Gender equality in popular movies

Emily Doran

This past week, I went to see the movie “Zootopia.” To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be much more than another “OK” animated film, but instead, I was pleasantly surprised by its quality and relevance. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so much blatant (yet tasteful) social commentary packed into an animated movie before. In particular, along with excellent commentary on discrimination in general, “Zootopia” successfully touches on the issue of gender inequality.

The protagonist, a female rabbit who has aspirations of becoming a cop, faces negativity and disbelief in her abilities from all fronts, including her parents, her police academy instructor and her eventual boss and coworkers. Despite her enthusiasm, hard work, determination and indisputable success, she is consistently doubted because of her size and femininity. This discrimination manifests itself in numerous ways, much like in real life. Her parents, for example, are concerned about her aspirations because they fear for her safety. They would prefer that she stay with them and lead a quiet, ambitionless life instead of pursuing her goals and venturing into the potentially dangerous world outside.

I think that this is something that a lot of women (myself included) experience. My parents, for example, can be overly protective and concerned when I express a desire to go to certain places, near or far. Their concerns are legitimate and their intentions well-meaning, but they can’t realistically expect me to put my plans on hold for safety’s sake; if I think that studying abroad will enhance my college education, I won’t be deterred by their fear of me leaving the country.

There are, of course, other manifestations of gender discrimination which “Zootopia”highlights and which stem from less well-meaning intentions. The protagonist’s boss initially refuses to give her any serious assignments, despite her success as a police academy graduate, and then puts extremely unrealistic expectations on her in order for her to maintain her job after she abandons her post to apprehend a robber.

He assumes, based on her size and femininity, that she cannot possibly be a successful police officer who is capable of enduring the physical challenges that her dream job entails. This is another issue that many women face today. Just this past week, I offered to carry a heavy trunk for an older male relative who has bad knees. His initial reaction (which, admittedly, I believe was not ill-intentioned) was, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Depending on how heavy the trunk was, perhaps he was right. But he was making an assumption, and a dangerous one at that. He seemed to forget that I regularly train to lift amounts significantly heavier than my bodyweight and immediately assumed that I would be unable to help him because of my size and gender.

Gender inequality is a serious problem which many women face at some time or another. “Zootopia” does a good job addressing this prevalent issue by centering on a female protagonist who successfully overcomes daily discrimination from the multitude of people she encounters. I highly recommend seeing it, and then take a hard look at the assumptions you make in your daily life about women’s abilities.