Saturday, June 24, 2006

Happy birthday Lion King

Disney's The Lion King turns twelve years old today. Initially a second-tier project to Pocahontas, TLK instead became the highest grossing animated film ever. It's been my favorite since I saw it in theaters at the ripe old age of ten, as my inchoate philosophy of life was beginning to coalesce. Besides a score that won Hans Zimmer an Academy Award for the Best Original Score in 1994 (here for the epic "King of Pride Rock" with angelic voice euphoria near the end), dazzling multi-layered animation constructed from meticulous study of animals from the Serengeti, and a complete lack of human characters to confuse the personifcation, the film promotes traditionalist/conservative values throughout. It didn't make NRO's list of the best conservative movies of all time (although said list came out the same year as TLK). I'd put it near the number one spot. I've only seen five of the eighty-plus movies on the list, but am confident a strong enough case can be made (with themes/beliefs in red and blue--virtually all traditonal/conservative themes have a positive effect while the leftist and post-modern ones lead to suffering) for TLK to at least come in ahead of Ghostbusters.

Order. The opening vignette is almost a tribute to Confucious. All creatures converge to give reverence, arriving and lining up in specific and complementary places. An acceptance of each one's proper place that evinces social harmony. The film concludes in the same way. It is the deviations from this understanding of social nature that cause all the trouble.

Disaster looms as it is revealed that Scar wishes to challenge the status quo. First, he rejects his obligations to the family by not attending Simba's birth. He, concerned with his own desires, has not elected to start a family of his own. Later, he wishes to create a new utopia that will incorporate pan-culturalism, including the hyenas. Ammoral through and through, Scar isn't convinced that the hyenas are incorrigibly bad news (though they are). Ultimately, Scar will be, like Judas, killed by the very devils he tried to court.

Mufasa sets absolute standards for his son, but the existential tempter Scar convinces Simba to break the rules (analogous to the second creation story). On his way to the forbidden graveyard, Simba laments having to work hard to become the next king. He likes the idea of living for himself ("No one saying do this/no one saying be there... I'm gonna do it all my way") without all the responsibility being a person of power demands. Giving credence to his own volition instead of adhering to the advice of those who have come before, Simba has his first multicultural experience in the hood. It would've gotten him killed if not for the intervention of the ultimate police enforcer, the patriarchal Mufasa.

Instead of gushing over Simba's safety, Mufasa takes a hardline parental stance. He rips into Simba's reckless experiantialism, pointing out the impact his personal decisions have on the well being of others, including those who were not physically threatened but cared about him and were troubled in that way. By accepting responsibilty and expressing remorse for his misdeeds (or sins), he is forgiven.

When the stampede occurs, Mufasa disregards his own safety to save his son. After Scar commits fratricide, the hyenas go after Simba but get tired of their work and return to merrymaking. This impulsivity will come back to bite them in the future.

After being taken in by Timon and Pumba, Simba lives an Epicureal dream. But his atomist lifestyle has dire consequences. When Nala finds him, he becomes cognizant of the terrible effects on society his dereliction of duty have had. It's not explicitly recognized, but we can infer that the pacifistic insouciance of "hakuna matata" would have led to, without Simba's chance appearance, Timon and Pumba being gobbled up by a ferocious outsider. With the aid of the priestal Rafiki, Simba decides to face his demons rather than rationalizing or embracing them.

Scar's centrally-controlled kingdom is collapsing. After Simba realizes it was Scar who killed Mufasa, he demands a confession of the truth. Scar tries a go at relativism ("Truth is in the eye of the beholder..."), but Simba demands veracity. As the battle ensues, Simba and Scar meet. Simba quixotically attempts to let Scar off the hook for murder. In return, Scar nearly kills him. It is finally capital punishment, at the hands of the evil ones Scar embraced, that finishes off the usurper. With order restored, the kingdom once again prospers.

I don't care about the party, I'm only going as far as my DVD rack tonight!


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