The Lion King Is Politically Problematic!

By Kyle B. Stiff

 

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Uh oh guys, looks like the right-wing fascists at Disney are set to release a remake of The Lion King, a tale of authoritarian goose-stepping that would surely be seen as problematic to the left-wing saints gently guiding us toward utopia. In the interest of guilt-tripping everyone, I thought it might be fun to take a look at the original version of The Lion King from the perspective of the modern culture war.

The Lion King begins with a celebration of the hierarchy. Every animal species has their place in the circle of life, and the animals who are willing to submit to the hierarchy are incredibly happy. The land is fertile and green because everyone is doing what they were born to do. The elephants are stomping around and making that weird wet trumpet sound, the mice are hippety hoppeting and trying not to get squished, the ostriches are being dumb and not even attempting to fly – all is right with the world.

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It feels nice to think about the circle of life, but of course, there’s an animal at the “top” of the circle, so savvy veiwers will note that it’s more of a pyramid than a circle. Mufasa is king and he’s got a rack of ho’s tending to his business. He’s the king because his genes are absolutely incredible. He has the chin, the power, the lush mane, but he’s also a “stable genius” who never has a nervous breakdown, always wakes up early and clocks out late, and doesn’t screw over one animal to make friends with another. He is in charge, and rightly so. He’s not a tyrant, but nature chose him to be on top. This is a tough pill to swallow for the egalitarian mindset, especially since most of Mufasa’s good qualities weren’t really earned, but were given by nature. Can we rationalize why nature chose him to be king? No, that’s just how it is. Sorry, equality enthusiasts!

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The cycle continues with Simba. He’s just a dumb baby at the beginning of the story, but he’s being cheered simply for existing. This public spectacle is the very thing that drives people like Scar nuts… why shouldn’t people be cheering for him instead of Simba?! Hasn’t he suffered enough to earn a little applause?! Dealing with resentment is a big struggle in the life of every living thing. Those who allow the resentment to fester in their heart eventually succumb to a form of possession. Their souls are mutilated (thus the name “Scar”) and they cease to be beautiful. On the other hand, those who submit to the whims of nature, like the animals in our opening scene, get to sing and take part in the grand tapestry of civilization and the big story we are all working together to write and play in. Some of us will have big roles, but most of us will have small roles. If you can accept that, then the birth of Simba and the promise that a good life in a good land will continue will truly be something to celebrate.

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Unfortunately we soon find out that Simba doesn’t really understand what it means to rule. He’s the sort of person who thinks that ancient kings used to sit around and shout orders while being served heaps of food and fine wine; the reality is that leaders shoulder a burden that would crush normal people. Most of us would do anything to wiggle out of accepting responsibility. It’s absolutely terrifying. Simba thinks he’s going to continue to be adored just for existing, and in his very first song, he gets everyone dancing just to have them all pile up on top of each other and fall over like some kind of literal pyramid collapsing under its own weight. The kids in the audience are laughing but it’s ominous as hell.

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Things get even worse when Simba tries to throw his weight around in territory outside of the hierarchy. Note that just because you have a powerful hierarchy with a rigid social structure, does not mean that that structure rules perfectly everywhere. There are always areas for societal dropouts and fuckups to hang out and torment one another with their hard luck stories, an “underworld” of decay filled with the screams of the emotionally unstable.

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This is where Scar hangs out. Even though he’s a lion and occupies a high station, it’s still not enough for him. He wants to be praised for being the best, but since he isn’t the best, he has to buddy up with a bunch of scavengers and promise them the world. Free this, free that, oh, and also… revenge against those assholes who didn’t give you all the free stuff you deserve!

Scar pulls some strings and Mufasa gets trampled by the mainstream media. Simba must live in shame and Scar, being unable to win votes on his own merits, opens the borders and lets in the hyenas, thus creating a reliable voting bloc. Hyenas will always vote for Scar. The hyenas have no place in the hierarchy because they have no long-term stake in the realm. They live on decay and short-term gain. Why not loot the economy? They could have nothin’ right now, or they could have SOMETHIN’ right now. Makes sense!

