Sly Fox or dumb bunny

A look into Fox stereotypes and where they come from

Why Foxes?

  • What inspired this project was the movie Zootopia (created by Disney in 2016) which questions, the many stereotypes animals have been given over the years. It brings up the stereotypes do to how prevalent they are in their society.
  • Mostly inspired by the character Nick Wilde

“Nick Wilde is a charming, small-time, con artist fox with a big mouth and a lot of opinions.” Why is he characterized as a con artist? Is i

Some questions I would like to ask Why is he characterized as a con artist? Is it believable? and why?

Are foxes doomed to be sly?

  • This scene from Zootopia shows an interaction between Nick wild (fox) and Judy Hopps (bunny) on what Zootopia is really like.
  • Click here for scene
  • Here demonstrates his sly and pessimistic nature and he briefly mentions why he is the way he is. Simply because he is labeled that way and he feels if people assume he is a certain way that he should abide by that expectation.

Scene in detail

  • Judy approaches Nick in the first place because she sees him a fox in an elephant ice cream shop essentially profiling him.
  • Judy herself feels like she was just hired to be an officer just as a “token” animal
  • Judy does not trust Nick even though he proves his innocence and contiues to persue him anyway
  • Judy already has a bias against foxes being bullied by one in her childhood and being given fox repellent by her parents
  • In this case, Judy could be seen as the viewer because she views foxes similarly to the viewers in this case given all the stereotypes surrounding them.

A history of being sly

  • Since foxes were first portrayed in stories/folklore they were often portrayed as deceitful creatures.
  • Aesop’s fables is a prime example of this with their story “The Fox and the Crow”
  • The fox persuades a crow to sing so that it drops food out of its mouth
  • Every folklore has a moral at the end of it and this stories moral was “To not listen to flattery”
Illustration from The Fox and The Crow
  • This started the stereotype that foxes were not to be trusted

The Importance of Aesop’s fables

  • Aesop’s Fables were made originally in the 15th and 16th century in Greece.
  • Long history of these stories and many re-tellings of each story they made came out of it
  • Some versions of “The Fox and The Crow” end in the other animal outwitting the fox because they knew of the foxes bad intentions.

Foxes in Philosophy

  • The fox has even been used for metaphors in philosophy with Isaiah Berlin’s The Fox and the Hedgehog.
  • This novel uses the animals to illustrate two different viewpoints in life.
  • The Hedgehog perspective views the world knowing a lot about one point of view.
  • While the fox perspective knows things from many points of view.
  • Objectively speaking knowing many things is better/makes you smarter than knowing one thing. Since people usually weigh intelligence by the amount of knowledge they have.
  • Which shows even in a philosophy perspective the fox is perceived as more cunning and witty.

A Fox vigilante?

  • Disney has a history of perpetuating fox stereotypes
  • In 1973 Disney made a movie which was a re-imagination of Robin Hood where a fox plays Robin the main character.
  • The main premise of Robin Hood is the same,however the character is boastful and resorts to a lot of tricks in order to rob the king.
  • He deliberately plays pranks on the king and humiliates him for his own enjoyment. The fact that they chose a fox to portray a vigilante taking justice into his own hands is telling on what they think of foxes. Saying that a fox is a believable animal to play such a role.
Robin Hood Disney adaptation

The Fox and The Hound

  • Disney decided to take another crack at fox personification in the 1981 film The Fox and The Hound.
  • This movie is about two childhood friends (a fox and a puppy) that after growing up have two contradictory lifestyles. This ultimately leads to them being enemies as adults.
  • The dog grows up to be a hunting dog.
  • The fox after being taken in as a pup was re-released back into the wild to fend for himself.
  • In the end after meeting in adulthood the dog/hound decided not to hunt and kill the fox and instead lets him live in peace in the wild.
  • Something to point out is that the fox somewhat the victim in this story and for once did not have control over his own fate.
Fox and The Hound

Foxes are pests

  • Fast forward 30+ years in real life (2013) and in Britain they are seen as pests.
  • 30,000 it is predicted to be living and roaming around Britain
  • The foxes destroy people’s backyards and kill their livestock mainly chickens.
  • Most resort to their own methods by putting up fences and other deterrents or even taking their own guns to kill them themselves.
  • Here is a quote from someone dealing with foxes as pests “The fox has always been demonized. But some people do like them, so we’re persuading them to disappear from where they’re not wanted and go where they are.” Terry Woods (Pest Controller)

Animals and Society

  • Margo DeMello dives into the issue of personifying animals and on how it may impact our view on them in reality.
  • She justifies it by saying they are using animals as a “Stand in for humans” also that they are representing “Symbolic behaviours of humans for thousands of years.” Animals as Society,Margo DeMello.p.326 ch 16
  • Due to our personification of the animal if an animal is given negative traits or characteristics we might then view them the same or similar to how we view “bad people”.
  • It seems the fox has suffered this being labeled a “bad animal” in all the examples I have listed or at least an untrustworthy one.

