Progressivism in Sitcoms and Movies – Corey Washburn


I watched Zootopia this week (yes, I am still an avid animation-film watcher), and have to say I was astoundingly pleased with what I saw. I’ve watched other recent children’s films and I’ve seen clips of Zootopia so I knew what was coming, but I did not expect the storyline to be as starkly progressive as it was compared to some other animated films of my childhood’s time.

The movie begins with the classic “you can’t do this” attitude toward a small, female bunny who desperately wants to be a police officer. Not only is this character female, she is a bunny (often seen as sweet and innocent) among tigers, lions, buffalo, elephants, foxes, etc. (who are often seen as powerful, sly, or otherwise successful among animals). Zootopia distinguishes itself from other children’s films which usually provide only one obstacle for characters to overcome, and it’s usually fantastical. For example, Frozen‘s major dilemma throughout the movie is Elsa’s powers which she cannot control. In Tangled, Rapunzel is locked away with her incredibly long hair by her mother, and in Sleeping Beauty, a curse that she received as a baby haunts her for the rest of her life. In Zootopia, however, Judy Hopps is confronted with the first problem: that she has goals for herself that exist outside what a bunny is “supposed” to do. As she overcomes that, she is confronted with more obstacles: parking duty as opposed to a big case – even when she graduates top of her class – seen as inferior to her peers even when she solves cases, and being completely degraded because of her outward appearance and who she associates herself with – a sly fox with similar aspirations for himself.

zootopia-family Still from Zootopia (2016). 

I was consistently impressed with the film’s ability to represent some real-life scenarios that are disturbingly similar to our world today. The fear of a particular type of animal, the inability of successful employees to climb because of who they are, and more… Above, Judy Hopps is talking to her family about her aspirations which they cannot comprehend as reality for her. While they support her dreams, they do not see those dreams as tangible reality for Judy.

I have nothing but praise for Zootopia and can only hope that more films like it emerge into the media sphere for generations to come. I encourage anyone to watch it who is interested – the best thing about animated films is that they don’t just appeal to children!

Check out this article for more praise for Zootopia.

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4 Responses to Progressivism in Sitcoms and Movies – Corey Washburn

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I loved Zootopia! I’m glad you finally saw it. Some food for thought: I read a really well-written critique of the movie (read it here…-and-cute-animals) that explores some of the more problematic aspects of tackling heavy issues like race with animal metaphors. While I thought Zootopia was charming and important in a lot of ways, this article makes some good points as well. Let me know what you think!

    -Callie Sartain

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I loved Zootopia. I agree with what you said about how the conflicts being “Yes, but” rather than “No, and” creates a more realistic and interesting story. I haven’t seen it in a while, but I don’t remember too much being said about Judy being a woman. I may be misremembering, but I felt like the movie (while having primarily men) focused more on race relations and the fact that Judy was a girl was just part of her character. That people looked down on her for her race rather than her gender. I could be wrong, but your post makes me want to watch it tonight. – Max Dosser

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I also love animated films and have huge appreciation for them! I am always so impressed how many hidden motifs, lessons, and valuable content in general are packed into animated films. And based on your review, I am really excited to watch this movie.
    -Kendall Fischlein

  4. marymdalton says:

    I loved this movie!!! (Of course, I’m aligned with it ideologically!)

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