Circumstances of watching it: ghoti was super organized and managed to book tickets for all of us to see a popular new release on bank holiday Monday when every family in Cambridge wanted to go to the cinema. Which meant I got to sit next to Judith and she could cling onto me during the scary bits. That was somewhat of a novelty, up to now she's never really come to me for comfort. Though being pleasurably scared by a film is not the same as being actually scared, but even so.
I'm super proud of myself because I cycled to the cinema, the one in the leisure park behind the station, from our home in north Cambridge. That's my first attempt at cycling through town; the roads were mostly fairly quiet due to the bank holiday, but not completely without traffic. And the longest distance I've cycled in one go, not quite four miles out and I still had just enough energy to come back. jack was really helpful at coaching me in dealing with tricky junctions and other road awareness stuff, which is what I most struggle with at the moment, and also took charge of the navigation so I didn't have to worry about that.
I'm really slow, but I always knew I was going to be a slow cyclist, and cycling to the cinema was still faster than taking a bus. Also more convenient and companionable because we could all cycle back together; my people have been really accommodating about taking the bus because of me not being confident at cycling, but it's clearly easier for everybody if we can all cycle. The advantage of being slow was that we could actually chat at the same time as travelling in a little convoy. Andreas noted that I'm not very good at cycling, so I told him that's why I need practice, and having done that once I now feel pretty confident that I will fairly quickly get to the point where I can use the bike as a viable means of transport.
I did completely crash when I got in in the evening; I knew I was hungry and tried to eat enough to replenish my used up calories, but I was still pretty shaky and exhausted. I think that's something that will get better with more experience, or else I need to increase my estimate of how much extra I need to eat on days I spend a couple of hours cycling.
Verdict Zootropolis is really sweet, but probably doesn't want to be thought about too hard.
I do rather love the concept of Zootropolis, where a rabbit overcomes prejudice and works hard to become the first 'bunny cop', and at the same time gets over her own prejudices in order to be able to work with others and save the day. It's nice that the hero is female, it's not a particularly girly film and the point is very much her coming of age and doing the traditional hero thing, without any romance. It's also not particularly about gender; Judy isn't a tomboy who rejects all that trivial girly stuff because she's too busy being a hero, she's somewhat feminine but not hyper-feminine, and it's not considered particularly remarkable that she's a girl who wants to leave home and go on adventures and pursue her ambitions. (Though I can't recall any of the other police officers being clearly coded female.) I like the way her somewhat backward rural upbringing is portrayed affectionately, and she clearly has close ties to her family of origin even though she has ambitions that are very unusual in her background.
In general I'm a pretty easy sell on the concept that all kinds of people can contribute to a team and you shouldn't judge or exclude based on anyone's origins, so I was predisposed to like the film. But any film that uses different species of animals to represent racial prejudice is treading on thin ice, and while Zootropolis tried really, really hard to avoid making any direct parallels with real world race politics, the real world is still present in the context of how viewers see the film. I think for me the biggest difficulty was that it literally makes the police cute and fuzzy, and that feels like kind of distasteful propaganda considering what's been emerging about police violence against African-Americans (and disabled people and non-black ethnic minority groups). And further, it portrays sympathetic police characters doing completely unethical things like collaborating with the mafia boss to force confessions from suspects with lethal threats, and using extortion and ignoring the laws which are meant to protect people from police corruption and abuse of power. And yes, that's part of the genre convention of cop movies, but it's a pretty horrible genre convention.
The anthropomorphic animals thing I thought worked fairly well; I mean, the world-building is a bit shallow, but there is at least some in-story reason why the animals all wear clothes and walk on two legs and have things like police forces and civic infrastructure. The animation is pleasant enough, it's fairly standard Disney stuff, but I was generally happy to suspend disbelief. And I liked the way that the film plays with size differences if all mammals are supposed to be part of the same society. (There's an implication, which is not really spelled out, that the carnivores still eat meat, just non-mammals, and it's specifically only the mammals who have become humanoid and sapient.)
But the thing is that the anthropomorphic animals have pretty clear analogues of human identity categories, even if the predators versus prey axis of discrimination and oppression was deliberately chosen not to be analogous to any real-world issues. There is human-like gender in this world, which on the whole I'd say the film handles reasonably well. But there's also rural versus urban, with many of the characters people from Judy's hometown having stereotypical "redneck" accents. There's also the sloths, who are literally slow, and I think they're meant to be a joke about bad service at the DMV, but the humour there seems to skirt very close to mocking people with language issues. And there's other instances of real-world ethnic differences seeping into this world - the mafia family speak with vaguely Italian accents, and partly that's just pastiching classic films like The Godfather, but it also felt a bit uncomfortable. Also, there's a scene where Judy inadvertently praises Nick for being
articulate, and that only makes sense in the context of real world racial tensions.
So I don't know, it's all good fun, but I wasn't able to turn off my brain quite enough to fully enjoy it.
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