed to be representing in the real world, we’re supposed to see her as this strong female lead and the director, screenwriter and the actress have done an excellent job in making sure that she is capable in conveying that across the screen. More importantly, however, we’re supposed to sympathize with her when, upon showing up to her first briefing to receive her first orders, she is told that she will be on meter maid detail. She pleads with her boss, the water buffalo police chief and he lets her know that as far as he cares, she is too small and weak to be a real police officer, she is just a publicity stunt for the Mayor, and because she is so small he’s not going to endanger her or anyone else in the field for the Mayors fame. She is crushed, and we see it in her face, the audience can hear it in the film, and this is effective because, again, we’re focusing on something that we may have seen or experienced in real life.
But Judy Hopps doesn’t shirk from her duties, she goes in and writes more tickets than she anyone ever had before, and she does it all before lunch.
Another example of the film/real life parallel is when Nick Wilde, a fox, and his son, another fox who isn’t actually his son but instead is his partner in crime, are being denied service at a popsicle shop because the shop is an elephant popsicle shop and they don’t serve foxes at an elephant shop. We even get to see his “son” dressed in a cute elephant costume (the equivalent of a child dressing in black face in my opinion but whatever) because he “thinks he’s an elephant”. Judy Hopps, watching from outside, wants to help because she knows how it feels being mistreated simply because you don’t fit the “clientele”. She moves in and explains that she could bust the elephant for health violations or he could sell the popsicle to the fox and they could forget the whole thing.
With this scene we find ourselves feeling for Nick Wilde because we see a mean white man, not an elephant, refusing service to a black man and his child, simply because they are not white. We know that this happened in America, in our own towns, and we would be simply heartless if we didn’t feel something for the situation. It was this kind of appeal to emotion that made for an excellent argument but Zootopia wasn’t finished even after revealing that Nick Wilde really was a shifty fox.
Finally I want to talk about the stories main premise. Eventually Judy Hopps becomes privy to the fact that predators of the city of Zootopia are going feral for no real reason. She believes the reason they are going feral is because they have it inside them to be violent bloodthirsty predators and that for some unknown reason they are just reverting back to it. Oh, and great news about that, the prey of the city, which make up about 80 percent of the population, can revert back to violent nature because they were never violent in the past. So, unfortunately it looks like the majority of a city can now hate on you and yours because they are afraid that any one of you could snap and kill them, or do something far worse like eat you. This is terrifying but even more so when you put two and two together and realize what it was they were attempting to parallel here.
Now stick with me because this is where you have to pay attention for a moment k?
The parallel here is, in my opinion, the Muslim American community, the vast majority of them have never, and will never, do anything violent, and have never been radicalized. However, inadvertently at first, but more so later intentionally, people have let on to the fear that because one or two (or an entire country worth in the case of ISIS or ISIL) have become radicalized/violent, that means that every single one of them has it within them to become violent/radicalized. Now this may seem like a stretch but really think about it.
The sheep in the movie, with the beautiful hair that Nick Wilde just can’t not touch, seems like another politician who is kind of greedy for power and, seemingly, willing to do whatever it takes for election, even if that means throwing an entire group under the bus and being the person who is willing to “tell it how it is”. The sheep in this movie, I believe, represents Donald Trump and the current presidential election as she riles up the majority to persecute the minority to raise herself up to Mayor, hell, if this had gone well for her then who knows where she would have gotten, maybe she would have been the first female prey president of Zoomerica.
So in this example what we see is an appeal to two things at once. We see the obvious emotional appeal as the music raises and falls to bring a sense of dread at the words Judy Hopps is speaking while giving her press conference. We see Nick Wilde as the realization crosses his eyes, that he is one of these predators that could snap for no reason and become feral. We’re bombarded by the scenes of prey telling the peaceful predators to get out of their town because they were just too unpredictable. And we see the Mayor being arrested for trying to cover it all up. This scene screams at us to feel something for the poor predators that we’ve gotten to know well. The ones that we’ve spent half of the movie learning to love, yeah, those ones.
Furthermore this example shows us an appeal to logic as we, the audience, know that this is wrong. We’re seeing this from the point of view of a people who know what happens when people begin fearing and eventually hating a minority in their country. We know that when that happens and enough of the majority raise up in aggression towards the minorities, that they don’t stand a chance and that the outcome is never good. The filmmakers wanted us to feel this way and I believe used this appeal to logic when attempting to convince us that these actions were negative but even more so when we find out that the predators weren’t turning savage for no reason, but because of the actions of a sheep, a sheep with an anti-predator message.
Remember I told you to follow me for a moment, well we’re back. I should probably also just mention a slight spoiler warning because, well spoilers ahead. See in the movie Zootopia, after Judy Hopps begins thinking about it, she finds out that there was actually something that was being used against the predators, a type of flower that was being broken down and synthesized into a kind of paintball that would mess with the predators brains and make them feral again. This paintball is a representation, as it was created by that sheep I mentioned earlier that wanted political power, of Trumps anti-Islamic message. It is a representation of the hatred many Americans feel towards Muslims, and it’s a representation of that hatred turning into hatred and being used for political gain.
Now there are people out there who would say that Zootopia was ineffective in pushing its anti-racist and anti-sexist message out there. Some may say that Judy Hopps with her dozens of brothers and sisters could have been a strike at Catholics or Hispanics or Mormons for that matter, and thus the movie is plagued with its own bigoted biases. In the end, to them, I would say they need to stop reading too far into things. In the 1930’s Disney’s “Snow White” was toted by both the feminist and anti-feminist movements because they both looked into the movie too far.
In summation, the movie Zootopia was extremely effective in pushing its moralistic, tree hugging, love everyone message because they were able to parallel real life situations in an extreme world. One we wouldn’t want to live in but already do. A place we wish was real, but it turns out it already is. And unfortunately a future we can all see if we piece together the symbolism and parallels the writers painstakingly put together. I agree whole-heartedly with the timeless message and I hope I’ve helped make the message clearer and more concise.