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Lion King Analysis

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Disney's The Lion King has never represented a story about love, trust and personal growth; rather, the animated film documents the harsh stereotypes present in society. At least, that is what critic Margaret Lazarus would have you believe. Her article "All's Not Well in the Land of The Lion King" argues that the movie employs powerful metaphors to misguide and misinform the young audience, citing that "millions of other children [a]re given hidden messages that can only do them and - us -- harm" (Lazarus 2). Furthermore, Lazarus suggests that Disney purposely uses "bigoted images and attitudes . . . to represent the metaphor for society that originated in the minds of [its] creators" (1). However, her claim lacks strength because children are unable to interpret the sophisticated aspects of the film - they cannot come to terms with what homosexuality and racism mean. Although Lazarus presents a thorough analysis, her argument is not structurally sound because she ignores the intended audience for The Lion King, and in doing so, over-analyzes what is meant to be a simple children's movie.

Margaret Lazarus' analysis of Scar and the Hyenas goes far above and beyond a few simple character traits: she uses base observations of coloring, mannerisms, and tone of voice to conclude that "Disney has gays and blacks ruining the natural order" (1). Lazarus observes that the Hyenas are "mostly black," and live in a "dark, gloomy and impoverished elephant graveyard" (2). Her use of words such as "nasty" and "menacing" suggests an already negative attitude towards the Hyenas (Lazarus 2). However bad this description may seem - it is correct. The hyenas are in fact "menacing" and gruesome because they are the antagonists, the "bad guys" in the movie. The problem with Lazarus' analysis is that she wrongly assumes that Disney uses these characteristics to represent blacks. Her only real evidence for this assertion comes from the fact that Whoopie Goldberg voices one of the hyenas - "in a clearly inner-city dialect" (Lazarus 1). Is Lazarus serious when she suggests that Disney's choice of a black actor is an attempt to portray someone from the ghetto, and in doing so seriously accuse Disney of a terrible stereotype? Hopefully not (frag). While Lazarus has correctly identified the Hyena's menacing characteristics in terms of their relationship to the plot, to conclude that Disney has "blacks ruining the natural order" is obscene (1). She takes her analysis way too far by over-exaggerating animated character traits.

This same exaggeration is present with her analysis of Scar, who according to Lazarus is an "effeminate [speaking], limp-pawed . . . gay caricature" (1). Scar has a "black mane" and "no lionesses or cubs," but should this suggest that he is homosexual (Lazarus 1)? Additionally, should the fact that he speaks in a "British style" enforce her claim that Scar is gay (1)? If so, according to Margaret Lazarus, not only do black actors represent members belonging from a ghetto, but also, a British accent can be linked with homosexuality. Lazarus makes absurd connections that exhibit a certain amount of racial prejudice/ignorance herself, and once again her analysis crosses the line, ridiculously proclaiming that Disney gives "millions of other children . . . hidden messages that can only do them - and us - harm" (2).

In her article, Lazarus skeptically exclaims that Disney's The Lion King is "a metaphor for society that originated in the minds of Disney's creators" (1). Using her article as a guideline for the stereotypes and symbols present in the movie, one can come to the conclusion that she is in fact correct. It is difficult to deny that the dark, melancholic images portrayed by the hyenas and their graveyard share many similarities with a ghetto. Lazarus even goes so far as to describe the hyenas as "liv[ing] dismally jammed together among bones and litter" (1). Once again, the elephant graveyard has a very stark similarity to a "ghetto" in our society. Furthermore, Lazarus believes that the contrast between this "bone-filled ghetto" and the golden kingdom known as the "pride lands" enforces the claim that only the strong do survive (1). She writes, "the message is clear: Only those born to privilege can bring about change"(1). While her theory about this apparent metaphor may seem valid, it is quite hard to believe that Disney sets out to manipulate their audience's minds through an animated film. Rather, it seems to have been an extreme case of coincidence strung between certain physical attributes and common misconceptions present in society. Again, Lazarus forgets the target audience of this film, and makes claims too deep for children to grasp - no child under the age of ten understands what a "ghetto" is. If Disney had really wanted to



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