Run Time: 108 minutes
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush
This film does a great job of exploring notions of “Othering” and the detrimental effects of stereotypes by addressing important concepts that include the body and gender. This Disney film is self-aware in many respects, adding a layer of complexity to the film.
Summary: An unlikely duo, a rabbit and a fox, become friends and save the city of Zootopia.
- Threatening language-“I’m going to kick your sheep butt,” “my mommy wishes you were dead”
- Demeaning language-“dumb bunny,” “stupid,” “fluff butt,” “little hick,” “jerk,” “sly fox,” “shut up,” “cute meter maid,” “sweetheart,” “cute little bunny,” “moron,” “shifty low life,” “loser”
- Minimal gore
- Fake death using ketchup
- Verbal and physical bullying; at one point in the film a bully claws at Judy’s face, slicing it open. At another point in the film, when Nick is younger, a group of “prey” scouts force his mouth into a muzzle because he is a “predator.”
- “Fox away” Taser and mace
- Crime boss threatens to drop animals into freezing water
- Animals “go savage” or are “savage” in many scenes. This entails animals showing their teeth and looking crazed, often attacking other animals.
- Gun that injects concoction to make animals “go savage,” characters are shot
- Train derails and explodes
- Animals depicted as “naked” naturalists
- The male gaze is present when the camera slowly pans over female popstar Gazelle’s buttocks.
Drugs and Alcohol:
- Visible alcohol in glasses
- Judy, who is depicted as a female rabbit, challenges traditional gender roles regarding femininity as she is active and independent throughout the film. For example, Judy helps save the day on multiple occasions. Additionally, Judy chooses to live in the big city of Zootopia by herself in order to fulfil her dream of becoming the first police officer who is a rabbit. Also, is it important to note that Judy is the film’s protagonist. Oftentimes, when films produced by Disney involve a female lead, they align with the princess narrative. However, this is not the case with this particular Disney film.
- Many minor characters challenge traditional gender roles regarding masculinity. For example, Judy’s father expresses emotions (cries) and Chief Bogo (a buffalo) of the Zootopia police force, who is regularly stern and serious, is shown enjoying pop music. This is important because the male stoicism is sometimes a requirement of masculinity in the popular media.
- Please see suggested talking points.
Sexual Orientation: N/A
- A minor character, a panther, wears an eyepatch. He is depicted as a generally “good” character.
- The body plays an important role throughout the film. Animals with large bodies or bodies inclined for predatory action, occupy many traditionally masculine occupations. For example, most of the Zootopia police force are comprised of “predators” or large animals. However, when Judy joins the police force, she shows how bodies that vary from the norm expected of a certain position are not only capable but can excel. For example, although Judy had been discouraged from becoming a police officer her entire life because of her size (she is an animal categorized as “prey”) and stereotypes about rabbits’ intelligence (“dumb bunny”), Judy shows not only the police force but all of her naysayers that appearance is not indicative of character or skill. Through hard work and determination, Judy not only becomes a police officer but eventually helps save the entire city of Zootopia.
- Big, an artic shrew, is a dangerous crime boss. This Godfather-inspired character aligns with many Italian stereotypes in relationship to the mafia and the emphasis on the importance of family relationships.
- Please see suggested talking points.
- None of the main characters appear to have a visible disability.
- A character depicted as “bad” who helps the assistant mayor contain predatory animals wears an eyepatch. This is problematic because characters with visible disabilities are often “evil” in popular media.
- The Shakira-inspired popstar, Gazelle, conforms to human body ideals as she is thin and curvaceous Gazelle is constructed as beautiful and desirable.
- Stereotypes surrounding the fat body are addressed in the film, and fatness is used for comedic relief throughout the film. For example, the large-bodied cheetah police officer is aware of fat-bodied police stereotypes but is shown discovering a donut logged in his neck. Despite the film’s awareness of the stereotypes surrounding grotesque bodies, the cheetah does not play an important role in the film and is depicted as gluttonous, lazy, and incapable of performing the duties of a “normal” police officer.
Suggested talking points:
- At one point in the film, Judy makes a statement about predators and how they are unable to control their “savage ways” because of their biology (“DNA” and “instincts”). After Judy’s comment, traditionally predatory animals are Othered in Zootopia, for fear that they are dangerous and “savage.” Judy later recognizes that her statement was “ignorant” and “small-minded.” This notion of biology and physical appearance and its false relationship to certain characteristics of groups of individuals has been used in the real world throughout history and in present day to “justify” systemic prejudice and discrimination of groups of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, and disability in addition to other identity categories. This rhetoric produces an “us” vs “them” binary that is used to force individuals into simplistic categories. In this case, the prey/predator binary is present and eventually results in prejudice and discrimination of predators and general panic.
- Another important theme throughout the film is not only the importance of questioning stereotypes but also the importance of change. For example, even Judy, who is fully aware of the detrimental effects of stereotypes, is wary of the foxes in general and their sly “nature” at the beginning of the film. However, after befriending Nick (a fox), she realizes that she should not presuppose an individual’s character based on appearance. Similarly, Nick assumes that Judy is not capable of being a police officer in Zootopia because she is a female rabbit (small bodied and “dumb”). However, once the two become friends, he realizes that his presuppositions regarding Judy’s character and ability were incorrect. In order to show that they were wrong about one another and how their opinions of one another have changed, they subvert the stereotypes associated with their species as Judy calls Nick a “dumb fox” and Nick calls Judy a “sly bunny.” In addition, another character that represents change in the film is the bully fox. This fox verbally and physically attacked Judy at the beginning of the film because of her identity and aspirations when they were classmates. Later in the film, the bully fox apologizes for his actions and has become an intelligent and kind pastry chef. While the apology certainly does not excuse his previous discriminatory actions, it exemplifies that individuals can change. Lastly, another example of how the film demonstrates that people who hold prejudices can change involves Judy’s parents. At the beginning of the film, Judy’s parents are prejudice against foxes, describing them only as vicious predators. But, because of Judy’s experiences in Zootopia, her parents are able to reconsider their prejudices. By the end of the film, her parents become friends and business partners with a fox.
- Everyone around Judy, including her parents, discourages her from becoming a cop by telling Judy that bunnies can’t become cops. Judy could have easily believed this idea and became a self-fulfilling stereotype. Instead, Judy works hard and believes in herself and is able to disprove the stereotype that bunnies can’t be police officers. On the other hand, Nick, who was bullied at a young age for wanting to be a scout (usually a “prey” activity), was influenced to act in accordance to societal constructions about foxes because of the pervasiveness of the sly fox stereotype even though he always wanted to be a “good” fox. However, he thought it would be easier to act in accordance with what society thought of him rather than regularly prove preconceived notions wrong. This changes by the end of the film. It is important to recognize self-fulfilling stereotypes and how they can be harmful to ourselves and others.
- Another important identity topic that is addressed in the film concerns class. Although not a main focus, the film does illuminate certain aspects and stereotypes about working class and rural life in relationship to middle-upper class and city life. Both classes and locations of individuals in the film include individuals of varying capacities, skills, and character, instead of strictly associating rural life with unintelligence and backwardness and city life with sophistication and embracing diversity. It is important to note that prejudice and discrimination can happen in myriad ways in any context with all types of individuals. For example, because society had been prejudiced and against her as an animal categorized as “prey,” Bellwether (a “harmless” sheep in a powerful position as assistant mayor in the city) is secretly evil and begins to systematically force predatory animals to “go savage” to “justify” their containment in the city.
Keywords: zootopia, animated, family movie, gender, othering