be prepared mofo

To respond to another post of Benjamin Studebaker’s, I think this post about why Scar is actually the good guy in The Lion King is one half exactly clever enough and one half too clever by half (so 1.25*optimal clever, I guess). Part of this rests on fudging the gap between the literal and metaphorical in the representation of characters in Disney movies, something easy to do since Disney movies themselves do the same thing, in the case of The Lion King especially. Because while the characters have different abilities and qualities tethered to their specific animal representations at different times, they are all fundamentally representing humans and are meant to be understood as such. Sometimes that very “gap” between the character’s appearance and their human-ness is exploited for humor. This is why calling the Mufasa-Simba dynasty “speciest” is confusing, since the movie itself is both confusing and confused on this point. The creatures themselves are simultaneously all human while all also being savannah creatures with roles in the lifecycle of the savannah. In terms of the former, discrimination seems arbitrary; in terms of the latter, rigid egalitarianism seems absurd and arbitrary. In our own society, many people with different ideologies and methods believe in extending greater rights, privileges, and protection to non-human animals, but nobody (as far as I know) thinks dogs should vote. I love my basset hound but I don’t think he can exercise the franchise in a meaningful way and nor does a society that is just to dogs and cows need to accommodate such a right for them.

Secondly and more narrowly, Scar’s regime is depicted as objectively bad, with food and bright colors scarce, though it’s not clear whether this is due to mismanagement by the regime or environmental randomness (though one might be inclined to take the latter as the judgment of higher forces on the Scar regime, if one were inclined to take those kinds of things those kinds of ways).

To wrap this up, the reason the original post is too clever by half  is that it’s really easy to make the obvious point that The Lion King, like pretty much the entire Disney full-length animated canon, is extremely conservative in its explicit belief that not only is the overall system of governance good but so is the specific regime in power. While more recent Disney movies have attempted with varying degrees of success to embrace gender egalitarianism and non-Western cultures, it’s not like any Disney movie ends in the monarch being supplanted by a democratic republic. Now that would be a great movie. The real trick of The Lion King is that it leverages the confusion between human and animal to the fact that the story is essentially arguing for the divine right of the Mufastan dynasty to rule without any underlying values to justify that position other than status quo uber alles. That doesn’t require a value judgment on the Scar regime per se, which seems largely to exist to satisfy Scar’s resentments and provide benefits to the out-faction he recruited to support his coup.

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