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Essay: Racism in Zootopia: Disney's Inspiring Message of Tolerance and Equality

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How Disney's Zootopia Touches on Real World Issues

Zootopia is a Disney movie that has anthropomorphic animals living in harmony. Predators start to go missing, and the first bunny cop has to solve what has happened to them, along with her con artist friend, a fox. Yet, this movie has more to it other than the underdogs saving the day, it connects to real life problems that we see in our own lives.

“A strange new drug… starts turning everyday animals into out-of-control maniacs” and “It’s only minorities turning feral… with the police suggesting that they are biologically prone to violence.” This shows that this once utopia for all animals, is turning predators and prey against each other. This also shows how in our own world racism is a problem, with stereotypes and hate speech. The first case the detective bunny gets, is a missing otter, which she later finds out that multiple predators have been kidnapped. She later finds out that the mayors assistant, a lamb and fellow prey, had planned the kidnapping from the start. The mayor’s assistant not only did this to gain power, but to rid their utopia of the minority, or the prey.

The lamb mayors assistant later goes to say that over 90% of the population is prey, and that everyone would be happier if they were rid of the predators. This has been shown in history, not only with the many Civil Wars our world has seen, but also by historical atrocities such as genocide. This is also shown when politicians want Americans to be “patriotic” and to be against others practicing religions that aren’t there own. This is also shown by the type of propaganda that fear always works. The lamb had created a drug that turned predators into “savages”. Unrelated to racism or oppression, but this has also been seen with actual people taking drugs such as the “bath salts” issue in 2012, where it was reported that the “zombie drug makes Americans eat each other”. In a post 911 world, fear is often a tactic politicians have used for their “us vs. them” mindset against many Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans.

Racism is first shown by predator and prey being different in their DNA. Not only was this shown in the beginning, where the young bunny cop is bullied by a fox, being called weak. But this is also shown when there is a press conference, referencing predators as “savages”. This relates to our own world because police investigations have often related African Americans the same way, enforcing stereotypes without evidence to back them.

Also, there are terms of “racial slur”, even if to us it would not be offensive. The secretary of the police department had called the bunny “cute”, where there was obviously offense taken. He later apologizes and actually seems regretful that he had let that term slip. This shows how people everywhere use racist names to others of different race, or in this case, not a predator or vise versa.

Many smaller acts of symbolism are shown in this movie, such as the mega star celebrity, a gazelle joins the fight against racism, or protests for predator rights, much like how in America movie stars and singers have gotten involved in political and social issues before. Also how the bunny cop and fox con artist show each other how to interact with the other as an individual, showing that just because there are some bad people, both predator and prey, they can work together to rid the injustice of their town. Even with the bunny personal vendetta against foxes, by the end, they become best friends and partners in the big city.

Although this movie seems like many others that Disney has made, it is clear that there is an underlying meaning to the plot. Our post 911 world has seen the worst, such as police brutality, rallies, and hate speech against the minorities in America. Although the United States doesn’t take racism to the extent that Zootopia had, it shows a lesson that is important. That a race does not define a person, and that even if you try to oppress others, you will not get far in your personal vendetta against others. The point of Zootopia is not to guilt people into being tolerant, it is to show that we have all been misinformed, and that just because people of a certain race or religion have treated us badly in the past, doesn’t mean that you should have a prejudice against all people of their race or religion. This movie also shows that if us as individuals can collectively work together, we can live in a utopia where it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or what God you believe in, just like how different species of animals, both predator and prey are able to harmonize in their own world.

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