Hound’s Hot Take: Lion King Edition
By Quinn Ryan, Staff Writer
I am a man of the people. I know the burning question that is on everyone’s mind. In the midst of a global pandemic, where our future on campus and in the world is unknown, and with the litany of social issues plaguing our society, I know what we are all really thinking about. On the forefront of all of our minds is the 1994 classic The Lion King, and more specifically, we are all asking ourselves one question; why does Scar get such a bad wrap? I figured that the best use of my time this week would not be to complete the numerous assignments that I have due, or to get some much needed sleep, but to write a three page essay on the villain of a movie that is five years older than I am. So let’s examine Scar’s character, a bit charitably I must add, and see if he is really the monster that we make him out to be.
Ok, let’s just get it out in the open from the jump- he killed his brother. I admit, this one is hard to defend. Mufasa, who is in the running for the best movie dad of all time, suffered one of the saddest movie deaths of my young life, and traumatized poor little Simba in the process. Now, I’m going to take a radical stance here and say that I think that murdering people is wrong. There is an old saying in my family, which is “never murder your brother by pushing him off a cliff and also never make your child nephew think that he is to blame.” As much of a mouthful as that saying was, it always stuck with me, so I was never a huge fan of Scar.
That being said, let’s ignore the means for now, and focus on the ends for a minute, or at least, the desired ends. Life seemed great for many of the animals living in Mufasa’s kingdom, unless of course, you were a hyena. Through the use of propaganda and sheer force, Mufasa ostracised and segregated the entire hyena population out of their society. The hyenas were forced to live in ghettos, were paria of their communities, and given little to no food or water. As shiny and fun as the animal kingdom seemed from the surface, there is a dark underbelly built on oppression that lies below. Scar began attracting followers, not through fear or intimidation, but through the promise of elevating the status and resources of the most impoverished race in the animal kingdom. Not only did Scar intend to help the poor, underprivileged hyenas, but from what we see in the movie, he didn’t even attempt to do this by taking away status or resources from others. He simply wanted to integrate the hyena population into the community by giving them roles in the government and other fields, and by allowing them to start on an equal playing field as the other animals.
Let’s imagine a world where Scar’s plan worked, and where his promises were fulfilled. Life would be relatively unchanged for the majority of the animal kingdom. They would be able to go about their daily lives and eat their food and sing their songs, it would still be great. The only change would be that the once deprived and hated hyena population would be able to enjoy the same liberties and luxuries as their animal compatriots.
Obviously, we see that Scar’s tenure as ruler did not end in this fantasy, but in an apocalyptic, chaotic mess where all of the animals were starving and thirsty. This is all Scar’s fault, right? Wrong! Let’s examine some of the factors that played a role in the downfall of Scar’s political career to see how he never actually did anything wrong. First of all, his entire cabinet was against him from the start, and were unwilling to cooperate with him. At every turn, Sarabi would tell him that he was destined to fail, Zazu would refuse to perform his daily roles, and all of the other lions wouldn’t support his integration of hyenas into the community. The other lions were unable to see past their biases and welcome the hyenas into their lives, and were willing to make their society weaker as a whole to avoid intermixing the hyenas into it. Keep in mind, nobody knows that Scar killed Mufasa, they all think that Simba was responsible. Scar’s plan to kill the king and pin it on Simba worked to a tee, so that means that all of the other lions hate Hyenas so much that they were unable to accept Scar as their new ruler. This bigotry is evidence to show that Scar was likely a much needed change in Pride Rock, and even though his intentions were good, others around him were not open minded enough to accept hyenas as equals. Moving on from Scar’s hostile work environment, there was another element at play that led to the downfall of his reign. What was it again? Oh yeah, there was a drought that lasted for three years! What did the animals expect from him? I don’t care who was in power; Scar, Mufasa, or freaking FDR, nobody could have righted the ship enough during a three year drought so that everyone could make it through to the other side. Scar was dealt a losing hand from the second he took power, and it was because he can’t control the weather and because he wanted to strive for equality in his kingdom, what a monster!
Now that we have examined his raise to power and his motivations, ask yourself, do you think Scar was really in the wrong? Yes, he murdered his political rival to take power, but it’s not like the kingdom was a democracy. Mufasa was a discriminatory tyrant who was indoctrinating his son with the same ideology and preparing to pass the throne to him, despite the clear lack of prowess or ability to lead and make wise decisions. Scar could sit back and tolerate the injustice no longer, and made an aim at a better future, not just for himself or for the other animals at the top, but for the lowest members of his society. Sure, he wasn’t able to make good on all of his promises, but at least he tried to do the right thing. Scar wasn’t a monster or a villain, but a misunderstood dreamer that just fell a little short of his goals.