The Lion King: A Wolf
In my previous post I suggested a method for evaluating culture. We are going to begin with an evaluation of the beloved Disney film, The Lion King
The first question is, “What does this communicate about God?” The Lion King communicates very little about God. Actually, there is no sense of the divine. New Age philosophy is rampant where the created order is governed by the “circle of life”. As beings pass from life to death they become disembodied spirits and act as overseers. There is a mystical Ape shaman who provides insight for Simba throughout his adventure.
The second question is, “What does this communicate about man?” The Lion King communicates much about man. It presents a picture of humanity as having little meaning or purpose. The main characters go through life seeking to find their actualized potential. This is done through their good deeds or works. But, there is no overarching purpose, for at the end of the day they will be claimed by the “circle of life”. The Lion King also implicitly teaches a Hindu caste system. Where those born to significance and power retain that role based on birth. One cannot escape his caste. Finally, there is a clear and overriding fatalism that pervades the film’s characters.
The third question, “What does this communicate about man’s greatest problem?” Man’s greatest problem in the Lion Kings is other men. The lead characters must fight against the antagonists. Why? Because the antagonists are trying to escape their caste and live above themselves. The antagonists are lower level beasts seeking to rise above their place.
The fourth question, “What is the proposed solution for man’s greatest problem?” The proposed solution is works. Simba and the rest of his protagonist friends must do good to overcome their enemies and put down their attempt to leave their caste. The other side of the coin is that Simba must give in to fate and embrace his place in the highest caste, thus perpetuating the “circle of life”. This “circle of life” can apparently be shut down by those in the lower caste rising above themselves.
As you can see there are great problems with this film. It misses the mark regarding God and the divine. God is a personal and engaged being who sacrificially loves. Man is created in the divine image and their future is not sealed by caste or fate; but by their choices and responsiveness to their Creator. Each man will eventually receive exactly what they want. Man’s greatest problem is not other men, but sin. The broken relationship between themselves and their God. This cannot be solved or repaired by man’s good works but by the sacrificial working of God alone. The solution to man’s problem is monergistic and is accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Are there any redemptive aspects to this film? Yes, one. The key one being the role that community plays. It is through community and relationship that Simba is able to “overcome”.
The Lion King is a film that is deeply embedded with a faulty worldview. It embraces new age and Hindu philosophy. I would consider this film to be one that, while, whimsical, fun, musically good, and entertaining communicates a very dangerous worldview. The messages communicated will require a good follow up conversation with your children if they watch it.