The Lion King (1994) Film: Political Analysis

The Politics of Disney’s The Lion King

Disney’s The Lion King (1994) is a timeless animated film that captivates audiences with its compelling storytelling and stunning visuals. Receiving widespread acclaim upon its release, it has only grown in popularity over the years. While many reviews have focused on the characters and formalities of the movie, we aim to delve deeper into the underlying politics and power dynamics that shape the narrative. Drawing inspiration from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King explores themes of heroism, destiny, and sacrifice against a backdrop of a complex political landscape.

The Feudal Social Order

At its core, The Lion King presents a feudal social order based on a predetermined hierarchy and the notion of a “circle of life.” Mufasa, the reigning king, justifies the animal kingdom’s predator-prey dynamic as the natural order of things. In this system, one’s worth is determined by birth rather than merit or action, signifying a lack of upward mobility for those not born into privilege. The film’s underlying message seems to reinforce the idea of knowing one’s place and accepting it as an unchangeable reality.

The Naturalistic Fallacy

The film’s portrayal of this feudal society raises questions about the naturalistic fallacy. The belief that just because something exists, it is inherently right fails to consider the moral and ethical implications of such a system. While the Darwinian principle of “survival of the fittest” may be an observation about nature, a progressive and moral society should strive for equality rather than enforce natural selection. The notion that subjugation is necessary for animals to find peace only perpetuates an amoral and antiquated perspective.

Scar: The Idealistic Outcast

Scar, Simba’s uncle, serves as an idealistic outcast who challenges the established order. While others conform to the feudal society’s norms and accept their predetermined roles, Scar rebels against it, advocating for equality among lions and hyenas. However, despite his progressive politics, the film portrays Scar as the villain. His portrayal draws inspiration from dark imagery, such as Nazi marching scenes, aligning his character with ideas of destructive change. Scar’s reign disrupts the balance of the food chain, leading to anarchy and starvation, ultimately highlighting the dangers of abrupt upheaval without a measured approach to change.

A Lesson in Rebellion

Amidst the film’s emphasis on the natural order and totalitarianism, The Lion King also explores the concept of rebellion. It suggests that combating social injustice may require embracing the carefree philosophy of “hakuna matata” – meaning “no worries” – as embodied by Simba during his time away from the kingdom. This section of the film represents Simba’s freedom from predetermined destiny and responsibilities. It is here that he forms genuine connections and experiences pure love, devoid of the pressures and conventions of royalty. This transformation becomes instrumental in his eventual return to confront Scar.

The Power of Love and Bravery

Simba’s triumph over Scar is not solely reliant on physical strength but is fueled by love and bravery. This shift in mentality, from entitlement to a genuine desire for positive change, enables Simba to challenge the inherently exploitative power structure. The film underscores the importance of recognizing oppression and using moral outrage as a catalyst for demanding change. Simba’s aspiration to be kind rather than simply king holds promise for a future of equality in the Pride Lands.


Disney’s The Lion King (1994) goes beyond its captivating animation and beloved characters to explore important political themes. It offers a critical lens through which to examine the dynamics of power, hierarchy, and rebellion. By drawing inspiration from Shakespeare, the film imparts valuable lessons about the consequences of unchecked authority and the potential for meaningful change driven by love and bravery.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does The Lion King compare to Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

While The Lion King draws inspiration from Hamlet, it takes a more accessible approach suitable for audiences of all ages. It simplifies complex themes, making them relatable and engaging.

2. Does The Lion King romanticize a feudal social order?

The film does present a feudal social order, but it also raises questions about its merits and ethical implications. The emphasis on predetermined roles and limited mobility challenges the notion of a just society.

3. How does Scar’s character challenge traditional notions of villainy?

Scar’s character subverts the conventional understanding of a villain by advocating for equality and challenging the established order. The film underscores the dangers of unchecked revolution but also portrays Scar as a complex figure.

4. What message does The Lion King convey about rebellion?

The film suggests that rebellion against injustice is necessary, but it must be rooted in pure motives and a desire for positive change. It highlights the importance of love, bravery, and a thoughtful approach to challenging power structures.

5. How does The Lion King contribute to discussions about power dynamics?

The Lion King offers valuable insights into the dynamics of power, showcasing the consequences of both oppressive rule and destructive rebellion. It encourages audiences to consider the complexities of leadership and the potential for transformation through empathy and understanding.