Disney’s feminist polemic. I know right? What does Disney think it’s doing serving up this thinly veiled feminist propaganda? What are they trying to do, influence the minds of our courageous young boys and tractable young girls? I know what kind of barrow you’re trying to push Disney, you’re trying to tell us that girls can do boy jobs. In fact sometimes they can do boy jobs better than boys because girls are essentially moral and they always try and do the right thing. And if only those aggressive boys would just listen to those good girls they might learn something. Just as long as the girls don’t get too emotional. Or try to tell the boys what to do. And need saving when the going gets really tough.
Disney’s Zootopia tells the story of a cute but tough little bunny, Judy Hopps, who is a girl, who has always wanted to join the police force. But Zootopia’s world is divided into predators and prey. Predators (lions, foxes, jaguars, water buffalo) do jobs like policing and soft gentle prey (bunnies, sheep, gazelles) do jobs like growing carrots and singing. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that Disney is working with a metaphor here. Predators are men. Prey are women. Not literally of course but the traits are stereotypically masculine and feminine. When Hopps joins the force, she is a tiny figure against her hulking fellow officers and they don’t accept her into the fold, relegating her to the job of parking inspector. Hopps befriends petty criminal fox Nick Wilde and together they solve a crime and do some learnin’ from each other.
So good on Disney for having a main character that’s female and a story line that tackles equal opportunity. But weren’t we exploring this basic premise of whether women could do jobs just as well as men back in the 80s? Perhaps not in a very enlightened way – I’m thinking 9 to 5 and Working Girl with Melanie Griffith doing the vacuuming in high heels and lingerie – but Zootopia doesn’t seem to have progressed much past these thirty-year-old stereotypes. Particularly galling for me was the scene where Hopps cries and has to beg Wilde’s forgiveness. It’s not the way it works, Disney.
According to online trivia, the main protagonist was meant to be Wilde but test audiences liked Hopps and so her role was made more significant. If this is true, it could account for the weakness of the characterisation and story. There are some lovely scenes, in fact unusually, the trailer for this film showed an entire scene rather than a montage of highlights, and it’s what made me keen to see it. We see Hopps and Wilde trying to get a licence plate traced at the DMV, which is staffed entirely by sloths – the comic timing is beautiful. There are some other genuinely funny moments but this is a film that doesn’t cater well for adults. It’s nice to look at but there are few surprises in its predictable narrative.
Bechdel test – pass
2.5 stars (for the sloths)