Foxes in Brands

  • There aren’t many brands that use a fox as there mascot probably in fear that there brand will represent a product that is un trustworthy
  • A product that is not what it seems or you can’t take it at face value.
  • One of the few brands that uses a fox mascot is Mozilla Firefox
  • There slogan is “The browser reloaded” but it doesn’t seem to have stuck or have been very popular because even at the height of its popularity this slogan was not associated with the brand.
  • One of the other only well known brands that use a fox is CarFax
  • The slogan for this company is “Show me the carfax” which has somewhat stuck. In the commercial the fox ask’s a car dealership for the car fax or the previous history of the car.
  • Why I think this works is because it somewhat implements a characteristic that foxes have been associated with. That trait is being clever and smart.
  • This site came about due to the lack of knowledge on what exactly a carfax was or that the average person can get one. So the fact that the fox sheds light on something that is not common knowledge can be percieved as “fox like”.
  • Click here to see the commercial

Fox representation in the East

  • All my examples thus far have been examples on how foxes have been portrayed in media in the Western World
  • But now I would like to shift my attention to how foxes are represented in the East as it contradicts the stereotypes they have been given in the west
  • Kitsune is the word for fox in most Asian countries. It has also come to be the term for the mythical creature that is a “Fox spirit”
  • A “Fox spirit” is a spirit written about in Asian folklore. Often they come to aid and guide protagonists in these stories by using their mythical powers.
A Kitsune illistration
  • There are many rules on what Kistune are capable of and what they should or shouldn’t do
  • Some of which are:Attempting to trick a human is a killing offense, foxes and humans agree that humanity is a preferable state and that humans are superior to foxes,Foxes cannot physically harm humans.
  • These rules are telling of how these creatures are viewed in this society.
  • There is a mutual respect for these creatures since they have these rules. Both agree that humans superior to foxes. However, foxes admire humans and their humanity.
  • Fox spirits even have a hierarchy where Kitsune that are prone to trickery including tricking humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy. The highest on the hierarchy are those with the highest intelligence. With that intelligence they provide the most wisdom and guidance for humans.
  • Fox spirits have a very clear and defined role in Eastern culture which makes it easier to tell how this society feels about foxes in general. I would say due to fox spirits that foxes in real life overall are viewed in a positive light.

In conclusion

There is a reason a fox wont be seen as a cereal mascot anytime soon. As it stands now for the reasons listed above in the west foxes are viewed un-trustworthy or even as pests. Since we view them in such a manor we just see them as just another animal and we aren’t even able to form strong opinions on them. All in all, I feel as though given the many forms of media the fox has been represented in has lead as to paint it in an overall negative light. From Aesop’s fables to currently in films such as Zootopia the fox hasn’t seemed to have changed much in the public eye. As opposed to the East where they hold foxes in a high regard because of their importance to folklore. The fox is deeply embedded in Eastern culture with a clearly defined role within it which makes people more inclined to have an opinion on foxes. As a result, of its importance and clearly defined role in the East it is viewed much more positively.

Reading response connections

Many of the metaphors and theories that this project is created under has come from the work of Margo DeMello and her novel “Animals and Society” She speaks on the ways in which animal representation in media works. There are two types of ways to represent animals in media one being representing them as they are which is an animal. The other way is to use an animal as a stand in for a human giving them more human like characteristics. This is called personification. The same way they represent the fox in Aesop’s fables is an example of personification. However, representing them like this could be problematic. As previously stated portraying like this has overall given foxes a negative connotation in media. Personifying them like this has made people who consume this media hold these animals to a human like standard. So we see foxes more as untrustworthy humans rather than untrustworthy animals. Stripping a character down to only tropes and stereotypes in media can be described as “camp”. This term is referenced in Claire Malloy’s novel “Popular Media and Animals” and was coined by Susan Sontag. After the first initial portrayal of foxes in media which I site as Aesop’s fables when other portrayals use the same archetypes it becomes a stereotype. Zootopia making Nick Wilde a con artist and all around shifty person at first glance could be defined as a campy interpretation of a fox. Both of these things are what the fox in media becomes a victim of.


“FAQ on Fox Spirits.” Frequently Asked Questions About Fox Spirits. N.p., n.d. Web. May 2017.

“The Unwritten Rules of Fox Spirits.” The Unwritten Rules of Fox Spirits — Kitsune, Kumiho, Huli Jing, Fox. N.p., Oct. 2005. Web. May 2017.

Berlin, Isaiah. “Hedgehog Or Fox?” The Driving Force Of The Market (n.d.): 180–202. Web.

Aesop. “Short Stories: The Fox and The Crow by Aesop.” East of the Web. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2017.

Berlin, Isaiah. “The Fox and the Hedgehog.” The Fox and the Hedgehog. Simon and Schuster, 1953. Web. Apr. 2017.

Horgan, John. “Aesop’s Fables.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 8 Mar. 2014. Web. Apr. 2017.

Animals as Society,Margo DeMello.p.326 ch 16

“Robin Hood / Disney.” TV Tropes. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2017.

“The Fox and the Hound.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. Apr. 2017.

Stevens, Christopher. “A New Documentary Reveals How Britain’s Urban Foxes Have Divided the Nation.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 18 Oct. 2013. Web. Apr. 2017.