“Zootopia” is filled with important lessons about inclusion and acceptance

I am what one would call a “Disney fanatic.” Like any true Disney obsessive, I went and saw Zootopia opening weekend . . . twice. Needless to say, I loved it, but not just for the cute and witty animals; I was in it for the lessons.

Disney movies are often learning experiences for the viewers. The new live-action Cinderella teaches us to “have courage and be kind,” while Inside Out showed us that it’s okay to be sad, and that even in times of sadness, we can still find joy. In Zootopia, we are reminded of perhaps the most important lesson of all; to never judge or stereotype a specific group of people (or animals), and especially to never jump to conclusions about others. It’s an important lesson for the children who this movie was made for, but truly it’s an important lesson for all of us.

At the start of Zootopia we meet Judy Hopps, an adorable bunny who wants to become a police officer. Everyone tells her it’s impossible because she’s too small, and a bunny has never been an officer before. She goes on to prove everyone wrong and become the first bunny in the Zootopia Police Department. From that storyline, I thought the movie was going to preach the lesson that we should fight for our dreams no matter how insurmountable they seem. But there was more to it than that. Much more.

While we seem to be getting to a wider place of acceptance in society, we still have a lot of work to do. One look at the news and it is clear that there are still huge problems of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. That prejudice is something we collectively need to work to better, and Zootopia is doing it’s part in reminding us of that.

In Zootopia, when a member of the predator population attacks an animal of prey, the rest of the predator animals are ostracized and judged. Protests break out; there is a scene where a mother pulls her child away from a predator who is simply reading the newspaper, and a lovable cheetah loses his job because he is seen as nothing more than a predator. It was not hard to see the parallels between the discrimination in Zootopia and what we see every day in our own country and society. If enough people believe something to be true and start to generalize, no matter how false those generalizations prove to be, it can do an immense amount of damage to individuals.

In the movie, you can’t help but get frustrated with the cute and fuzzy prey animals for being unfair to the predators when, in reality, they’ve done nothing to merit the treatment. But Zootopia also provided a stark reminder of how easy it can be to fall into a vicious cycle of judgement and fear.

People may say that Zootopia is “just a kids’ movie,” or “there’s not much to learn from a talking bunny.” But I disagree. I think there is a lot to learn from a talking bunny. And while it’s true that I have a slight Disney obsession, that’s really beside the point. The point is, after I walked out of that theater, I felt enlightened and inspired.

My mom always taught me not to judge people based on their differences. While she always reminded me to “treat others the way I want to be treated,” I have not always done the best job at putting that lesson into practice. It can be difficult not to make snap judgments, but as Zootopia so beautifully (and adorably) reminds us, we need to catch ourselves when we do that and practice acceptance instead of prejudice. The moral of Zootopia is that we should celebrate one another for what makes us unique. It is a lesson that all kids need to learn (and some grown ups too).

Hannah Williams is Alaska-born and Oregon-grown, and recently moved to Southern California because she loves going on adventures. Her first love is Disney and her second is Oregon Duck Football. Give her a book and some wine and she’ll be just fine. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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