MAY / JUNE 2016: BY CARISSA HORTON
Zootopia. You’ve all heard of it, some of you have seen it. Maybe you’ve seen it and don’t even have kids. I fall into that particular category myself. Guess what? It’s the most socially impactful movie of 2016 to date. You heard me right.
Zootopia is a little movie that has so much heart it’s just absolutely full to bursting. The little bunny who wants to be a cop and the fox who’s a confidence trickster. Both are exactly what they seem a.k.a. a dumb bunny and a sly fox. But on this journey they’re forced to work together to catch the bad guys. Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde discover that there’s more to each other and themselves than just the stereotypes.
Judy carries fox repellant with her wherever she goes. A parting gift from loving parents who instilled fear of foxes into her at a young age. So when she meets Nick Wilde, her first instinct is he’s dangerous because he’s… a fox. Turns out he’s not dangerous per se, but a confidence trickster instead, which is almost worse. As for Nick? He thinks Judy is an ignorant little bunny from the country with nothing to offer the citizens of Zootopia and absolutely no hope of proving herself a capable cop. She’s just a cute little bunny who doesn’t know her place… back on the farm growing carrots.
When it turns out Nick witnessed a crime Judy’s investigating, she manages to outfox the fox and blackmails him into helping her track down a missing otter. Her fear decreases, Nick’s respect increases, and they start moving towards common ground.
That is, until they follow a trail of clues that lead to a conclusion that possibly predators aren’t as safe as they now seem. Trust is misplaced, fear grows, and Judy turns against Nick. Is Judy right or is her fear of predators clouding her judgment?
In one scene Judy goes so far as to say to Nick, encouragingly, “you’re not like them” meaning other predators. He’s a predator she’s grown to like, almost trust, so he must be different from other predators, other foxes. Nick responds with, “Oh, there’s a them now?” As in the us vs. them mentality that rampages through our society at large. Homosexuals vs. Christians. Democrats vs. Republicans. Black vs. white. It’s always we’re right and you’re wrong because all I have to do is look at you and I can lump you into this comfortable little group of stereotypes that determine your behavior.
Fear has a way of controlling us, doesn’t it? We grow up a certain way and nine times out of ten, bias and prejudice grow up right along with all the good things about our personality. “That woman sleeps around, look at how she dresses!” “That guy’s got to be in a biker gang, check out those tattoos!”
You can’t trust him because…
She’ll betray you if…
On and on it goes. A history of fear determining who we trust. Before we even know a person’s name, we’ve cast judgment on them by the way they stand, dress, walk, the car they drive, the purse they own, the shoes on their feet, the people beside them, etc.
Never mind that the dude with the tattoos runs a coffee shop downtown and donates his leftover baked goods to the homeless shelter. Never mind the gal with the low-cut shirt is in an abusive relationship and terrified to leave the guy who demands she wear those clothes. Nope, the opinion is solid… no facts need apply.
Zootopia is brutally honest about prejudice in a way that brings it home at a heart level to viewers of all ages. A lot of Christians believe that we need to defend Christ to the world. Is that right? Last time I checked, He doesn’t need us defending Him. What He wants is for us to present Him to the world as something attractive, as something life-altering, as Someone who is worth knowing and whose followers are worth knowing.
Disney’s latest really is a bit of a wake-up call for people that harbor prejudice in their hearts. It can be the smallest seed or the minutest thought, but prejudice is there in all of us. That doesn’t mean we break our value system and suddenly agree with everyone and everything. But shouldn’t we pick our battles? I’m pretty sure that the person of the opposite political party could be our friend if we let them.
In a world of bias and hatred flung from all sides, with us sometimes doing the slinging, it’s good to be jerked up the by the bootstraps by Zootopia. We all need reminders that just because we were raised to think a certain way about someone doesn’t mean the stereotype actually fits. They’re called stereotypes for a reason—because they’re rarely ever accurate and they can hurt like a double-edged sword.
Fortunately for Zootopia, prejudice goes the way of the dodo. How about our world? ♥
Carissa Horton works at Compassion International whose tagline reads “Releasing Children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” She is an avid crafter, a prolific blogger on Musings of an Introvert about all things literary and film-based, and dreams of getting her stories published.