Do you know The Lion King came out in 1994? Yeah. 23 years old and still an enduring favourite among Disney fans (according to a totally unscientific straw poll of my friends). I watched it again recently and – quelle suprise – I have some questions and comments. So, let’s dive right in, shall we?
The life lesson we learn from this beloved classic is broadly, “Look inside yourself, find out who you are and you’ll find your place.” Which, fine, but here’s how that lesson is taught via this beastly parable:
We’ve got Simba, who is the son of Mufasa, who is king of the Pridelands presumably by dint of being the Lion voted most likely to be voiced by James Earl Jones at Lion Community College. Simba is his heir, presumably because Mufasa likes Serabi the most out of his COUNTLESS lioness courtesans. So, when Mufasa dies and his scheming (and inexplicably English-accented) bro, Scar convinces Simba it’s his fault, Simba runs away and Pride Rock is left without its true-born heir.
So, Simba slopes off to live the good life, existing on denial and a slimy-yet-satisfying, totally-paleo bug diet, until shit gets so bad at Pride Rock that his childhood playmate Nala has to come and find him (spoiler alert: she got hot), followed closely by wise-baboon-in-chief Rafiki (sidenote: why does Rafiki have a Caribbean accent? We in Africa, bro!) They’re both like, “Yo Simba! You’re the rightful king, so, like, get your shit together, come and be king, and fix this shit. Cuz… you should be king”, despite Simba’s having never ever had any practice or diplomatic training or shown any actual aptitude for kinging. In fact, the only insight we get into his plans for his reign goes like this: “free to run around all day, free to do it all my way”.
No one cares about his hitherto flagrant disregard for the democratic process, though. Basically, it’s: you’ll be good at this because you were born to do it.
Which is confusing, DISNEY. I thought the deal was, “if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want”. See: Mulan – she had to prove her worth, and Aladdin too – he gets to marry Jasmine and be a prince in the end only because, thanks to his ingenuity and street smarts, he saves the day. Usually, in the “it’s what’s inside that counts” narrative, the protagonists discover their inner qualities or actually learn some skills (imagine!). But Simba just gets a free pass because he is the heir and because one time, Mufasa gave him a very rudimentary lesson about grass and shit, and then one other time appeared in a cloud and told him to “get it the fuck together, man”.
Basically, this movie is way more about the divine right of kings than it is about the circle of life. That’s all. Soz not soz for the rant. Which of your childhood faves shall I spoil next?
This is not the first side-eyeing I’ve given Disney. To read my thoughts on which of the princess’ stories are NOT corrosive for the young soul (hint: not many!), click here. As always, do weigh in.