By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios
*No spoilers here*
Race, and All Our Differences
When an aspiring bunny joins the police-force in the city of Zootopia, she finds herself unraveling one of the most decisive cases in the history of the great city. Scrambling, for the sake of her job, to find out where so many mammals have disappeared to, Judy and Nick, the fox, the most-unlikely partners, find themselves solving a mystery for the city's safety... and their own identity. From the creators of Frozen and Big Hero Six comes a fresh adventure. Everyone seems to really like what we are seeing from Walt Disney Animation Studios, but it’s not like we didn’t know they had it in them. It seems as though they may even be giving Pixar a run for their money. We'll have to wait and see. But this was refreshing: a great voice cast, fun visuals, and absolutely Grade-A storytelling. There did seem to be a bit of a cop-out toward the end of the movie, with your run-of-the-mill sap story for our hero that ended very predictably. And there were a couple of editing issues with the voices, all cardboard and unmixed; but I cannot express enough my respect for this simple, yet intelligent, storytelling: easy and fun enough for children, and commentary enough for adults. And what a commentary it was.
No one has to wonder where Disney stands politically. And I have no qualms with that; it isn’t my place to defend the film screen, only the pulpit. Storytelling wise, there were certain parts at which I felt that if the message was any more in-your-face, they would have turned to the camera and said the purpose of the movie. Aside from that, it is very interesting to see one of the ways the world handles one of the most important issues in history.
The fall of humans created in the image of an others-centered, all-loving God spun them downward into selfishness and competition. I believe that Zootopia mainly addresses racism, but touches on a plethora of issues, because racism is at the heart of a plethora of issues. Our race has so much to do with our identity, so if race divides humans, cultural issues, hobbies, goals, and so much more follow soon thereafter. The way Walt Disney Animation Studios wants to answer these problems stirs us to run to the Scriptures, where God has specifically instructed his people on how to deal with these issues. So let’s state the problem, then their answer; then we will state the problem again, and reply with God’s answer.
But, Grace Makes all the Difference
The problem in our culture, and most fundamentally the world as a whole until Jesus comes back and restores us and Earth, is division between each other based on differences in skin color, national languages, hobbies, political stances, etc. These differences cause friction, and, according to Zootopia, conversations begin to look like this, “You are strange because you are different than me.” The answer, as far as I can tell, according to this film, is, “I’m not strange. Let me prove it to you.” Let me repeat that, and say in a different way. “You think I am different? I will go out of my way, and spend all my energy to prove myself to you that I am not.” See the issue with the logic? It is circular, and a bit insane, if insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting different results. It is circular because if the problem is bringing up differences, relying on those very differences to disprove arguments is hypocritical. If I am upset that you are bullying me over my taste in music, then boasting about how awesome my music is, and maybe even beginning to make fun of yours, makes me just like you. In the end, I would have no right to be upset at your bullying over differences since I have just become your bully over differences.
Now, according to the Bible, if you are different than I am in some way, the answer is grace. Okay, that might seem too simple, so let me explain. The problem restated, and the Bible's answer: “You and I come from two completely different backgrounds. Instead of arguing about these differences at all, let’s look outside of ourselves and be distracted by a greater thing, and find that in common. In turn, that commonality will prove greater than any 'uncommonality'.” Perhaps you are already thinking of it, but ask yourself what exactly is this “greater thing” we must look to outside of ourselves? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord; that despite anything we have done or any background we come from, God has forgiven us completely and eternally in Jesus Christ, and welcomes us into fellowship with him; that Jesus blood is what I love, and it’s what you love, therefore we love each other.
Ayn Rand said once, “Admiration is the rarest of pleasures.” What an incredible statement. And since we Christians believe that Christ’s sweet grace the best thing to admire, that it is the rarest of pleasures, we believe that admiring that together will make all the difference with our differences. Zootopia reminded me of when John told his dear children to have Christ’s sin cleansing blood in common with each other. In fact, let’s let him have the last word: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV).