I assume you’re familiar with The Lion King. If you’re not, I demand you go watch it right now to refresh your memory. Anyway:
Besides the basic story and the Hamlet references, I believe that The Lion King is actually a pro-authoritarian government propaganda film. It is obvious that the movie is promoting a purely lion government, and it cleverly convinces the viewer that this is the noble and proper way of things. It uses a biased (pro-lion, anti-anything else) portrayal of the savannah society to instill the viewer with the idea that lions are the only ones fit to rule and that they are simply a superior animal.
Mufasa is depicted as the perfect king: strong, wise, loving, nurturing. He embodies the ideal of the enlightened despot almost exactly by leading with confidence, but the with the best interests of his subjects at heart. Mufasa is designed to be loved and respected by the viewer, but he is not as pure as the viewer is led to believe. Unfortunately, his benevolence is only directed at one group of subjects: those who revere him and completely respect his authority. As Mufasa berates Scar for not attending Simba’s birth ceremony, he is primarily concerned with it being improper as Simba is son of the King. He seems less concerned with the fact that Scar didn’t see his own nephew than the fact that Scar is a smudge on the royal family’s image.
The Circle of Life narrative is also used to give credibility to the lion regime. The film begins with a song by that title playing over images of beautiful scenery paired with animals congregating en masse. This gives the viewer a sense of the power and nobility of nature. Later on in the film, Mufasa further explains the idea of the Circle of Life in the scene where he is bonding and exploring with his son. In the scene he unhesitatingly explains that the natural way of life is with lions on the top. Pairing that with the powerful imagery the phrase Circle of Life reminds the viewer of with the fact that Mufasa is depicted as a father figure in this scene allows the film to blatantly state that this cycle of monarchy is not only a good system, but the right and only system.
Unfortunately, this explanation of life in the savannah is extremely simplified. Mufasa says antelope eat grass, lions eat antelope, then lions die and help the grass, showing he either has only a basic understanding of the food chain, or he is deliberately ignoring its complexity, because he completely leaves out any predators that aren’t themselves lions, and any herbivores that aren’t directly linked to the lions. It could be said that he only mentions a portion of the food chain because it is the only part that would concern a lion, but that argument would ignore the fact that as king of all animals, it is his duty to not limit his vision to just one animal, just one caste of society.
By ignoring the other animals and only focusing on the lions (who have an excellent standard of living), The Lion King only shows the best parts of their world, an ideal society. For lions. That means a great life for lions and servants to the lions like Zazoo, but not so for the rest of the savannah. The masses of other animals are nameless and without voice in this oligarchy. Which leads us back to the other predators, the hyenas.
Many hyenas are shown in the film, which shows that surely hyenas are common in Mufasa’s kingdom, but they live in a volcanic, shadowy wasteland where food is scarce and they are starving. Obviously this is not the home they would choose for themselves, so either they’re territory has been encroached upon by the lion kingdom, or they were evicted and forced to live in this ghetto like reserve. If The Lion King is taken as truth, the hyenas are ruthless, savage and dumb, but if one is willing to question the film’s credibility, the hyenas can easily be interpreted as an exaggerated depiction of all the fears and stereotypes a noble class would have for the poor. It reinforces the idea that the poor are useless. The hyenas and lions are separated by being different species, and thus the film shows that the rich and poor are (and should be) distinct from one another.
The character of Scar is used to show that mixing between species is a recipe for disaster. Not only is the only lion willing to degrade himself to talk to the poor hyenas also depicted as blatantly evil (Scar is a murdering and power hungry, and if you take the Broadway musical as canon also a lustful and maniacal, beast), when the hyenas try to fight for their right to hunt and eat they utterly destroy the savannah. The hyenas causing that much damage is supposed to show again that only the lions could properly rule.
One must question the extent of the damage caused by Scar’s coup though. Simba is away from the Pridelands from his childhood until his sexual maturity, which translates to approximately two to three years of life under Scar. When Simba returns he finds his home is desolate and barren. As viewers we learn that because Scar has allowed the hyenas back, there is no more food. That means that in only two to three years, the entire area (“Everything the light touches”) has been stripped of all it’s resources and the once regal noble class of lions is now reduced to live in the squalor once reserved for the hyenas themselves, as shown by the now similarly shadowy landscape. That that much damage could be caused so quickly is almost ludicrous, as it is a complete change of the ecosystem. The fact that the lions are reduced to living with and like hyenas (and the fact that this is portrayed as inherently bad) only reinforces the value the film puts on class segregation. It was fine when it was only the hyenas, but when it happens to the lions, it’s a travesty.
Of course the damage is instantly cured upon Simba’s triumph over Scar. The recovery is also ludicrously rapid, with visible change happening within a minute of Scar’s death, and a full recovery complete in less than a year’s time when Simba’s daughter is born. This is a further strengthening of the motif of lions being close to nature, and the idea that the rich and powerful deserve their status more than those who do not have status themselves.
In concluson, The Lion King depicts lions (the noble class) as benevolent and deserving of their status and shows the hyenas (the lower class) as pitiful and wretched. This portrayal is possibly a deliberate promotion of monarchical rule and segregated society because it does not consider any other possible system as feasible. While this is not necessarily the true intention behind the Lion King, I think I have carefully explored it as a possible meaning. And I didn’t even touch on the religious aspects of the lion regime: The stars are dead kings? Mufasa’s ghost? “Everything the light touches”?
King Louis XVI would have adored The Lion King.
I wear a tie every day at work.
I can’t for the life of me figure out any knots besides this one.
And yes, I know it’s spelled tying.
Community is just about the funniest thing I know of, right next to Futurama. Here are pictures of the Dean in funny outfits.
hey I just met you
and this is crazy
but the prime directive prevents me from intervening in the events of your planet even if it means you and your people will be slaughtered
send me a distress signal maybe
In general, celebrity worship is pretty frivolous, but I’m in love with Patrick Stewart for only the most wholesome reasons. Here are some things that Patrick Stewart is:
Someone once said to me that watching Star Trek: The Next Generation was absurd because Patrick Stewart is such a strong actor it’s like while everyone is running around playing pretend, he is truly being Captain Picard.
I saw him speak recently at a comic convention, and he told the story of how he felt when he was knighted. In relation to my life that’s pretty trivial, but he was so rooted in what he was saying, and he put so much care into what he was saying that the story became absolutely riveting, and I saw it bring people to tears.
He does not flaunt his success, it’s as simple as that. To see him discussing how proud he is of his son, or how happy he is to just perform his craft is beautiful. And he’s willing to have fun, telling stories about being bald, and of course, his performance on Extras.
Patrick Stewart is outspoken about his beliefs and what is right. This video is the best expression of both this and his passion, better than anything I could say.