A Deeper Look at The Lion King

This blog is very dusty, it’s been a while since I’ve taken it up, but I suppose there are times we listen and times we speak. Today I’d love to speak.  I wrote a few years ago about my new goal of looking more deeply at the worldviews presented in entertainment and then unpacking those with my children at their level (see my blog Assessing Walt’s Worldview). If you do not care to assess things through a Christian worldview then this blog probably won’t interest you but if you do find my take below!

This morning we went to see The Lion King live action remake, or at least super realistic cgi remake. There are so many things I want to say about this movie. First, it was true to the original with minor updates and the visuals were stunning. Next, like the original there are elements of a pagan, naturalistic, mystic type philosophy scattered throughout, mostly centering on Rafiki however, they are not dominant. They are a great conversation starter along the lines of Greek mythology, the worship of false gods in the Bible or magic in books or movies. If you do not allow your child to watch Frozen or Mary Poppins or anything other than a strictly Christian worldview then this probably won’t be your cup of tea (like most every Disney movie).

If you are like me and look for movies with positive messages to discuss that outweigh the negative then you are on solid ground! Here are a few of the ideas that I feel merit discussion and highlighting with my children:

  • First, simply soak in the majesty of creation, there are some seriously breathtaking scenes that remind us what our Creator is truly capable of.
  • Mufasa’s assertion that a bad king looks for what he can take but a good king looks for what he can give. Hmmm, this sounds a lot like a servant leader, it is a noble idea to serve the greater good, your people, your family etc. It is also Biblical, Christ led through service and I can think of no higher example.
  • The Circle of Life, a perfect, orderly balance that seems to point to a perfect, orderly Designer. Timon and Pumba assert that life is a meaningless line so what you do in your line doesn’t affect anyone else but are soon forced to recant this and realize it can’t be entirely true. Most major characters recognize the Circle of Life and it’s balance.
  • Scar as the serpent voice. Scar does not tell Simba what to do, instead he forbids him to do what he shouldn’t, knowing it will make him want to do it. He twists situations and perceptions to make it seem like there is no option but disobedience, lying, cowardice, etc. What an accurate representation of some of the tactics Satan uses to trick us!
  • Tradition! It may seem new age when Rafiki tells Simba that Mufasa lives in him but it’s actually totally old school! In fact it’s downright classical! People are kept alive through tradition, or at least their memories are. Their impact is felt through the wisdom and knowledge they have passed on. There is nothing to scoff at in telling our children it is wise to heed the wisdom of those who went before them! In fact one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors, G.K. Chesterton says this: “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

Finally, in what I would say was the overarching theme for me: Purpose. There is a clear message that Simba has a purpose in life and that failing to fulfill it negatively affects him and countless others. It shows his attempts at a hedonistic lifestyle of doing the easy thing that feels good instead of the hard painful one that is right and it shows that for what it is: fun at a surface level but leaving him hollow and hurting on a deeper level. We witness the moments of sad wistfulness that nod toward his unfulfilled purpose always pulling at him.

The truth of having a purpose is this: Someone gives you purpose. A purpose must come from somewhere. That doesn’t seem like a big admission, but for a society that increasingly indicates we create our own meaning or chose our own destiny it is a refreshing admission. Simba only finds true joy (deep happiness not dependent on the cirumstance) when he fulfills his purpose by serving and leading his people. More importantly Simba didn’t get to chose his purpose, he didn’t get to create his destiny, he could only fulfill it. In a culture that tells kids they can be anything they want to be we need to be the voice saying, “No, you should be what God desires you to be”. Simba’s purpose was born in him as he was born into it, he could run from it and deny it but it was still his purpose the entire time and while he was not fulfilling it he could not be fulfilled himself. His joy (not temporary moments of happiness) came only through fulfilling that calling. I’d say that message is far more in line with Scripture than being anything you want!

I’m sure there are things I missed but in a first viewing these ideas stuck out as things to discuss further with my children as I try to model taking every thought captive even when it comes to media consumption! Hopefully this helps some of you who are trying to do the same!