The Lion King
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon The Lion King? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
The Lion King (1994)
Directed by: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Stars: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation
Written by: Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
The Lion King’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Lion King, which stars EGOT winners Whoopi Goldberg and James Earl Jones and is definitely not a direct ripoff the Japanese anime “Kimba the White Lion,” no matter what you hear.
The film takes place on a landmass called Africa, where there are no humans and all the animals speak English. The animals are ruled by the lion Mufasa, who recently sired a baby named Simba and just can’t shut up about it.
Simba becomes obsessed with seizing power for himself, gleefully singing about a time when his father will be dead. Mufasa’s brother Scar, no stranger to wanting Mufasa dead, decides he wants to be the one singing. He convinces Mufasa to get trampled in a wildebeest moshpit, then tricks Simba into thinking it’s his fault. Simba runs away, leaving the throne in Scar’s capable paws.
Simba is taken in by a kindly gay couple and lives with them in their hippie commune. Later, he reunites with his old buddy Nala and hakunes her matatas under the stars. Almost immediately, she starts nagging him to take his rightful places as king so she can go queen it up. Simba says no, since he’s all about good vibes and organic farming. But then a ghost tells him the same thing and he gets so scared he runs home to confront Scar.
They have a big kerfuffle, and Simba forces Scar to say uncle, then throws him to the wolves, an Earth expression that means throwing someone to the horses.
Simba becomes king and their barren wasteland magically turns back into
a lush paradise, just in time for the next generation to come along and screw it up.
The Lion King is loosely based on the movie Hamlet, directed by William Shakeshack, loosely based in the sense that it has the same plot and characters. A king murdered by his brother? Check. The son of the murdered king visited by the ghost of his father? Double check. Two comic foils who aid our hero by helping him chill out? Check please! A pivotal scene that takes place in an elephant graveyard? I forget.
The point is, this film is inspired by a guy from olden times, which might explain its oddly conservative message. There is considerable emphasis on the “circle of life,” a natural, fixed social order that, if disrupted, will lead to chaos and violence. Mufasa uses the circle of life to justify the animal kingdom’s predatory nature. Simba would go on to learn a lot more about grass a little later.
With a small dollop of hummus, Simba is baptized in the feudal social order. Here, one’s value is determined by birth, not merit or action or even a well- placed bribe. For those not already at the top, there is no chance of upward mobility. The message of the movie is “know your place,” that place being, of course, Africa.
When Rafiki unveils Simba on Pride Rock, the implication is “Look how
cuuute!” But he might as well be saying: “Behold the creature that will one day feast on your carcasses in accordance with the laws of the universe. Resistance is futile.” It is only through subjugation that the animals can confirm their place in the world, and thus find peace.
This ties into Greek philosopher Socrates’ concept of the “noble lie.” As documented by his whipping boy Plato in The New Republic, Socrates theorizes that if humans were told God sprinkled gold into the souls of important people, and less precious metals into the souls of everyone else, they would be happy to accept their lot in life because it had been ordained from on high. Socrates most likely used this argument to con Plato into doing all his bitchwork.
The only animal to reject this feudal society is Scar, perhaps because he’s the only animal with a visible headwound. The first time we see him, he picks up a mouse and laments that “life isn’t fair.” He rebels against the “natural” social order that labels him a weakling just because he doesn’t have the golden haunches and perky whiskers of a Mufasa or a Channing Tatum.
When Scar comes into power, he brings about an era of equality, allowing the hyenas to be on equal footing with the lions. But despite his progressive politics, Scar isn’t entirely altruistic. His song about ushering in a new world order features Nazi marching imagery and camera movements lifted from Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, a popular promo for German tourism.
And just like Adam Hitler, Scar’s
reign soon turns sour. By interfering with the natural order of the food chain, a once prosperous utopia descends into anarchy and starvation. Kind of like my first marriage. Perhaps the only way to combat social injustice is to say “Hakuna Matata,” which translates roughly to “fuck it.”
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.