*There are some spoilers in this post.*
So let me start by saying, I got this idea from a vegan podcast I listen to (which you can find here). The podcast is hosted by two women who usually discuss topics in relation but not limited to veganism, including intersectionality, feminism, racism, sexism, etc. I thought this episode in particular was really interesting because it dissects the problematic tendencies of a seemingly innocent children’s movie, Zootopia. Now I know what you may be thinking, “Ugh, what does veganism have to do with feminism?” A lot. But I can discuss that in another post later on (if anyone is even interested lol). You also may be thinking, “It’s just a harmless kid’s movie. Let it be!” This assumption is actually quite problematic. Children’s movies serve purposes outside of just merely being entertaining for children. At such a young, crucial age, kids are constantly absorbing new knowledge and learning about how the world works through observation of peers, family members, and media such as movies and YouTube videos. This is a large factor in why I chose to point out some of the issues in Zootopia that stem from societal views on gender, race, etc. I’m not completely bashing the film because let’s face it, it is cute. But, I think we should all be a little more critical and aware of the information we spread to younger generations.
*All quotes are from the podcast unless otherwise stated.*
So, the film is centered around a presumably white, female bunny who wants to be a police officer, a job usually given to “predators” or big animals. Through the beginning of the movie, the bunny is considered the “oppressed class” because of the sexism she faces in being a female bunny seeking a job in law enforcement. She pushes for her rights to have a career in whatever field she chooses despite her gender and is relentless to give up on her dream of becoming a police officer. She enforces the idea that anyone can do anything, and stereotyping people based off of race, gender, etc. is problematic. However, once she obtains the job of being a police officer, her views seem to fall further away from intersectionality and move closer to an ideology of white feminism.By definition, white feminism “is a form of feminism that focus on the struggles of well-off white women while failing to address the distinct forms of oppression faced by women of color and women lacking other privileges” (Wikipedia). So, she becomes less open-minded to the struggles of other classes and tends to have some racist beliefs regarding other types of animals. In the movie the foxes and the predators are meant to represent minorities, but it is unclear exactly which minorities they represent (which is problematic within itself to lump all minorities into one type of character/species?). There is a scene in which she makes a statement to the town suggesting that the problem with the predators (in this movie, the minorities) reverting back to their “animalistic” or “savage” tendencies to be related to their DNA, causing the people of the city to be in an uproar of fear. Therefore, her stereotyping of the so called predators and/or foxes to be “naturally” savage is in direct conflict with her previous intersectional ideology. She uses the first opportunity she receives to be heard as a platform to denounce predators; classic white feminism. “Instead of using our experiences to try to uplift others, we step on others the minute we get any sort of credit.” This issue can also be seen throughout our nation’s own history during the Women’s Rights Movement. White suffragettes sought to gain the vote for white women and neglected any form of intersectionality for minority rights. “White suffragettes [were] uninterested in bringing along their ‘sisters of color’ to share in this newfound right to exercise democracy” (article). This article, although harshly written, is just one of many dissecting the issues with the white suffragettes and the clearly racist women’s rights movement.
The podcast discusses an additional scene in which the bunny makes a racist remark. In the movie, the bunny is friends with the fox, who is considered a minority. His character is portrayed as sly; a conman. So, the fox pulls a con, the bunny believes him and helps him out, and in the scene where the fox thanks her for her help, the bunny responds to his thanks by complementing him on being a great dad and being “so articulate.” Obviously, this comment is racist. The podcasts suggests that this type of comment, although clearly racist considering the fox is portrayed as a minority, is often made by someone who claims to not be racist. “That sounds like something that somebody who doesn’t think they’re racist would say to someone to show they they’re not racist, but the person would be like, ‘you’re f*cking racist.'” In response, the fox humorously says “oh, and you’re not patronizing at all,” in an effort to combat the racist comment. The bunny is “thinking that she’s very open minded, but she’s actually harboring, we’ll say, racist beliefs, you know, and acting on them without really realizing it.” This is again an example of white feminism and its lack on intersectionality.
Despite also lacking sufficient representation of women of color, including toxic masculinity in the all male police force, and not discussing or addressing classism within the movie, overall, the movie does a decent job of identifying issues with stereotyping and white feminism and somewhat combating them. However, other issues are still really prevalent in the film, and they are not always appropriately addressed.