Saturday, July 1, 2017

On Zootopia and the problem with using species as a metaphor for race or ethnicity


I thought Zootopia was fun, but I hated its metaphor, something that's bugged me at least since Spiegelman's Maus. A human race is an artificial concept, a tribe allows outsiders to join and insiders to leave, but a species is an immutable aspect of identity. The fox and rabbit of Zootopia can be friends, unlike the cats and mice of Maus who are genetically driven to be enemies, but they cannot mate. Using species as metaphors for race or tribe validates the beliefs of black and white racists who babble about racial purity.

But I quibble. Zootopia and Maus both have something important to say, even though what they say is a bit muddled. That's human art for you.