Zoostereotypia September 5, 2016Posted by geoff in News.
Finally watched Zootopia last night. It was all right – not as funny as I’d hoped, and the racial prejudice theme didn’t let up on bludgeoning the viewer, like, ever. But then I thought about the movie a bit, and it started bugging me. [I mean, it bugged me even more than the nagging question of how carnivores survive in a world where they’re not allowed to eat meat. Unless they eat birds, fish, or insects, who are apparently not allowed into Zootopia, which, for all its supposed universal tolerance seems to cater exclusively to mammals.]
The movie is relentless in making its point that you can’t stereotype anthropomorphized animals based on their category (predator and prey – a notion done with more finesse (IMHO) with Bruce the shark in Finding Nemo). One presumes that this extends to people, who shouldn’t be stereotyped based on their race, class, sex, or whatever. We are, after all, individuals who should “..not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
No objections there, obviously. But on the path to making that point, the movie’s creators invoke many animal stereotypes for the sake of humor. Predator vs. prey is among the few taboo stereotypes (terms such as “cute bunny,” “dumb bunny,” and “sly fox” are also mentioned as being politically incorrect). But making jokes about the fecundity of rabbits? They milked that one 3 times.
Weasely weasel? Check. Howling (uncontrollably) wolves? You got ’em. Lion as king (mayor)? Yessir. Doughnut-loving cops? Front and center (literally). Lemmings all doing the same thing? Clever fox? Elephants never forget (they play against stereotype for humor)? Yep.
There were others, but I started drinking to inoculate myself against the hypocrisy.
It’s like they made a comedy about Martin Luther King (bad idea from the get go, but it would probably be green-lighted in today’s Hollywood) and, amid the moralizing about race and prejudice, decided to include fried chicken and watermelon for humor’s sake.
My point is that if you’re making a movie about the harm of stereotypes, you can’t pick and choose which stereotypes you think are harmful. Or which demographic slice should be protected from stereotyping. And if you’re looking to lecture the audience on stereotyping, you should make sure your own house is in order first.