Small Town Rabbit Defies the Odds

Zootopia is about a small town rabbit, Judy Hopps, who wants to follow her dreams of becoming the first rabbit cop ever. She faces a lot of discrimination from friends, family, and authority for pursuing her dream. However, as her parents call her a “tryer”, she never gives up and graduates at the top of her class at the police academy. She’s assigned to Zootopia, district one, and promptly gets assigned to being a meter maid. Through a series of events, she meets Nick Wilde, a fox, who is a con artist of sorts. When Judy finally gets the chance at a real case, she ends up blackmailing Nick to help her crack it. Through the ups and downs of the case and thinking the case is solved and then having to research more, the two of them become great friends. Judy proves that she’s not just some small town bunny and Nick learns that he’s better than being a sly fox. Overall, Zootopia is a great film that addresses spectatorship and the gaze in an all-male universe and also sends a positive message to both kids and adults.

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The film is directed by Byron Howard, Jared Bush, and Rich Moore and is produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The genre of the film online is listed as an Action/Adventure film. I would also put it into the genre of Family. The film is a family movie because there is no gore, no romantic kissing, and the movie displays family values. For example, after Judy’s first day on the job, she video chats her family and talks to them about her day. Also, when Judy briefly returns home after being unsuccessful as a cop, her parents are there to support her and accept her back into their home. The film also fits into the Action/Adventure genre because of its thrilling and investigative scenes. There was even a time in the theater that I physically jumped because something popped out on screen.

I saw Zootopia at Regal Cinemas in Brooklyn Center which is just north of 694, about 15 minutes north of campus on 94. The building was very big as it had 20 theaters. When you walk in, you buy your ticket at the box office, then you walk into the concession area. There were theaters to the left and to the right of the concession area. The building appeared to be older but looked like it had been updated with new upholstery and technology. The tickets were $7 each and I was not encouraged to buy food or drink because as previously mentioned, the box office and concession area were separate.

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My boyfriend, Tomas, came to the movie with me. I was expecting it to be more crowded but there were literally only two other women when we got into the theater. Thinking back, it makes sense. This movie came out over a month ago and it was a Monday night. No one else came into the theater, so it was just four people which was kind of nice. I believe that I reacted to the film in the same way that I would have If I had been at home. I am not one to hold in my emotions at the movies because I am in a public space. The two other women in the theater clearly came together. They were sitting next to each other, talking a little before the movie, and sharing popcorn. The women were relatively quiet. The most noise they would make is light chuckling during funny scenes. I think they were whispering in certain moments but it wasn’t distracting. As a whole, the four audience members were pretty quiet while watching this movie but it was apparent that we all enjoyed the film from the audible laughing that we all did throughout the film.

In the beginning of the film, Zootopia represents race in the film as something that defines what one’s abilities are and what their profession will be. Judy wants to be a cop but her parents caution her by telling her that there has never been a rabbit cop. Judy responds “Well, I guess I’ll just have to be the first!” Judy represents hope and pioneering for rabbit rights. Judy is a female rabbit; not only has there never been a rabbit cop, but she is also a female rabbit trying to be a cop. So she’s a small preyed upon animal AND a female. This relates to what bell hooks discusses in “Black Looks: Race and Representation” regarding the relationship between the white male and the black female. In this example, the female rabbit relates to the black female. hooks writes “Black female spectators have had to develop looking relations within a cinematic context that constructs our presence as absence, that denies the “body” of the black female so as to perpetuate white supremacy and with it a phallocentric spectatorship where the woman to be looked at and desired is “white” (hooks p.118). Although hooks is writing about black females, I believe that it relates to Judy Hopps and her aspirations of being a female rabbit cop. Rabbit representation in the police force is absent and she feels an obligation to change that.

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As previously mentioned, Judy is a rabbit female cop. From what I gathered in the scene where all the cops are assigned cases, there was only one other female cop; a giant elephant. The elephant in a way represents the fat female that is tough and asexual. Judy, on the other hand, represents the stereotype of feminine and shyness of all female rabbits. The men in this film, especially her boss who is a ram, doubt her abilities of being a serious, tough cop. In “Textual Negotiations: Female Spectatorship and Cultural Studies”, Janet McCabe discusses that “In the exclusive all-male universe, she endangers the coherence and future survival of the male group” (McCabe p. 21). It is unfathomable for these men to imagine Judy as anything but a meter maid solely based on her race and gender.

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I enjoyed this film and felt that it created a positive message for kids which is that no matter how big or small you are, you should never settle and always go for your dreams. It’s an easy message that many movies before have produced, however, Zootopia addresses it in a way that both kids and adults will be able to understand. The only thing I have to note about this movie is that all three directors are male. This definitely fits into what Laura Mulvey writes about regarding the male gaze. As Mulvey states in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, “The man controls the film phantasy and also emerges as the representative of power in a further sense: as the bearer of the look of the spectator, transferring it behind the screen to neutralize the extra-diegetic tendencies represented by woman as spectacle” (Mulvey p. 838). I think it’s great that the main character of this movie is female, I just want to point out that every move she made in every scene was directed by three males.

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Citations

hooks, bell. (2002). “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators,” in Black Looks: Race and Representation, 115-131.

McCabe, Janet. (2004). “Textual Negotiations: Female Spectatorship and Cultural Studies” in Feminist Film Studies, 37-64.

Mulvey, Laura. (1975). “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16(3), 6-18.

Howard, B., Bush, J., Moore, R. (Directors). (2016). Zootopia [Motion picture]. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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