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Scar gets Simba to forget who he is, or rather, what he’s supposed to be doing with his time. Simba becomes the jungle equivalent of a stoner blasting fools on Xbox with a frozen burrito thawing on a table cluttered with empty Monster cans and a surprisingly well-thought-out collection of vape pens and flavors for his e-cig habit. He’s fallen off the hierarchy and has achieved ultimate freedom. He’s a consumer, the final genetic stop in a long line of ancestors who fought to survive so that Simba, the last of his kind, could ragequit a Soulsborne game and stalk Nala on instagram. He lives in a dark pit of shame but he buries the rage by (quite rationally) pointing out how great the world is; there are plenty of bugs to eat, so why worry? Never mind that he’s a nervous, anxious wreck… that’s probably just some genetic thing, right? Surely it can’t be helped, right???

Simba eats bugs; he’s the very definition of a bugman. And Scar would have gotten away with it, too… if it wasn’t for Rafiki!

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Rafiki is the jungle equivalent of someone who keeps a constant rotation of Alex Jones episodes playing in the background while browsing articles about what the Great Pyramids of Giza were REALLY made for (impossible not to click because there’s a pic of Nikola Tesla looking real smug). Rafiki lives alone; why would he not? He’s intense, he talks to himself, he mixes herbs with his colloidal silver tonic, he has giant plastic jugs full of rice in the basement, and he’s extremely opinionated regarding his conceal carry technique (and if you’re an officer of the law who stops to ask about his open carry, believe me Rafiki KNOWS HIS RIGHTS and THEY WILL NOT BE INFRINGED).

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The thing about Rafiki is, as crazy as he looks, he was actually made to occupy one of those non-corporate public servant positions that calls for unyielding moral rectitude and the ablility to fearlessly give advice to those who typically aren’t open to criticism. His mind can go anywhere; he can talk about military or legal matters one minute and aliens or zero-point energy the next. He will never be uncomfortable no matter the subject, and is invaluable for a real king to have on his side.

That’s also why he’s perfect for radicalizing Simba.

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Simba had to get his ass beat by a girl to realize he’s not a man, and that set him on the path to listening to Rafiki’s twelve-part YouTube series (right before it was taken down) on What REALLY Happened to Mufasa (Unbelievable Disclosure!!). Halfway through the series Simba realized the things he used to think were extreme now make total sense. When the hierarchy breaks down, only force matters. Simba sees his father and all his noble ancestors smiling down on him from the heavens as he repeats that there comes a time when the tree of liberty must be watered with blood (or however the saying goes). He arms himself and goes on the offensive.

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Now that his eyes have been opened, Simba sees the truth about his home. It is an absolute dump, full of foreigners working in black market economies. The female lions either work as prostitutes or cower in their caves, afraid to walk the streets and become a statistic. People don’t like to talk about it, but the once peaceful realm has somehow become the rape capital of the savannah. Honor killings are common. Zazu, once an upright public figure, has been reduced to virtue signaling on Twitter to the applause of a bunch of blue checkmark hyenas.

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In the end, Scar is devoured by his own constituency, and Simba reclaims his dump of a home. There are no cheers for the new king as he ascends to a throne overlooking a wasteland filled with hunger and despair. There may be no applause, but at least there are roars. The people cry out, again and again, roaring like animals, silenced and shadowbanned for so long that all they can do is roar and rage and hope that future generations won’t make the same stupid mistakes.

Godzilla Is Jehova, the Old Testament Kaiju Demon-God

I loved Shin Godzilla because it broke me down psychologically and forced me to reexamine everything I ever believed was true. You see, the lesson of Shin Godzilla is that the best representative of the human spirit is… bureaucracy?!?!

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This seemingly crazy assertion isn’t that much of a stretch. The movie jumps from one bureaucratic agency to another, in effect telling the story of Godzilla’s rampage from the perspective of government employees who have to deal with the chaos. I’ve never seen a movie told from this perspective; it’s some Criterion-level experimental film-making. Any other movie would have followed one bureaucrat, even going so far as to show him or her with their mate, their kids, dealing with the hassles of life, thus forcing the viewer to acknowledge that yes, indeed, this person is a human being – I’d better empathize with them.

But Shin Godzilla races from suit to suit, never really caring if the viewer has a chance to pick out their favorite bureaucrat. The characters aren’t shown as humans first and bureaucrats second, but as bureaucrats first and foremost who happen to have human responses to the situations they’re thrown into.

