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One Movie for the World to See

Imagine several cultures blending seamlessly in a city that endorses the idea that “anyone can be anything”. The mayor creates inclusion initiatives, the inhabitants live in harmony despite enormous differences, the celebrities promote diversity, and public servants are trained to understand the complexities of each ethnic community in the city. This dream is realized in the city of Zootopia. The age range and literacy rates of the global population make a huge impact when considering what film to choose, but not what lesson to teach. So, with the opportunity of showing the entire world one movie, why not show a film that promotes the harsh realisms of today’s society in the friendly, animated package that Disney does so well?

“Zootopia” addresses dozens of issues, big and small, throughout its plot. It starts off with the simple concept of not letting your gender or race define you, as Judy, the heroine, is both a female and a bunny. She is stereotypically seen by her community as small and weak, so her dreams of becoming a police officer are as wild as they are unrealistic. But Judy, in her kindergarten-ignorance, proclaims that she “doesn’t know when to quit.” This mantra pushes her throughout the film, and her graduation at the top of her class from the police academy reinforces female empowerment, and the benefits of hard work against all odds. But the movie isn’t a simple, sugar-coated reality, as proven upon her arrival in the idealized city of Zootopia.

The harsher topics come later in the film, when her daydreams of the perfect society quickly evaporate on the very first day of her job as a police officer. She is referred to as “cute”, her commander disregards her top performance in the academy, and she finds herself guilty of modern-day racism as she packs her fox repellent. This side of our so far perfect heroin is shocking, but it reveals a stark truth in us all: no one is perfect. Later, as predators are on the rise, she watches a mother on the subway cringe when a tiger takes a seat next to her, and she begins to realize the prejudices of her community. When she intervenes in a protest hosted to end the rising discrimination against predators, she sees how even fighting for the right causes can be marred by the fears and anger of others. Finally, when the assistant mayor is revealed as the main villain, the film shows how one corrupt leader can manipulate and control a situation despite the community’s best intentions.

Judy Hopps’ versatility as a character is another reason why “Zootopia” would make the best choice. She creates an excellent role model for young girls everywhere, but stays relatable and imperfect throughout the film. She functions as a dynamic protagonist as she fights sexism on the task force and racism from her home town, while also slipping from her moral high ground as she stereotypes her community members and loses her sensitivity to predator vs. prey topics. She never achieves her goals immediately, and always does her best to make a positive difference. In fact, it’s Judy Hopps’ closing speech that delivers the lasting message of the film: “Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with all of us.”

“Zootopia” grossed over 75 million dollars in its opening weekend alone, and over 340 million over its 22-week theater residence. Its incredible box office success could be attributed to many factors, but it proved one thing: people loved it. They loved “Zootopia” even though it touched on the largest range of modern sore-spots in any Disney film. It commented on sexism, racism, stereotyping, discrimination, political corruption, feminism, equal rights, and diversified societies while maintaining a target audience of children aged 5-12. This movie captures the basic knowledge of right and wrong and portrays it on a bright, animated platform. It made these topics graspable to people of any age, and any literacy level – and that’s why people love it. That’s why I love it. That’s why, given the chance, I would show this movie to the entire world.

 

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