I just saw Zootopia! I have to admit, it was pretty good. I laughed a lot, and both the premise and the world built around it were solid and interesting. Plus it had a Shakira song! A very catchy Shakira song.
There’s been a lot of feminist discussion already done on this movie – so there’s no need to re-hash the racial allegory they used or what a terrific woman lead it featured. It’s a really great story of a career woman who works hard, doesn’t compromise her ideals and still comes out on top. (And she doesn’t feel the need to be likable at all! She pisses quite a few people off, and as a Disney woman lead it’s a breath of fresh air, frankly, that she can’t just charm other characters into working with her.)
The thing that did end up irking me about the movie was how it treated size. Rainbow Rowell drew my attention to it before I even went to see it, tweeting her personal reaction to the movie – and how it did what too much of media does – create a fat character who has no other defining characteristic than “is fat” and “eats a lot.” She’s since deleted the tweet(s), but it is very striking that in a movie all about proving stereotypes wrong there is a fat cop who eats donuts – and while also being friendly and seemingly well-liked, he also appears to be bad at his job.
More than just that, but the visual narrative of the film is that Judy Hopps – a very tiny bunny – has to prove everyone wrong, everyone who thinks she just isn’t cut out for a career as a police officer. Before Judy, the police force is made up of large predator and prey animals – tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, ox, hippos, and the like. All of them are large, with fat and weight they can throw around, and it was actually nice to see so many big characters. As a fat woman if I ever feel like a hippo or an elephant it’s a bad thing – I feel like I’m taking up too much space and I just want to feel smaller.
But in Zootopia – it looks like the norm is to be large – there are special train accommodations and all of the doors, rooms, chairs, toilets and stalls are made for large animals. That’s the complete opposite of the world we live in today. I’m on the smaller end of the fatness scale, admittedly, and I have come across problems with being too big in all of those situations. It was kind of glorious to see background characters – good, bad, and in between – who were all big.
Of course, the main character is Judy Hopps – a bunny who is friends with a likewise tiny sheep, and she befriends a smaller predator – a fox. These featured characters are all “looking out for the little guys,” fighting adversity – Judy gets accepted into the police academy through an inclusion program – and proving that they’re not to be underestimated. Naturally – they all succeed. It’s a victory for the little guys – literally – because they are all physically smaller. Not to mention that one of the running themes is that Judy and Nick (the fox) continually have to outsmart the people they’re dealing with, because they don’t have the size and brute force. The entire movie this pair of small animals is making fools out of their larger counterparts.
So even if larger is the visible majority of the movie – they were, for the most part, shown as not smart, bad at their jobs, and lacking the dexterity to do things quickly. Once you add in the cheetah who is a regular (if benign) presence in the film – with his inability to stop eating or do his job without mindless distractions – the message is pretty clear.
Even though large animals rule the place – it’s much better to be small. I’m very done with the unoriginal fat jokes (the cheetah had a donut stuck in a fat fold of his neck and I nearly gagged), but I’m also really tired of being put down for existing, for considering that larger people could ever be equal – let alone better than – small people.