Monday, June 1, 2015


Madagascar is a children's animated film. It centers around a lion, a zebra, a hippopotamus, and a giraffe. The film starts off with the main characters living in a New York Zoo. They are unexpectedly  shipped to Africa but along the way are shipwrecked in Madagascar. In this first movie, the lion is forcing his hunting instincts away and they are all wishing they were back at the zoo. In the second movie, while trying to leave Madagascar, they crash in Africa. There they meet more of their kind and the film ends with them living happily in Africa. All seems fine until the the third movie comes along. Here, they end up in Monte Carlo searching for the penguins in order to persuade them to leave for New York. However, their plans are interrupted by animal control who is trying to catch them. This begins a chase leading the animals to a traveling circus who take them in. By the end they realize they don't want to be trapped in cages at the zoo... but rather be in the circus.

This seems like such an innocent children's movie, but the message it's sending out is the complete opposite of what we are trying to unlearn. The animals are being depicted of actually being happy while captive in zoos and performing tricks for the entertainment of humans.


  1. You have quite a fascinating point! This is just one of the small ways society justifies our behavior towards animals. I know all of my little siblings love this movie. Little are they told to think about the true happiness behind the zoo and the animals. The fact that such a small amount people in our society see these pretty popular movies with no problem to animals speaks volume

  2. This also makes me think about how we tell ourselves that we humans are doing a service to other animals by keeping them locked up. The arguments that captive animals have longer lives, are safe from predation, get fed regularly, etc. are all supposed to be comforting to their captors. And most humans take those arguments at face value! Or they are taught them as children, like you pointed out in these movies. It is hard to confront the weakness of those arguments as we get older, or when it is brought to our attention in settings like this class. Hopefully, our class can confront the difficult realities, and help ask the rest of our human conspecifics to think critically about them as well!

    1. I think the hardest part about arguing with those assertion is just how ingrained they are in the culture. The fact that these movie exists and that the majority of people don't think twice about the premise shows how normalized things like zoos are. It is difficult for many people to even see that there is a legitimate discussion to be had about zoos and animal rights because our culture perpetuates the idea that these animals are here solely for human use.

  3. This is very interesting because i have younger siblings who love this movie so I just enjoy it with them. We only pay attention to the jokes and fun part yet what we are actually teaching the children is that we are doing whats best for the animals but in reality everyone knows an animals deserve their freedom. It is always hard to face the reality of how we treat these animals and how we make ourselves and in this case younger children believe its ok with simple ways like a fun movie to cover up how harsh the reality of it is.

  4. You draw up an interesting example of how animals are portrayed in the media, especially for a younger audience. I had never thought about the movie portraying the animals as anything but what they were, happy. As you watch it, you don't necessarily think, no that's wrong, these animals are captive and should be in their natural habitats.
    When we watched Dumbo in class, it was very evident that the animals did not live in the best conditions, while in Madagascar the animals are quite please with the way they live. It could be that with seventy years having past, and with animals awareness being a bigger issue than what it was back in the day, some groups might want to show that zoos and other organizations that hold animals are in fact safe with happy animals. The best way to display this is through a child's movie to enforce that idea from the beginning so they grow up and begin to believe that that is the normal behavior of an animals in captivity and that he/she is happy.
    If people are so scared of violence in movies influencing their children, why is the incorrect portrayal of animals any different? It doesn't necessarily display the truth, but rather what they want the public to believe.

  5. Humans create depictions of animals as happy in captivity so that they may feel more just about the current tradition of zoos and circus'. It would be against are intuition to lock away another human in a cage, unnatural to their original habitat they were meant to live in, however through through trickery in the form of propaganda we have brainwashed ourselves to feeling ok about animal captivity. If we were to step back and observe a movie like Madagascar as a piece of unfair propaganda maybe we could begin shifting our skewed mentality.

  6. This is not the first or only instance of non and human animals being portrayed as happy in captivity in children's movies. There are movies such as Home on the Range that show animals that are happy on a farm or even domestic animals that are happy such as 101 Dalmatians. However, there are also plenty of children's films that depict animals as very unhappy in captivity such as Chicken run. This mixed message that is sent to children only creates a further disconnect between humans and non human animals.