So, yesterday I got around to seeing Zootopia. I’d tried to avoid too many spoilers, although of course the fact that my workplace got a copy of the movie storybook before the movie actually aired (yay!) and it looked so pretty that I was unable to avoid paging through it before reshelving it (oops!) made that slightly more difficult than anticipated. Luckily I managed to stop myself before I got to any major plot points.
As is the case far more often with animated than live-action movies (I’m looking at YOU, the-last-five-reboots-I-watched), I feel like my expectations for this one were just in the right place. I wasn’t especially wowed or anything, but I was already expecting to enjoy it, and overall I did.
There were definitely some points to note, though. Buckle up, major amount of words (and one pretty picture!) coming your way after the jump…
First off, while the whole dynamic got kind of confusing by the second half (more on that later), they definitely did a nice job using animals to highlight and poke fun at some comments and behaviors that people often have trouble seeing as offensive when applied to fellow human beings. I can personally relate to some, like when Nick the fox insists on petting the wool of one of the sheep characters, and won’t stop going on about its soft fluffy texture — while a somewhat outraged/mortified Judy the bunny points out how inappropriate it is to just go up and touch a sheep’s wool).
It was also interesting to see which ones didn’t get laughs, including today’s title quote: Judy is speaking to Nick, whom she’s just defended from species discrimination in an ice-cream store (after an elephant refuses to serve him and implies that he is probably illiterate), and in a cheerily charitable tone she says some genuinely nice-sounding things and then closes by calling him a “real articulate fella.” The fox responds with a sarcastic comment to the effect of, “and here I was afraid you’d be condescending.” But he doesn’t really say it in a drippingly sarcastic tone, and the bunny clearly takes it at face value and keeps talking, so I think the lack of a “joke beat” is what caused people to miss it as well; although it was definitely worth catching. Others, like the Frozen references (such as the police chief saying life isn’t an animated musical and to just “let it go”) or what I can only grudgingly refer to as “Breaking Baa” (I’m not gonna explain this one, just watch it) may have gone over heads or may have just been bad jokes. Bad jokes that I still laughed at, mind you, but nevertheless. I think we all stopped laughing at the Godfather parody after the first like, twelve lines.
The metaphors feel a little muddled as select (small, female) prey animals seem to experience equal parts racism and sexism from both predators and prey, with both presented as being based on their species rather than gender or general prey status; while predators (the minority group) mostly experience racism from prey animals, which is presented as being based on their individual species and their general predator status. Like, it can be made to apply to the real world, but it isn’t laid out very neatly in the movie. Heck, I got confused just writing this.
What was also odd, given the presumable goal of the movie, was that despite the overall rejection of predator/prey stereotypes, there seemed to be a LOT of negative species-specific stereotypes that they just rolled with, despite making a point of having the two main characters defy them. (Side note: This is a problem with basically every movie ever that tries to have “non-stereotypical” characters, I think, but it’s more noticeable with like, animated gnus and stuff). We see two weasels, and they’re … well, weasly, being either mean or just plain shady. Nick calls the wolves “dum-dums,” which is a perfectly plausible sort of prejudice for a fox (traditionally the witty victor when it comes to wolf/fox fables and folktales) … but a pack of wolves he’s never met seems to go out of their way to prove all his condescension-laden remarks about wolf behavior to be absolutely accurate, mainly just to move the plot along.
Also, despite most animals living in relatively human-style homes, and despite there having been no actual humans in this world to domesticate anything (for once, this appears to be an anthro-animal world without unsettling non-anthro pets), the rodents all appear to live in habitrail-type settings, with colorful plastic and water bottles and the whole nine. I mean, yes it’s cute, but… way to go the easy route with hamsters, y’all. Oh, and how could I forget: The rabbits are carrot farmers and they all eat carrots and decorate things with carrots! CARROTS. You’d think if there were one silly in-world stereotype they could safely use to coat some other social issue in metaphor in a movie starring a bunny, it would be the “rabbits eat carrots” thing. Because it is ACTUALLY a weird silly animal stereotype, like “chameleons always match their surroundings.” It’s not some unavoidable biological “okay this one’s actually kinda true” thing like “sloths are slow,” “rabbits reproduce quickly,” or other jokes that I’m fairly okay with them having made here. CARROTS. WHY.
Okay, I may be getting a little too hung up on the carrot thing. Anyhow, this has nothing to do with my latest picture except that it’s of a fox, but look how much I made you scroll through to get to it! Another coloring-book style fella. Since I had so much trouble naming the last one, I decided to play it safe with the decorations this time and go with fox + fire (with a bit of smoke for the non-red bits).
Anyhow, go see Zootopia! It’s confusing sometimes but there are bunnies! Maybe see it in 3D for me so you can tell me if the effect is noticeable for anything beyond the part at the end where
Shakira Gazelle’s sequin-skirt-clad butt abruptly takes up like 1/3 of the screen.