Kid Movies, Adult Thoughts: The Lion King

Over the last year and change Michelle and I have been introducing Connor to movies and visual media. Mostly Disney stuff (he LOVE Brave), which means that I’m re-watching many of these movies for the first time in years.

And some of them, when you think about it, are pretty messed up.

Consider The Lion King and the opening, “Circle of Life” bit. We get the opening as day breaks in Africa, the music begins. Animals are making their way to Pride Rock where Rafiki is there with King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi. Below Pride Rock you have all the animals of the savannah, waiting patiently for the presentation of Prince Simba. As the music swells Rafiki lifts Simba up into the air over the precipice, presenting him to the animals below (prompting my friend’s daughter to shout “YOU PUT THAT BABY DOWN, MONKEY!” the first time she saw it), who then all kneel before him.

Does anyone see anything kind of creepy about that?

I mean, in a world of talking, sentient animals, the whole circle of life thing takes on a particularly bent psychological nature making every predator into a murdering sociopath. And where do you draw the line between the king/subject and predator/prey relationships because apparently the prey animals of The Lion King reality are willing to hang out with their predator rulers, albeit while said predators are on the top of a very tall mound of rocks that the prey are at the bottom of? Simba’s best friends are a warthog and a meerkat who, when push comes to shove, I’m pretty sure he’d normally eat and the king’s advisor is a bird who wouldn’t even make a snack. Then there’s the whole scene later in the movie where Scar is complaining to the female lions that there’s no food and one of the lionesses explains that all of the other animals have left. Do you get scenes like the following?

SETTING, AFRICAN SAVANNAH
A group of antelope circle a watering hole, talking about their days and the struggles of providing for the herd in the frantic, hectic course of life as they drink water and relax.

Antelope One: So I says to him, “How’s it hanging, water buffalo?” and he says “Loose and slightly to the left!” Antelope One laughs rudely while the rest of his herd roll their eyes

Suddenly everyone goes still and stares behind Antelope One, who turns around and finds King Mufasa, Queen Sarabi, and the rest of the pride behind him. He kneels.

Antelope One: My king! I didn’t know you’d be here! How do you do?

Nothing but the wind through the tall grass responds from around Antelope One, whose face is turned to the ground. Slowly he looks up and finds he’s now alone at the waterhole, the other animals having vanished so quickly the dust has not yet settled from their flight, surrounded by a pride of lions. He looks up at Mufasa who, as Antelope One watches, licks his lips.

Antelope One swallows: This isn’t a social call, is it?

King Mufasa: Well, that depends on how you look at it. We did decide to come down for dinner. We wish to thank you for being a loyal subject.

Cue “The Circle of Life” as the shadows of the lion pride slowly cover Antelope One and the screen fades to black

Suddenly The Lion King has a much, much darker connotation to it, don’t you think?

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