So it’s embarrassing to say this on the internet, because this movie made billions of dollars and was a box-office record holder for a long while. Everyone and their brother has seen it at least once, and they all have opinions about it. But I absolutely fucking love THE LION KING. People who know me are pretty sick of hearing me talk about it.
Most people will just bring up Hamlet or Kimba The White Lion when you praise THE LION KING, but it’s absolutely its own thing, made by a group of artists who were telling their own story, influenced by other things, like every other story ever told.
I think it functions pretty well as an allegory for being a failson, and what you’re supposed to do with yourself when you feel like this. It’s not entirely dissimilar to narrative threads you find in things like NEON GENESIS EVANGELION or THE LAST JEDI. I see THE LION KING as an aspirational narrative for all of us with daddy issues, dealing with Nazis.
Hang on, I’ll explain.
So Simba has the best dad in the world. His loving, wise and attentive father Mufasa explains – “being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble”. Little Simba is cocky and simple, privileged. He wants to be like his dad – although he’s going about it the wrong way. Then he runs into this asshole, Scar.
Scar isn’t really like other 90s Disney villains – there’s a reason people don’t love him like they do, say, Jafar or Ursula, and that’s because he’s not only just Saturday Morning High Camp Evil, he’s legit evil - someone who represents what we see in real villains today. He’s a manipulative, selfish, murderous motherfucker who weaponizes an army of followers to his cause with false promises. The movie isn’t subtle about this.
Scar kills Simba’s perfect father, right in front of him, and then convinces Simba that it’s his fault his father died. It shatters little Simba. Just like it would shatter any of us into pieces.
Scar can’t kill Simba himself –the lions back at Pride Rock that he intends to rule would never forgive him for something like that. It’s a political move, designed to take power without calling too much attention to your own machinations. What a dick.
He fails to kill him, though – because his dipshit Nazi followers can’t get the job done, and Simba runs away. He runs away – like any of us would - and lays down to die in the middle of the desert.
He gets rescued by what is probably the most loving gay couple in the history of Disney Feature Animation, Timon and Pumbaa. Queer people who will accept him no matter who he is, ask nothing of him. They just want his company, and they want to tell him it’s going to be OK. These are his new parents, his new family.
Christ. We should all be so lucky to have Timon and Pumbaa in our lives.
But Simba buys into their “who gives a shit, fuck it” ethos a little too much, and he grows a big beard, gets kinda fat, and tells everyone he meets about his daddy issues. He’s wallowing. This is wallowing.
Which is fine, for a while. You can do that for a while when you’re hurt. Hopefully, you can do it with your queer friends, people who empathize with you and accept your flaws. Which is what Timon and Pumbaa do.
But he has to go back. He can’t let this Nazi asshole win. His dad shows up again to let him know – you need to go back to work, Simba.
Remember who you are.
I raised you as best I could, and I know you hurt. I don’t blame you for that. But you have to pull your shit together, man – people are counting on you.
You follow old Rafiki, he knows the way. The past can hurt - but you can either run from it, or learn from it.
So Simba does. And what he does is – he gets the fuck over himself, he really does, and brings his lovely queer parents and his ex-girlfriend with him to kick some ass. Don’t mess with fat, depressed Simba and his new support network. He will fuck you Nazis up, no matter what you say.
Even when you try to make it seem like it’s still my fault. It’s not. I know that now, at long last.
So, the lesson is – people will fuck with you and there’s almost nothing you can do about it, except eventually get over yourself and fight back, hopefully with your friends and loved ones by your side. I think it’s a great allegory for our times, especially for depressed people who have been victimized and feel powerless.
You ever hear anyone yelling BUSA SIMBA BUSA SIMBA from the back of the theater, that’s almost certainly me.