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Psychology and the Movies is all about the combination of what it means to be human and how this shows up in the movies as well as what can be learned from the most recent movies. Movies evoke emotion and are appealing to people for a reason and often times that reason is because it touches a part of our soul that we have either healed from and seen the benefits that have come out of struggle, or because we are still struggling. So while reading, sit back, relax, pop some popcorn, and enjoy!


I recently took my 6 year old son to see the movie Zootopia. Despite the political bias and agenda, there are a couple of psychology nuggets in this movie worth sharing. I’m sure there are more, these are the ones that stuck out to me the most.

Judy Hopps-

Judy Hopps is a character in the movie that is motivated to “go the distance” and be a “trier” in order to gain approval and love from others. She is told that she “shouldn’t” be a police officer because she has parents who struggle with the fear that their daughter may get hurt. This, then, results in Judy forming the belief that there are “bad guys” in the world and that she needs to keep herself and the world “safe” from them.
Judy has many great traits-she’s clever, she’s preventative, she works effectively and efficiently under pressure, and she believes that everybody has good in them and that we are all capable of being and doing anything that we want to be and do. Judy’s strengths make a difference in the lives of those around her and she ends up bringing restoration to her city because she doesn’t give up. She also has the ability to help others see that there is always hope and that they are capable.
Judy’s downfall-she seeks the approval of others and is motivated by others loving her. This is a downfall because Judy fails to realize that others don’t get to tell her that she’s worthy and deserving of love and that it’s not something we work for, but rather, we could do the “worst thing in the world” and still be worthy of the same amount of love in the same way as the biggest “saint” in the world. Judy fails to realize that regardless of being a “sinner” or a “saint” she’s still worthy of the same amount of love. Judy turns in her cop badge after she makes a mistake (is human) during a public speaking opportunity and those who choose to take offense end up in conflict. If Judy was motivated intrinsically she would have found no reason to give up because she would have realized her worth without being so effected by the disapproval of others. Judy also fears that others are out to hurt her because of her parents who parented from a place of fear. PARENTS, TAKE NOTE: PARENTING FROM A PLACE OF FEAR WILL RESULT IN YOUR CHILD INTERNALIZING THAT FEAR AND TAKING IT PERSONALLY. IT WILL HAVE AN EFFECT ON THEM. PARENT FROM A PLACE OF FAITH!
Judy learned that there is nothing wrong with being weak and that sometimes we need help and that we misjudge those who are willing to help. Typically, people find a lot of purpose in helping, we just have to ask.
Judy is often called a “dumb bunny” or a “cute bunny” and is effected by this and internalizes this. In these moments, Judy is allowing the subjective opinions of others to effect her and this is evident as she becomes reactive after statements such as these are made. Also, what’s wrong with being cute? Can one not be both cute and strong? I think so.

Nick Wilde-“The con artist “fox

Things to be learned from Nick- Basically, Nick is the guy who doesn’t believe in himself. He doesn’t believe he’s capable of taking care of himself or others in healthy or positive ways, so he secures himself and his stability through not being a completely honest salesman. Nick is great at networking and getting people to like him because it secures him a person who can help him out in a time of great need. Nick calls himself a “hustler”.
Nick’s Strengths: He’s great at recognizing danger. He keeps Judy safe in times where she’s assuming the best of others and he senses that others may take advantage of this. He also defends her and lets her know that she’s already “earned her badge” and that when people tell her to “take it off” its due to their own securities and not related to anything that she’s actually done wrong. Nick also carries Judy physically when she’s down and hurt and keeps her safe from those who may be out to hurt her. The irony of it all is that Nick, in the real world, is often perceived as “the dangerous one” when he’s the one who can spot danger and keeps others safe from it.
Nick’s downfalls-Nick has this downfall that can be exhausting to others if it falls into the hands of somebody who doesn’t understand personal responsibility. Nick has the downfall of needing validation from others. Nick struggles with needing others to believe in him in order to conclude that he’s good enough. He doesn’t realize that he’s human, Judy is human, we’re all human, and therefore we are all just as capable as the person sitting next to us. Nick isn’t intrinsically motivated to do good, he chases after the “attaboy” instead of giving it to himself. The other downfall is that Nick assumes that others don’t see that he’s a good guy. He assumes that when people look at him they see a “scavenger” and therefore he has to manipulate and hide himself from others or he may get caught. Nick fails to recognize for himself that we are all both “sinners and saints” we all make mistakes, and that this doesn’t change our value. Nick was accused of being a liar and a manipulator at a very young age at times of just trying to help others and this created within him the thought, “no matter what I do I’m not good enough, so why try”. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, judge away, it’s human nature to analyze, but dig a little deeper. The outsides never fully reveal what is inside of a person.
Both characters, when in a healthy state of mind, work great together as a team. When they are both dependent on each other without first realizing their worth, purpose and their value, they are exhausting and overwhelming. Sound familiar? Sounds like the pattern that most couples get stuck in while doing relationship.
We are all human, we are all different, we are all loved, we are all capable, we all have weakness, we are all sinners, we are all saints, we all have purpose, and we all matter. There is no hierarchy. If the whole world saw the movie Zootopia and the whole world took away this message, the world would be a much healthier place to live, and I’d be out of a job!

(Oh, and also, when we are in situations with people who act like a sloth, our impatience only causes the situation to last longer because sloths are trying to take life one minute at a time and enjoy it. Slow down, breathe, it’s going to be okay!)

Until next time,

Amber Fuller, LMFT


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