Thursday, July 7, 2016

Zootopia: see, think, and discuss

I'm glad I saw Zootopia.  I liked that it was visually imaginative and beautiful.  I enjoyed some of the characters and humor.  I liked that the crime was solved and there was a happy ending.  Sure, the police bits of it were just full of holes for an adult viewer, it was definitely a PG movie (not a G movie), and sometimes its messages were heavy-handed.  It may not have been the best Disney movie ever, but I think it's an important one to see and discuss.

That heavy-handed message?  It was about stereotyping.  Sometimes it seemed confusing because it seemed to be warning about the dangers while indulging in the humor at the same time.  I read some reviews about it that criticized the way it made stereotype jokes and how they got boring.  Sure, stereotype jokes get boring in real life.  Perhaps that was the point?  I actually thought they were pretty even-handed about it, really.  They even explained why it's okay if you're part of a group for you to make jokes about that group that are inappropriate for those outside the group to make.  And it didn't try to say, "There shouldn't be any groups!"  It just said, "Hey, um, speak in love and be CAREFUL about how you think about and what you say to and how you treat folks in a specific group."

I liked what it had to say about expectations based on stereotypes: that seemed important.  If people are just going to treat members of a group a certain way without even bothering to get to know them individually, what encouragement do they have to behave differently from expectations?  If you treat whole groups as monolithic Others without getting to know any of them, you're missing out on some of what is best about humanity. 

Again, some of this seemed a tad heavy-handed and repetitive at times, but then again, we live in a world where, even in the developed countries, there are people who hate anyone who isn't "like" them.  The hatred (and even persecution) against the "Other" is on the rise.  This is in the countries that are supposed to be in the intelligent, educated, enlightened, progressive ones, mind you, but our leaders and those who want to be our leaders are saying things about whole classes of people being evil or dangerous or threatening to our livelihoods  (immigrants, religious groups, more pigment in their skin, etc.).  Maybe a heavy-handed message is kind of necessary.  Maybe it's the only kind of message that will get through.

And I hope it does because we really need it right now.

Some of the subtler messages were solid, too.  Getting to know people is really the only way to prevent ourselves from behaving poorly based on stereotypes.  First-hand knowledge can prevent us from mistakes of ignorance.  Even if we are trying to treat people well, sometimes we fail, and we need to forgive each other for our inconsistencies, or we'll build up more walls of hurt between us.

(Biblical thoughts: Every person is special and different and made in the image of God and deserving consideration and not simply ignorant dismissal.  Jesus was not a huge fan of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but he still treated them differently based on their interactions with him.  He didn't dismiss them ALL and call them names, just the ones who were behaving without compassion.)

Anyway, important movie to see and discuss.

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