Well, this is a bummer.
It’s been a summer of feeling great about spending every disposable kid-friendly dollar you have on Disney. There’s Black Ariel and the defense of Black Ariel, the super-feminist Jasmine in the new Aladdin, the subverting of the princess ideology in Ralph Breaks the Internet, Bo Peep emerging as a kick-ass porcelain action hero in Toy Story 4, and news that the remake of Mulan won’t repeat questionable elements of the first one, like Eddie Murphy as a dragon or songs like “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and instead focus on a truer-to-history story of a badass warrior. Did you hear about the groups boycotting Toy Story 4 because a gay family was in the background of the kindergarten scene? The subtlety of it was what angered these groups. Treating same-sex relationships as if they are normal!
That’s outrage I can get behind!
Go Disney! Disney gets it!
Enter an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that the Lion King is really about fascism and no remake can get away from that. “It introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong,” writes Dan Hassler-Forest.
Come on, Dan! That’s just the circle of life as the song says. I read on…and he makes some good points.
“‘The Lion King’ presents a seductive worldview in which absolute power goes unquestioned and the weak and the vulnerable are fundamentally inferior. In other words: “The Lion King” offers us fascist ideology writ large, and there is no obvious way out for the remake…
…by using predator-prey relationships to allegorize human power structures, the film almost inevitably incorporates a worldview in which the rulers’ power derives from their biological superiority…
…it places the audience’s point of view squarely with the autocratic lions, whose Pride Rock literally looks down upon all of society’s weaker groups — a kind of Trump Tower of the African savanna…
Bad as it is that the powerful are presented as inherently better than all other species, things get substantially worse once the hyenas are introduced. With the lions standing in for the ruling class, and the “good” herbivores embodying society’s decent, law-abiding citizens, the hyenas transparently represent the black, brown and disabled bodies that are forcefully excluded from this hierarchical society. Noticeably marked by their ethnically coded “street” accents, the hyenas blatantly symbolize racist and anti-Semitic stereotypes of “verminous” groups that form a threat to society.”
Oh, and also, he points out that Scar’s effeminate nature—along with Jafar’s in Aladdin‚is also a jab at the gays.
Wait, but wasn’t the only nod to the Nazis that scene in “Be Prepared” with the goose stepping hyenas? Dan has an answer for that too: “But as so often in Hollywood films, the explicit Nazi iconography serves primarily to distract us from the heroes’ own fascism.”
Ugh. Can we read too much into a kids film? Sure. But does he make disturbing points about the film’s love of male power and privilege set against our current political landscape? Sadly, I think he does.
If anyone has a great rebuttal to the piece, I’d love to feel good about going to see this film with my kids again.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- Exhausted from being my own boss… is it time for me to get a full time job again?
- Tips on teaching kids how to feel difficult emotions?
- Mamas of singletons, I’d love your perspective…should I have another kid?