New Historicism

The popular, endearing film Zootopia is brimming with symbols and analogies in all kinds of capacities. From political motions to cultural characteristics to racial interactions to subtle criticism of the DMV, the movie is not only a wonderful story, but also an illustration and commentary of current American society. It is a reflection of the time in which it was created.

Race is a major and front-running concept the movie illustrates in response to America’s present condition. In the movie, the breeds or species of animals are equivalent to race for people. Interactions and assumptions between predators and prey are symbolic of those that can occur in today’s society. This is partly seen in the difference between a bunny who can’t go savage and a “shifty and untrustworthy” fox. Tensions and accords within the different species contribute to and sometimes direct the progression of the story: the trapping of ‘savage’ predators, the scheme of assistant mayor Bellweather, even the cohesiveness of Mr. Big and his companions. These aspects play a critical role in the plot but also in some of the character development of the protagonists and antagonists. Overall, the work calls attention to racial aspects, both good and bad, in American society. Parallels can be drawn between the predators-vs-prey concept and events in today’s news. This movie condemns some of those aspects as it shows the harmful effects they can have, such as the escalation of the rallies, which is a more direct parallel, and the distrust between different species. These similarities and reflections reveal the effect that the present conditions of America have in influencing the concepts and goals explored throughout the story.

Throughout the movie, the storyline portrays some of the cultural ideals our society holds. Specifically, the American Dream. The American Dream is the concept that, through hard work and the opportunities provided in America, one can achieve any goal or dream. Judy’s passion and insatiable motivation to become the first bunny cop, to ultimately make the world a better place, is an illustration of this ideal. The movie acknowledges some of the shortcomings, so to speak, of the belief through Judy’s initial assignment as only a meter maid. Even Judy herself concedes to it saying, “real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes.” But, ultimately, the movie maintains and encourages the American Dream through both Judy and Nick’s success as police officers as well as the positive note on which Judy’s speech ends. The American Dream has been a staple in America’s history and identity. Its importance in Zootopia further indicates that the movie reflects the current events, movements, and characteristics present in our nation at this time.

6 thoughts on “New Historicism

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  1. I love love this analysis! After I saw the movie I seriously talked about the racism as well as the feminism portrayed in Zootopia! There are many powerful scenes that very clearly target racism. However, I did not recognize the idea of the American Dream playing such an integral part of the movie! I found that analysis to be very insightful! Great work!

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  2. I love Zootopia! It is really interesting to look at how the media we create now will tell the future how we lived and what we chose to value. It will be cool for people to look back and see how our society has the same issues and values, such as racism and the American Dream, but how those ideas have changed over time.

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  3. I love this movie and your analysis! I noticed some of the other symbols you mentioned but I guess never drew the parallel between prey and predator and racism. It is so cool to see all the elements that different people can pull out of the same movie!

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  4. I have never seen zootopia, however based on your analysis it’s pretty cool to see these issues being brought up and addressed maturely in a children’s movie. Or not a children’s movie, I dunno who watches them.

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  5. I HAD THESE SAME THOUGHTS AFTER WATCHING THIS MOVIE! Fantastic analysis, McKinley. I thought the embedded message of tolerance was subtle, but definitely intentional. I hope kids and parents picked up on that as well, even if they are not as astute as you are.

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