“Paddington 2” takes this idea one step further, blaming not just British citizens for defending personal prejudices, but the whole policing institution of others in general. Instead of criticizing the inhumane treatment of prisoners (which would be quite incongruous with its PG rating), the film humanizes those behind bars – which includes our beloved little bear himself. Accused of stealing a rare ancient book from Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent), Paddington’s fate is sealed when the judge presiding over his case happens to be the same man he once gave a particularly bad haircut for. Sent to a cold, damp prison and separated from the Browns, Paddington is immediately made aware of the depressing state of his new surroundings. His fellow inmates are miserable, eat terrible food, and constantly fear for their safety.
Of course, Paddington’s undying sweetness cuts through the harsh environment. Before you know it, the prisoners are getting a steady stream of pink pastries to match their pink uniforms (a laundry accident on Paddington’s part that immediately brightens the place up) and having nighttime stories read to them by the warden. Obviously none of these people are “bad” – maybe like Paddington they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or had a prejudicial judge, or maybe they committed a crime out of pure despair. There is no context given as to why these men were incarcerated, which is a refreshing departure from most narratives surrounding those incarcerated. Instead of reducing these individuals to the crimes they committed or their status as “innocent” or “guilty”, we simply see their personalities – reinforcing the idea that incarcerated people are equally deserving of the autonomy of personality and personality than the rest of society. is automatically granted.
Paddington quickly befriends many of these inmates as soon as prison conditions are made infinitely more livable, but even his own family still casts a shadow of judgment on those relationships. Visiting Paddington to discuss the alleged dark figure who framed him, the Brown family hands some sketches to fellow bear inmates – an action met with immense disgust by Mr Brown, who freely spits hurtful rhetoric when he thinks he’s turned off the microphone, but has actually just flipped the switch for the light.
“These people can’t be trusted! I mean, look at them. Talk about a rogues gallery. Hideous. And as for that bearded baboon in the middle, he barely has two brain cells to rub together.”
Once he’s finished, the “bearded baboon” Knuckles (an amazing Brendan Gleeson) calmly replies, “We can still hear you, Mr. Brown.” Clearly embarrassed that his words fell on the ears of those he so cruelly mocked, it is evident that Mr Brown gave himself a jolt – with the audience fully understanding that his baseless characterization of these men could not be farther from the truth. For many prisoners, the complexities of their inner life are reduced to their prisoner status, which means that society bases their value only on their “guilt”, never on their humanity.
The similarities between the first two films are rooted in this idea of surveillance as a tool of colonial power – whether keeping Paddington behind museum glass or prison bars, he is separated from society so that his “otherness” does not conflict with British cultural uniformity. Yet what the film makes clear is that everyone who interacts with Paddington fare better, mostly because the kindness he bestows on everyone spreads kindness back. According to this logic, baselessly hating someone because of their difference will only spread malice and distrust within a community.