Politics of fear in Zootopia and Malaysia


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Politics of fear in Zootopia and Malaysia
By Zan Azlee

I felt happy taking my daughters to the cinema recently to watch the animated movie “Zootopia”. It’s a film that definitely isn’t dumbed down for children just because it’s a cartoon.

It tells the story of Judy Hopps, the first rabbit to join the police force in the city of Zootopia. She faces tremendous pressure and oppression from her police chief and tries hard to prove herself.

Before I go any further, I would like to remind readers that I might be discussing key storylines that might be spoilers for those who haven’t watched the movie. That is, if you care for that sort of thing.

(SPOILER ALERT! Key “Zootopia” plot revealed ahead, last chance to leave this page.)

Okay, here goes….

With the help of a reformed con-man (or con-fox!) Nick Wilde, she stumbles upon a big conspiracy involving someone high up the Zootopia administration and who was trying to wrangle power.

Zootopia is a city where all animals, predators and prey, live together in harmony. The population is made up of prey, who are the majority (90%), and predators, who are the minority (10%).

The villain manipulates the citizens of Zootopia, stirring up fear among the prey population by creating a false scenario that the predators are returning to their savage ways, thus becoming a threat to the weaker and vulnerable prey.

I am sure that many would agree with me when I say that Malaysians are all too familiar with the politics of fear, similar to that which is depicted in “Zootopia”.

The people have been constantly reminded that if we were to ever disrupt the fine balance between the races that exist in Malaysia, violence could occur again like it did on May 13, 1969.

It’s true that we have to always be mindful of history in order to learn from past mistakes and not repeat it. But to use racial tension and strife as a fear mongering tool among the rakyat is wrong.

And now, we are facing another form of fear mongering in the way of pressure applied on the country’s fourth estate – the media.

The latest victim is The Malaysian Insider, to which access from local Internet service providers has been ordered blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), over an article that was considered critical of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The blocking of access to the site happened even before any decision or ruling was made to determine if the article concerned was false and defamatory.

Before this, we saw the Home Ministry suspend print publications The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily, apparently because they ran big expose stories that were critical of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy.

Although the High Court eventually revoked the ministry’s decision, the damage had been done. The Edge suffered from the suspension with the loss of revenue over two whole months affecting the financial health of the publisher, even leading to some downsizing in personnel numbers, as reported.

Throughout the years, we have seen intimidation tactics from the authorities, such as interrogations and detentions, against journalists who are just doing their job.

Back to the movie, of course, it ends with the good guys, Hopps and Wilde, uncovering the plot and revealing the identity of the villain, who is sent behind bars. All of Zootopia can now live happily ever after.

My eldest daughter, who will be turning five soon, learnt an important moral lesson and she actually said to me, “Everyone is the same and it doesn’t matter if you’re a fox or a rabbit. Right pops?”.

My second daughter is only six months old. She was happy just looking at bright colours jumping on the screen and enjoying the catchy music that she could shake to.

Jokes aside, what about in real life? Will Malaysia ever become the Utopia that we so hopefully wish for?

I don’t know. But I really pray that it will be, come the time my daughters start to live their lives as young adults.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Watch how my kids reacted to watching Zootopia below:

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