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Monday, September 12, 2016

Is Zootopia Racist? [Wisecrack]


Wisecrack is at it again!  In their previous video, The Hidden Meaning of Zootopia, they got a lot of comments asking them to discuss the racial issues present in the movie.  Well, now they're out in full force, ready and eager to discuss it!

They come to some interesting conclusions, and bring up some very well-thought-out points.  I'll let you see them for yourself in the video, but here's my two cents.

I agree with their conclusion that it is a very tricky thing to do a racial allegory story in today's world, and that you have to be incredibly careful if you're going to even attempt such a thing.  Disney toes the line well, but there are some bits where the allegory is a bit too on-the-nose.

However, I disagree that the movie as a whole demands to be compared to our contemporary racial prejudices.  The world of Zootopia, as they point out repeatedly, is too different from our own for human prejudices to apply to their world.  The points where they emphasize that it demands to be directly compared ("A bunny can use that word..." , "Not some token bunny" etc.) are... well, I hate to say it, but they're the parts of the movie that could be cut out without losing anything.  Even masterpieces aren't completely flawless, after all.  You could remove those bits they pointed to and the movie, as a whole, would still be a phenomenal allegory for racial stereotyping and recognizing and overcoming your own prejudices, while still learning to handle the prejudices of others in a constructive manner.

Also, prey animals can be just as dangerous if they were to suddenly go savage in any given area.  Can you imagine how much damage Officer McHorn or Chief Bogo could do if they were to be hit with night howlers?  If I were a small mammal in Zootopia, I'd be more scared of getting crushed or gored by a larger animal than I would be of getting eaten.  And as anyone who's dealt with a cornered feral rabbit knows, even animals without fangs can pack a mean bite, and do some serious damage to creatures larger than themselves.  Just ask Eric Schwartz- he can demonstrate that in a comic!

I'm starting to ramble a little, arent I?  Get the Wisecrack video after the break!


13 comments:

  1. Well this is the longest description of a video I've ever heard from you andy... GJ!! Its hard to know what you can and can't exactly talk about without... Getting to people... But you did well avoiding that "difficult" topic.

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    1. To be fair, I wrote this on my tiny laptop, so it looked a lot smaller. XD

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  2. I just commented this :

    Well I don't agree. Basically Zootopia is supposed to be a universe filled with racism, but not our racism. I never heard any film directors telling us that they wanted to paint the earth racist issues. They just wanted to create their world, with an other form of racism. Which was down pretty well if I can say so.
    Maybe I am wrong and Byron or anyone else said that Zootopia was supposed to represent the black/white issues, but I never heard it and I think Zootopia message about racism in general is totally clear and okay.

    Tell me what you think :3

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    1. Agreed, 100%! The movie does blatantly contain racism/speciesism, but it's evolved in its own way in their world. It's not, and is not meant to be, perfectly allegorical to our society; giving it much more world-building and depth than many other talking animal movies.

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  3. The movie has been explicitly defined by the creators as a movie that doesn't sub people for animals; it's a movie created in a world that has ever only been animals. This analysis was very well done at squashing these half-baked allegories.
    Beyond that, if you really felt the need to give the movie a message or purpose beyond it's blatant "try and be a better person", then the most you could accurately derive from it is "don't believe your preconceived notions/prejudices about something/someone. I still say people are trying to read too far into it, but I digress.

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  4. If I didn't have to leave in a minute, I would expand on my thoughts

    But I can't help but feel that their video is wrong on every level. Is that bias on my end? Yes yes it is. Am I butt hurt? Also yes

    But animals provide a very unique approach to bias and prejudice because we can see and understand where it is coming from! And it makes it all the more impactful when Judy and Nick "rises" above societies preconceived notions of what they should be!

    I will be honest, I feel betrayed by wisecrack :(

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  5. I think my problem with the argument in this video is that as you mentioned it has a rather poor understanding of the animal world which this film is based on, when it comes to natural tools many "prey" species as you pointed out are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than predators. And because of this misunderstanding (and the fact that it is kind of all over the place) the crux of this video falls kind of flat for me.

    And as for the racial comparisons, well I read this tumblr post once by Nick Griffin (the author of the Housepets webcomic) where he discusses these points, its a bit long but it sums up my views: http://alabastermenagerie.tumblr.com/post/140515163620/more-on-zootopia

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  6. Yeah, I think this guy has managed to TOTALLY miss the point of Zootopia. He's also failed to recognize the danger of large, dangerous prey animals, as someone pointed out. The cape buffalo, for example, is widely recognized as the most dangerous animal in Africa.

    Also, the whole point of the philosophy behind Zootopia's examination of prejudice is that it is NOT a direct allegory, like, for example, Animal Farm. The whole idea behind Zootopia's examination of it is that it takes away all of the normal direct allegory which at times muddies the waters.

    For example, it's extremely common nowadays for certain individuals to make the idiotic and spurious claim that "only white people can be racist" which is a complete load of bullocks and is frankly a totally racist idea in itself.

    By NOT having a direct comparison between human ethnic groups and animals in Zootopia, it permits the film to examine the pure issue of prejudice itself, in whatever form it takes, without having to apply it to a specific real life human example. Its principles could just as easily be applied to gender stereotyping as racial, or even stereotyping of certain cultures, people with disabilities, whatever.

    By assuming that it's somehow supposed to be a direct and specific allegory, Wisecrack has pretty much blown it on this one, in my opinion.

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    1. I completely agree. It's not supposed to be direct. It's supposed to be familiar enough to highlight the prejudice and show the younger audience that it's wrong, but still remain ambiguous enough so as not to single out or offend anyone.

      That and the whole animal prejudice thing is just good world building. If the movie was a poorly disguised black/white allegory I wouldn't have liked it as much as I did.

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    2. Totally true! One thing that struck me as implied, but not explicitly stated in the film is the irony that the predators almost certainly find the idea of eating prey just as repugnant and horrifying as the prey do. I mean, the idea of eating a "person" who has thoughts, feelings, loved ones, and who is experiencing all the horror of the whole thing is really just disgusting. Having your dinner beg you for mercy kind of kills the appetite, I would say. You would literally have to be a monster like Hannibal Lecter to do that.

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  7. One of the reasons I really like Zootopia is that the prejudices it displays have so many facets that they confound easy mapping to real-world bigotry - and in doing so, they lay bare the shared MECHANISMS of prejudice to the audience. Racism, classism feminism, abuse of authority... Zootopia is APPLICABLE to all of these things and more, yet not truly ABOUT any of them, and in that, it manages to distill a useful guide to the dangers of bigotry and how to avoid it in ourselves, into a form that can reach anybody.

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  8. The point Zootopia wanted to get across, was that prey could become predators, and do more harm than their ancestors ever could, but natural predators hunted prey to survive, not the case in their modern life, yet legacy is a way for someone to shame others into submission, Dawn Bellwether was one of those. She was quite a predator, using political power to get her way, at the cost of innocent predator citizens, it's a cautionary tale of political abuse, and to celebrate the peace and appreciation of biodiversity, as Confucius says, "Rule by fear leads to ruin, because it take more effort to govern fear, rather than the country."

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