This article contains spoilers for We Bare Bears: The Movie.
Back in 2016 just after the election of Donald Trump, We Bare Bears creator Daniel Chong posted a message about how the series is an allegory for what it feels like to be a minority in America. Many had questioned why the Bears in the series were treated so poorly and Chong answered, “as an Asian American, sometimes individuals are treated unfairly for no other reason than looking different.”
Chong admits that the allegory was “a little too heavy for an 11 minute (show.)” However, with the recent release of We Bare Bears: The Movie, Chong and the rest of the crew were finally given the time to tread deeper into what the show was really all about.
The film follows the Bears biggest stunt yet to try and fit in. They make an awful online video that knocks out power in the entire city which leads them to being jailed by law enforcement. The Bears escape but are pursued by a hateful agent, Trout, who’s obsessed with hunting the Bears down, putting them in cages, and deporting them. In the series the Bears simply met resistance trying to fit in but in the film they’re actively discriminated against and hunted down for no reason other than they’re Bears.
This may sound extremely topical to everything going on with police violence against Black people, and Chong is quick to clarify they weren’t and aren’t trying “to echo what’s exactly happening right now. What’s happening right now is a very specific and heavy thing that I would never want to make light of.”
Instead the film, developed years ago, drew not just on what was topical then (ICE, incarceration, and the separation of families) but the pain and intolerance of any minority that’s been discriminated against. Chong says this sort of intolerance “has been an ongoing problem that has not gone away. As much as we want these things to just go away, they’re always prevalent. Hatred and intolerance will always be in the fabric, unfortunately.”
This, sadly, made the movie’s exploration of the series’ allegory and deeper themes relevant no matter when it was released. Still, it was important that film explored these issues because Chong felt strongly, “this movie had to do with my experiences being a minority in America and what that feels like to try and fit in and feel out of place. (To) sometimes worry that people will say this isn’t your home.”
Chong used these real world feelings to propel the story and make what the Bears were feeling and experiences all the more impactful. “They were being told, we don’t want you here.”
This comes to a head towards the end of the film when Agent Trout is in a stand off confrontation with Grizz where he angrily spits out,
“You think you belong? That you can fit in with the rest of society? You are nothing but some filthy, mindless, beasts!”
However Grizz is able to get the upper hand, free his brothers, and then deliver this punch-the-air moment line,
“You’re doing all this because you’re afraid of what’s different, not because it’s right. And we’re not gonna stand for it.”
They lock Trout up in a cage and, desperate to assert his assumed authority, he yells,
“Nature has an order!”
To which Grizz responds,
“Nature adapts. Maybe you should too.”
It’s a hugely powerful scene. One that lets the message of the series finally come to the forefront and proudly shine brightly. The Bears, long a stand-in for minorities, directly address the hate of bigots and shut them down. You are not allowed to treat anyone like this just for being different. You’re the one who has to change. Not the people you hate.
We Bare Bears stands up for those who are oppressed, something that many in our world refuse to do. They often use political divide as an excuse but Chong deeply believes that the concept of wanting to be understood and accepted shouldn’t be hard to understand. It’s one anyone should be able to understand, minority or not.
“This is not a matter of politics,” he says. “We all have this primal urge to be understood and accepted. If we just understand that we’re all in the same boat, regardless, then my hope is that it will help people understand the idea that we shouldn’t be putting up these walls.”
And in the end that’s We Bare Bears’ ultimate message to humanity. We all want to fit in and belong so don’t mistreat someone just because they look different. If you can understand where these Bears are coming from you can understand that, as Chong stated in 2016, “we are as people not all that different from each other too.”