FOREWORD: This is a spoiler post, originally published on sdgln.com
The new Disney animated film, Zootopia, is more than just a movie about a world in which animals behave like humans. It is also a film about the marginalization of every minority in modern society.
But I couldn’t help but feel that they were speaking mostly about the LGBT community.
It is hard to discern because in true Disney form, they actually can’t make that totally clear even with a PG rating; everything means something else, lest a child should discover the entire movie is about homophobia and racism in America.
Of course, the movie is so well made that everyone who has ever felt like an outsider may think the underscore is directed toward them or their particular social affliction.
The main character is Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a head-strong bunny who only wants to be a great police officer. Unfortunately after graduation, she’s assigned to traffic duty because her species is considered to be too timid and too dumb to protect Zootopian citizens.
Enter Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly fox with grifter tendencies. He tricks Judy out of some money at an ice cream shop, thus fulfilling each of their personal prejudices against the other.
Judy eventually convinces Nick to help her with a kidnapping case and they embark on a thrilling journey of political corruption, rouge predators and self-enlightenment.
Zootopia‘s genius is in the way it manages to address the social injustices of the world with cute critters and tiny landscapes. Every species is a stereotype. Sly fox, dumb bunny, sluggish sloth, criminal rat – they’re all there. It’s a brilliant way to label a class of living things without really offending anybody.
Had these same archetypes been human, every political group in America would have had a PC meltdown.
Our heroes carry with them their own judgments and that makes them real, but unlike the rest of the animal population, they learn that their differences are okay, and their pasts have made them who they are.
In one bit of LGBT subtext, we learn that when Nick was a pup, he desperately wanted to belong to a troop of scouts, but is shunned and humiliated because he is a fox, and the scouts aren’t tolerant of them. There is also an effeminate cheetah named Officer Clawhuaser who greets everyone at the police station with flamboyant aplomb.
The land of Zootopia is also strangely void of any sexual chemistry. None of the animals seem to have a sexual preference, but they are clearly gender based.
Judy and Nick explore their relationship motivated only by trust and acceptance, nothing else; this is a different kind of love story. In fact, either character could fall anywhere on the straight or LGBT spectrum and the audience wouldn’t know.
Zootopia does carry a heavy message about racism, homophobia and hate, but with its intriguing political thriller aspect and invigorating action scenes, the directive is cast upon younger viewers in subtle Disney fashion while older ones can appreciate the sophisticated framework.
This is exactly a Disney parable on “human” rights.