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I remember in one of the older Evangelion movies, someone said that humanity was the “eighteenth angel”, or that the collective sum of us was a godlike being. Shin Godzilla has a similar lesson, with the spirit of humanity shown as a meta-organism, with bureaucratic organizations as limbs of the meta-organism. Humanity’s strength doesn’t come from the individual, but instead, humanity dominates the planet because each individual can cooperate on a level that no other animal can compete with (except maybe Godzilla). In the older Godzilla movies, they would show military guys tossing out a few missiles, then the camera would zoom in on their horror-stricken faces as Godzilla would take a missile in the ass and not even notice. Then Godzilla would wail on some other monster, get winded, then leave on his own, and the credits would roll while some kids with Stockholm Syndrome would cheer and thank Godzilla for all his help. But in this movie, Godzilla really does face his most dangerous opponent… Godzilla vs. The Human Species.

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Shin Godzilla is a morality tale, a lesson for humanity. I’m not sure when exactly the idea of the “individual” was born historically (maybe the Renaissance?), but Shin Godzilla is an alarm, and it’s warning us that it may be time to prune the tree of individuality. Maybe the human meta-organism starts to look foolish if too many limbs start to mimic one another in a strange caricature of individuality. Just think of all the hardcore “rebels” out there, all fighting “the Man”, all wearing the same edgy clothes and listening to the same music. Unless someone is an artist, or an intellectual, or a wizard, or a diehard eccentric, then maybe it’s better to find a good spot to sit within the bureaucracy and then simply tend to the species in whatever way best suits the temperament of the “individual”. We are certainly in an age when people are getting more entrenched in their respective ideological or ethnic camps, after all.

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As a dude who’s always been a hardcore individual – and I say that without pride, as it has its downside – Shin Godzilla was a powerful psychedelic brew designed to destroy all my childish ideas about how the world works. It’s like when Paul Muad’dib took the Water of Life; before Shin Godzilla, all I saw was darkness, but now I see the big screaming lizard within, praise praise praise his name!

Which brings me to my Godzilla as God point. Before Shin Godzilla, there was an American-made Godzilla film back in 2014. It had a lot of beautiful shots, and there was an unforgettable sequence where some military guys jumped out of a plane and fell through a dark, dusty, burning hellzone while a bunch of giant demons were fighting one another. So good.

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But it also made the mistake that a lot of Godzilla movies make; actors with hefty price tags demanded a lot of screen time, which meant we spent too much time learning about so-and-so’s baby mama drama, which is hard to engage with when you really just want to see a giant monster squat and take a shit on a city in flames.

However, this was the film that gave me the idea that Godzilla truly is God, or at least, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god-being. If enough people believe in a thing, and meditate on it and speak to it and sing to it, the thoughtform must become real out there in “the internet of spirits” or the world of abstractions or the astral plane… or whatever you want to call a higher realm that affects human behavior, but can’t necessarily be seen or measured. Just think of all those humans circling around the black cube of the Kaaba, or gently smooching the Wailing Wall, or twitchin’ and flailin’ in one of those American megachurches. All of that human intention goes somewhere, and if it’s not being eaten by a hyperdimensional being beyond our comprehension, then it’s surely creating such a being. Either way, it exists!

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So when I was watching the American version of Godzilla, and seeing his raw power, the pure reptilian hatred turned up to one thousand, and fifteen 9-11s happening every minute or so, I couldn’t help but think that GODzilla must surely be a stand-in for that ancient idea (or thought-form) that we’ve been feeding for thousands of years, and which in turn controls our behavior and, many times, ends up destroying or mutilating people beyond recognition. There are surely other such beings. Sports would be a powerful god-being for Godzilla to meet in a “versus” setting. Any political -ism would also surely have its own kaiju equivalent.

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It’s also interesting that Godzilla has represented different things at different times as we transition through the human story we’re in. In the first movie he was like a force of nature punishing humans for their wrongdoing, and it was kind of sad when we had to put him down. Then he became a pro-wrestler, and he was even a little heroic (sort of like an angry drunk belittling you but also giving you good advice). Now he’s like a dark mirror showing us where we are today, but it’s from the perspective of the gods, so neither of us can understand what the other is trying to say, but the atrocities and works of art that result from our attempts at communication make for an interesting story all the same.