In 1994 Disney released The Lion King, their most successful animated feature to date. In 2000, George W. Bush was elected president of the United States. Care to come down the rabbit hole with me?
I realize that what I did to Gaston and the Beast may have upset a few of y’all, so I’ll preemptively say that Scar is the bad guy. I am not arguing this. Instead, the question we’re asking today is, why? Why make a character so objectively evil that his very name cues the audience to think about British sarcasm and green smoke? And the answer today isn’t Shakespearean, believe it or not. It’s Republican.
The facts are these: Yes, Scar kills Mufasa in a dastardly plot to become king. Again— bad guy, not arguing. Oft forgotten, however, is the other crucial element to said dastardly plot, as in the hyena constituency that imposes Scar’s seizure power immediately after the Mufasa memorial service. But if you remember the scene before all that goes down, when Scar is planning- excuse me, singing out all the aforementioned dastardliness, then you’ll remember the single promise he made which gained him his entire following: “stick with me and you’ll never go hungry again.”
How messed up does a society have to be that the only catalyst necessary for a revolution is the promise of eats? Well I’ll tell you, rhetorically outraged inquirer— messed up enough that father/son time on Pride Rock is spent teaching Simba that his kingly responsibilities involve the segregation of an entire species.
Now that we’re talking about Simba (you know, because this is a completely authentic conversation and not at all being directed toward an obscure point), let’s talk about Simba. Actually let’s talk about George Bush. You see, the year 1994 saw both the release of The Lion King as well as the second full year of Bill Clinton as president of the United States. Clinton won the election in 1992 after beating out incumbent George H. W. Bush (father of the man we’re interested in) on promises of economic reform involving wealth distribution and health care to the working class at the expense of the wealthy. In 2001 Clinton was impeached and replaced by George W. Bush (son of above mentioned man) who had spent several years of his earlier life basically being an alcoholic in a controversial and secret society. In other words, the political scene which paralleled the release of The Lion King involved a father “dethroned” and a “kingdom” taken over by a smooth-talking challenger promising wealth to society’s lower classes who is then removed and replaced by the prodigal son of the previous “king”. That’s right, George W. Bush is Simba. Which makes The Lion King not only eerily predictive of its political decade, but also nothing more than right-wing propaganda.
Just think about what this movie is actually saying! For starters, apparently if your political platform involves knocking the elite down a few pegs in order to help out your lower-class following, you’re the bad guy. And if you actually follow through with your plan, it will fail and everyone will starve and it won’t rain for, like, 20 years. And the only way to make everybody happy again and bring the rain back is to once again segregate the ambiguously ethnic members of society into their government-issued elephant bone housing where they will once again starve, out of sight and out of mind, while the wealthy-made-wealthy-again enjoy the wealthy wealthiness of wealthy right wing Americ— er, Pride Rock. Because that’s where the movie takes place. I know that.