I was returning from Istanbul, Turkey. There was an 11 hour flight ahead of me. We’d arrive in the middle of the night, so if I wanted any chance of getting my sleep schedule adjusted before classes started, I couldn’t sleep for more than a couple of hours on the plane. Luckily for me, Turkish Airlines provided a whole host of movies for me to choose from. To be honest, I was excited when the flight began. Between classes and extracurriculars, I don’t have a lot of time for leisurely movie-watching. I picked two movies which had good reviews and famous actors: The Martian and The Intern.
I was wowed by their mediocrity.
Both movies had a few semi-funny lines, a couple of almost-touching scenes, a plot that, well, kept me awake. That’s about it.
Since these were the first movies I’d watched in quite awhile, I felt utterly betrayed by American cinema.
Why didn’t anyone make good movies anymore? Where was the originality? Where could I go to talk to the person responsible for this dearth of quality entertainment?
Rather than giving up on the cinema industry as a whole, I decided to search for enjoyment in another genre of movies: kids’ movies.
If you’re looking for a child-focused flick, Disney is the obvious first choice. Whatever your thoughts on evil mega-corporations, they’ve definitely upped the standard for childish, animated films. The animation is more realistic, the humor is more risque, and the plotlines have become far more complex. In fact, many of my favorite movies are targeted primarily for kids.
I decided to go watch the latest Disney-animated extravaganza: Zootopia.
The premise of the movie is fairly basic: animals have evolved past their instinct-driven lives and now live much like humans do in the real world. They have museums and mayors and restaurants. Animals hold a wide array of jobs. There’s an otter who’s a florist, a jaguar who’s a taxi driver. The capital of this fantasy world is also the movie’s namesake.
In the opening few minutes, we’re introduced to the protagonist: a determined, independent little bunny named Judy. Though she was raised on a carrot farm and is the size of, well, a rabbit, Judy is determined to become a cop. After all, in Zootopia, anyone can be anything—or so the slogan says. Judy soon learns that life is not as simple as it seems.
What follows may at first appear to be your standard good vs evil, girl meets world, detective story. But when you look a little deeper, Zootopia is actually a powerful commentary on racism and stereotypes. The only difference between that world and our own is the divide is between predators and prey, not black and white. Zootopia brings to light sexism and classism in this imaginary universe as well.
I’m not ashamed to say it: Zootopia had far more of an impact on me than any of the “adult” movies I’ve watched recently. The characters felt authentic, and faced real-world obstacles. The tiny protagonist’s struggle to become a cop in a world dominated by giant bears and elephants was painfully familiar to the difficulties young women face in today’s imperfect society. I laughed out loud at the wry humor (Judy bragging about how good rabbits are at multiplying, calculator in hand) and gasped in shock. Some of the lines hit almost too close to home. Zootopia may be a movie geared towards kids, but it has the ability to affect a viewer of any age.