July 02, 2013

Horse 1506 - More Thoughts On "The Lion King"

In Horse 1232, I suggested that the real villan of Disney's animated film "The Lion King" is Nala, who through lying and manipulation was able to justify regicide.
It occurred to me though that the society in "The Lion King" must be some sort of authoritarian regime and is probably in all likelihood, not a nice kingdom in which to live.

The opening of the picture starts with the birth and presentation of the future heir Simba to the kingdom by  King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi. There is however never a suggestion as to how they got their power and why they should have any right to be the ruling family.
I assume (as is they way with most authoritarian regimes) that power was assumed at some stage by force. Unlike power in a democracy, where the people and the parliaments are bound by a compact, where parliaments derive their source of power from the people, in The Lion King, executive power rests in the person of the king. The only mechanism which is explored in the film as to how that  executive power can possibly be transferred is either by a hereditary line or through direct conquest (the latter occurs twice).

In some respects I find the idea of the executive of the nation being handed down via hereditary means as illogical as the idea of an hereditary judiciary or an hereditary playwright. Granted that someone who is born into a family of a particular trade, quite often is very well suited to carrying on that trade because they will have learnt it from a very young age and there is an argument to be made that a family business should be carried on to provide a means of subsistence for that family but when you speak of  the executive of the nation being handed down via hereditary means, it reduces the nation itself to something akin to chattel; something which can be bought, sold, fought over and won.
If a citizenry is held by its leaders to be their chattel, then eventually at some point, they will be treated as such. If the evidence is to be believed that under King Scar that the kingdom is a wasteland which is running out of food and water, then we can assume that it probably also murders dissidents and executes people who try to leave the country. There isn't however any evidence which supports the case that life is any different under King Mufasa or Simba save for what we're told; since the story is primarily about one family, they're more unlikely to portray themselves as bad.

It's all very well I suppose that the film is framed around a struggle by a protagonist who has lost what should be his and then fights to retrieve it (that's a classic narrative) but the fact that both the protagonist and antagonist are both lions, says little about anyone else (that is, zebras, elephants, hippos, giraffes, birds etc.) in the film.
Scar's hyenas whilst they might appear "evil" are in effect only operatives; working under the rule of someone else and in this case, of pain of death. We as the people being told the story, are not supposed to feel sorry for them, even though they're just as subjugated as any other non-lion in the film. There are of course precedents to historical bias right through history, going tight back to Herodotus who painted the Persians in scathing terms despite the Persians allowing a far greater degree of religious freedom and autonomy to their conquered foes, than the Greeks who wrote about them. In this respect, maybe The Lion King is a piece of revisionist lion history; perpetrated by lions whose philosophy is 'might makes right'.

At its bare bones, the story is basically one of one rival autocracy replacing another and ending with the offspring of  the first rival autocracy replacing the second. It's undemocratic, more than likely oppressive and dare I suggest, unreliable as a factual narrative within its own universe. Maybe the narrative is told the way it is because the reality of life in a despotic-lion kingdom is terrible and this truly is a propaganda film.

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