Throughout history, films have always had an impact on society: In most cases, they act as a platform for social commentary by highlighting issues within society, usually in a very subtle manner.
One film I have only recently seen has highlighted all of the issues that we are now seeing in modern day society. This film won Best Animated Picture at the Academy Awards 2016 and I am still moved by how well this cartoon highlighted the issues that we see in society everyday. Zootoptropolis (or Zootopia as it is sometimes called) highlights very common issues that are very rarely seen in these type of films: ignorance, prejudice, social class and racial stereotypes were all hidden under the pretence of predators vs prey in a society where animals of all shapes and sizes live together harmoniously.
This film doesn’t hold any punches: It is fun enough for children to watch it and still see the message in a lighthearted manner, while adults watching it are hit square in the face with how real the issues are. Watching the film, it struck me how it is essentially the same old story of Us vs Them. In society there always seem to be two sides that are fighting over very old, ignorant and stereotypical issues.
In this film, the main character is the adorable Judy Hops, the first ever bunny cop. She herself is one example of how you as a person can fight stereotypes, as throughout the film she is called ‘cute’ because she’s a bunny, and people assume that she is too sweet and too meek to ever make it as a real police officer in the big scary city of Zootropolis. She highlights the use of language when talking to other animals and how we should all think about our terms of reference before we open our mouths.
The film also highlights the way in which people can manipulate our prejudices towards people that are different to ourselves. In the film, (spoiler alert!) some prey animals want to infect all predators with a toxic plant that causes them to resort to aggressive and carnivorous behaviours. Throughout the film there is the underlying concern that all prey animals have that the predatory animals could very easily eat them if they wanted to, despite the clear fact that animals have evolved beyond this basic instinct. While it may not be seen as realistic, it helps to show how our own stereotypes of how people have behaved in the past affects how we think they are going to behave again: For example, there is the racial stereotype that all Chinese students are super smart or that all black people are ‘thugs’ or ‘ghetto’. There is little evidence to suggest that any of these are actually true, yet we are all exposed to these stereotypes on a daily basis, usually unknowingly. This is highlighted more in the film when Hops realises that even though she meant well and thought she was being PC, by assuming there is a ‘them’ and an ‘us’ she offends one of her newest friends.
I don’t want to go on about this film and its underlying components because I know this isn’t normally what I write about. But in recent times, with all the horrid stories we are hearing at the moment about Muslims being terrorists and the sexual harassment women have to deal with on a daily basis, this film made me think a lot about how we are all viewing each other. If a simple animation made for children can highlight how dangerous and how corrupt this type of thinking is, then why can’t a society see this? All in all, this film is wonderful. It’s funny, it’s silly, it’s sweet and it has some wonderful life lessons that people of all ages can learn from. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it…it may even help you see things from another perspective, and that is always a useful skill.
This may appear to be too insightful for a review on an animated Disney film, but I found it to yell loud and clear that while we all may be from very different walks of life and no matter how complicated our history may be, we are all animals and we are all equal. We can only move forward and build a society where all are welcome, all are equal and all we do we do in harmony.