Philosophy Friday

Continuing our Zootopia contemplations from Tuesday (click to read part 1) on the profound moments of transformation…

Nick, in that moment under the bridge, chooses to join the ZPD. It embodies everything he wants to be as a Junior Ranger: Be loyal. Be helpful. Be available to others.

Judy, however, also makes a choice. It’s one that is less obvious, from the outside, for she too chooses to join the ZPD. It isn’t, however, that she simply chooses to re-join the ZPD – she is choosing, for the first time, as an adult, to be an officer.

Since the day Gideon attacked Judy and belittled her dreams, Judy was determined. No matter what, she was going to join the police. She had made a decision: “I will show them. I will become the first policerabbit, and everyone will be proud and excited and awed.” That decision gave her drive, it gave her tenacity, it pushed her onward when everything (including herself) was in the toilet. But it gave her no freedom. It was not a possibility, it was a position. Her identity was forged around it.

She would become a member of the ZPD to prove Gideon wrong.

She wasn’t in it for herself. It originated from her childhood dream, yes, but after the fairground scuffle it became about Gideon, about her parents, about the views of the world. Even if she had succeeded, there would be little satisfaction from it. That it wasn’t turning out as she’d hoped, that not everyone was cheering her parade, hit her really hard.

The scene where Judy turns in her badge is heart wrenching. It’s a beautiful, artistically speaking, with a soft voice delivered with unimaginable depth by Ginnifer Goodwin, but for Judy it is the crushing end of her dream. Her whole identity crumbles beneath her, and her listlessness back home shows how much she’s lost her sense of who she is.

And then… she meets the adult Gideon, and the magic we explored on Tuesday begins. By the time she is on the other side of the bridge, hugging Nick, she’s at her point of inflection. As painful as the ordeal has been, it has provided her with an opportunity. Gideon’s apology, and her forgiveness, cleared away her decision. She no longer is driven to prove him wrong. Her apology, and Nick’s forgiveness, lets her know she has someone who has her back. She no longer has to be independent. She is given a clean slate. She doesn’t HAVE to be a policerabbit, she doesn’t have to prove herself. She’s free to choose.

In that moment, the authentic part of her chooses, and she, for the first time, as an adult, chooses to be an officer. Being an officer is totally in line with who she always wanted to be: loyal, helpful, and available to others.

Someone once shared with me a story about a triathlete, who had been a long-time competitor. She did the things a triathlete would do: she trained diligently every morning, she entered several races every year, she tracked her progress, and in the end she was quite successful in races. Being a triathlete was her thing. She told people she loved it.

One day though, she saw, for herself, what had her be so ambitious and so single-minded when it came to triathlons. Many, many years ago, through circumstances that involved her father, she had made a decision about herself and about being a triathlete. She remembered that she had started training soon thereafter, and how quickly it had grown to the prominent place it now held in her life. How all encompassing it had become. The memory was vivid. But as she sat there, in that moment of insight and clarity, she put aside her decision a clearing appeared. She had a choice: to swim/bike/run, or not to swim/bike/run.

She chose to be a triathlete.

It may seem like there’s no switch there, or that it was the easy choice, but what was amazing for her was, as she put it, her sense of life. For the first time she enjoyed the training, the competitions, in a way that she never knew was possible. She enjoyed the whole world of being a triathlete in a way that she hadn’t realized before how much that she hadn’t been enjoying it. To the outside observer, nothing seems to have changed , but for her, the whole world had shifted. She felt fulfilled. She got to express herself fully through the act of the triathlon. And her performance elevated rapidly.

That’s what Judy got. She got to choose to be an officer, and though it looks the same as the decision she made as a kit, it’s not. She gets a level of fulfilment, of self expression, of flexibility, and of authentic engagement that was not available before.

When Judy and Nick sit on the same chair in the ZPD HQ, they’re happy not only because they’ve attained a goal they wanted in life, but because they are being who they want to be. Through their escapades they created clearings for themselves, chose new paths, and launched forth to pursue those paths.

Being an officer is the embodiment of who they, at their core, have created themselves to be.

officer hopps wilde

Click here for part three!

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