Monday, March 21, 2016

Zootopia - Try Everything and Stop Racial Profiling.

Let me set confess something to you. I'm a child of the '90s, the renaissance age of American animation. Disney Renaissance films especially informed how I saw the world as a young girl, and how I valued music and expression and worlds displayed in color. The Lion King has been my favorite movie since preschool. Watching the TV cartoon 'Madeline' in kindergarten is what inspired me to study French and go to France. Discovering anime on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in high school inspired me to study Japanese and go to Japan. The work of animators has tremendously blessed the trajectory of my life, and so I will always have a profound respect for animated works of art. Which is why I feel no qualms about taking my single, childless, 20-something, college graduate self to see family films meant for kids. Big Hero 6? Inside Out? The Book of Life? I was there for all of them, and Zootopia was no different.

I must admit that it's somewhat pitiful that in 2016 Disney still has to use anthropomorphized animals acting out society and urban life in order to get folks to want to practice an idea that's so simple: treat people with the respect and consideration they're due simply for the fact that they're PEOPLE. But I've been hearing and reading so many wonderful things said abut this film, and if this is what it takes for some folks to finally take a hint and pass it on to their kids, then I'm all for it.

Seen Friday, March 18th: Zootopia

In a world where predators and prey have evolved to no longer bear enmity toward each other, the metropolis of Zootopia is celebrated as the bastion of inter-species harmony. A hopeful and idealistic bunny named Judy Hopps leaves her rural hometown to pursue her dream of being a cop in the big city, but no one takes her seriously because of her small stature. In the face of discouragement coming from without and within, Judy strives to prove that police work is not just for large mammals, while at the same time confronting her own prejudice when a hustling fox named Nick Wilde becomes her unlikely partner in solving a missing animals case. 

What I really like about this film: It approaches so many currently relevant issues, with enough cues for conscientious adults to recognize what's really being talked about, and enough grace to make it enjoyable and comprehensible for children. The list of worthy lessons and messages that the film offers likely varies by who you ask. But if you ask me, here are the points that I picked up on:

Growing up and starting your first "real" job. Leaving your hometown to chase your dreams in a big city. Believing in yourself and thriving despite having been constantly told that you can't do something simply because of who you are, what you are, and/or where you've come from. Overcoming past conflict and trauma to not use negative interactions as an excuse to judge and mistreat people who happen to be part of the same group as your aggressors. Workplace discrimination. Racial profiling. Government authorities planting drugs, targeting a specific minority population in order to simultaneously demonize and destroy them, whilst bolstering their own political power. Giving a REAL and sincere apology when you do/say something stupid or inconsiderate to offend your fellows, regardless of how good you thought your intentions were. Confronting your own privilege and prejudice. And accessibility for all bodies! From elephants to mice, every single animal in this movie had entrances/exits, transportation, buildings, neighborhoods, clothing, and services formatted in some way to accommodate their size, speed, stature, and overall way of life. A utopia indeed. 

My most favorite scene is the scene where Judy and Nick go to run a license plate at the DMV, which is operated entirely by sloths. Literal. sloths. I laughed until I cried watching this trailer, and I reacted the exact same way watching the scene over again in the movie theater. The sloths were so good-natured and unbothered by the need for expediency that it made my sides hurt.

What I don't like about this film: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. However, I'm just now realizing that Zootopia was overwhelmingly a mammal's world, as I don't recall seeing any birds, insects, or lizards/reptiles. Not sure why that is, but to me that's more curious than complaint-worthy.

Would I recommend it?: Without a doubt. While I don't condone parents letting TV, phone, and computer screens raise their children, if someone were to put together a "How to Raise Your Kids to Be Good People, Believe in Themselves, Fight Injustice and Willfull Ignorance, and Actively Appreciate Other People's Differences" starter pack, Zootopia would be one of the first materials that I'd throw in. Heck, look at how people in America have been showing their behinds, especially in this election year. Adults and adolescents need a refresher course too! Much like Inside Out, this is a film that all can learn something from.

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