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Disney’s Zootopia – Breaking Stereotypes With A Female Protagonist

Posted: March 18, 2016

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The new Disney movie Zootopia has a female protagonist initially considered weak, but who turns out to have hidden strengths that bring her up on top.

Zootopia, the new Disney release gives both kids and the adults who accompany them some very good lessons. The best part is that it does so in a completely non-preachy manner with an extremely strong and interesting story and some really funny jokes that keep you laughing throughout.

The motto of Zootopia is “You can be anything you want to be.”

The movie is set in the animal kingdom. Judy Hopps is a rabbit who wants to be a police officer in Zootopia, a kind of animal Utopia megacity where all animals including predators co-exist in a kind of harmony. Judy succeeds in being the first rabbit ever to become a cop and has to face a lot of biases and snide comments about being cute and weak and overly emotional. She finally lands a case to find a missing otter and with the help of Nick, a con artist fox who is himself the victim of stereotyping as a ‘sly’ fox cracks the case and unearths a bigger conspiracy.

In an interview, the director of Zootopia, Byron Howard, tells the story of how originally, the main character of this film wasn’t supposed to be Judy but Nick. After years of production, the team behind the film realized that the story didn’t make sense with Nick as the lead, even though that was what was in the original script.

Howard explains: “We’re telling a story about bias, and when you have the Nick character starting the movie, through his eyes the city was already broken. He didn’t like Zootopia. We asked ‘What are we saying with the movie?’ If we’re making this movie about bias—something that is everywhere and in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not—the character that’s going to help us tell that message is Judy, an innocent character, who comes from a very supportive environment where she thinks everyone is beautiful, everyone gets along.

Then let Nick, this character who knows the truth about the world, bop up against her and they start to educate each other. When we flipped that, it was a major flip, but it worked so much better.

That Judy is a female character is almost accidental in the film. But perhaps it is also because a rabbit by nature is docile, timid and weak, all considered very feminine attributes. So it was easy to just superimpose one over the other.”

Even if that is the case, the film makes a strong point for overcoming biases and stereotypes in our dealings with people. Judy is smart and intelligent, despite being considered weak in the beginning, and uses these strengths to steal a march over sheer physical power. A point to be made towards breaking down stereotypes.

Zootopia will make you and the kids laugh (watch out especially for the hilarious scenes with the sloths and the yoga practicing elephant) and will also teach us all a lesson on being non-judgmental. A lesson which I believe we adults need to learn more than kids.

And yes, it will make all the little girls out there want to go out and reach for the stars. Do not miss this movie.

Image source: Zootopia trailer.

Smita considers herself an octopus with tentacles in different delicious jam jars. An alumnus of

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