I interrupt poetry month to bring you my opinion on a movie.
To paraphrase Bryan Singer, science fiction is a great medium for storytelling because it allows the creative minds behind it to tell a human story from an alien perspective, and in my opinion that allows the audience to learn something about themselves and society. No media accomplishes this as well as science fiction except for one: children’s films.
Today I watched Zootopia in the theaters. It was a darn good movie, possibly one of the best talking animal movies I’ve ever seen. For those of you who haven’t seen it or haven’t heard of it, here is a brief synopsis from IMDB:
“From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde, a wily fox who makes her job even harder.”
It’s a movie about a bunny cop and a con artist fox. It’s also about discrimination and racism.
Here, there be spoilers.
You read that right. Disney, the company responsible for Peter Pan’s Tiger Lily and Songs of the South, made a movie about discrimination and racism.
I don’t know whether or not I can comment on the portrayal of racism, given that I’m so white I glow in the dark. In some ways I come from a place of privilege, but I can say that the movie did point out that everyone has little prejudices that they must work to overcome. I can comment on it’s portrayal of discrimination, however.
“But Kelsey, you’re white, what do you mean “discrimination?””
Well, I may have white privilege, but I lack straight privilege.
Have I come out on the blog yet? Nope. Well, consider this my coming out.
I’m bisexual. I’ve always been bisexual. I’m in a long term monogamous relationship with a man, but that doesn’t make me any less bi. And being bi hasn’t been easy.
There’s a scene in Zootopia which I found here:
In case you can’t watch the video, Nick the fox wants to be a Junior Trooper, but is the only predator in the group. The other kids don’t take well to this, and humiliate him and drive him out of the troopers. Nick vows two things after this; never to let them see that it gets to you, and that if the world thinks he’s something, that’s what he’s going to be.
That scene really hit home for me.
I’ve never told this story publicly before. When I came out none of my friends cared, even though a couple teachers treated me differently. I thought that my school was full of caring, open-minded people and that I would get through high school without any trouble.
I volunteered to help out with the school musical. My job was to help get costumes on and get makeup done. At first, it was going okay. A couple of the guys were squeemish about makeup but we got it done. Then, when it was time to do the girl’s makeup and costumes, it started. One girl took issue to me being in the room while the girls were changing. She started talking, whispering “behind my back”–just low enough that she thought I couldn’t hear her, even though I was in the room. Like I was some sort of pervert who couldn’t control myself. I could feel the looks burning into my back. I left the room, and didn’t come back.
It spread to the change rooms in gym class. Eventually, I started changing in the bathroom stalls. The bathroom cleared when I walked in.
I may not be a visible minority, but I know what prejudice looks like.
Zootopia captured the feeling of being that fifteen year old girl who didn’t understand why the other kids didn’t want her around.
Zootopia’s biggest flaw in dissecting discrimination, as pointed out by Nico Lang, is that it focuses primarily on individuals holding bigotted views and not on systematic racism, and suggesting that racism is solved by individuals simply not being racist anymore. I don’t know how a film intended for children could tackle racist systems of power (and if you know of any please tell me in the comments) but I think that Zootopia did a decent job of at least attempting it. I think that focusing on individual worldviews works better for children, who psycholgically see the world through an individualistic lens until they develop empathy. I have to wonder if the movie succeeds in teaching children about prejudice, and if it shows adults that they have a long way to go to eliminate prejudice from their lives.
I have to wonder if those girls from high school saw this movie, and thought of me.