For: strong New Age themes, spiritism, divination, brief cross dressing, lasting approbation of irresponsibility, strong disrespect of authority, mild feminism, and slang and crude name calling
The Lion King is a cute and colorful, but at the same time destructive and unabashedly pagan movie that appeals to children and adults alike with catchy and memorable songs about everything from New Age spirituality to selfishness and irresponsibility. Even with its occasional positive message, The Lion King is one constant jab at Christian faith and morality.
Strong New Age Themes
The Lion King’s views of life, death and reality are founded in a distinctly New Age worldview, and its most profound-sounding songs and statements are explicitly New Age, while the plot events provide New Age affirmation.
The opening song declares that “the circle of life… moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle of life.” The main character’s father Mufasa gives an extremely solemn charge to “Look inside yourself, Simba. You must take your place in the circle of life.” The concept of the circle of life is textbook New Age philosophy, and is opposed to the Christian view of reality.
Mufasa gives another classic definition of New Age worldview when he says, “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance, and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” When his son points out that they eat the antelope, he replies, “When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great circle of life.” The concept of a delicate balance that sustains all things is another central New Age theme that militates against the reality that God sustains all things. The concept of universal interconnectedness through nature is the third major New Age principle, and results in the worldview that insists on severe consequences to even minor violations of the “delicate balance”.
The plot circumstances follow that same New Age blueprint based on interconnectedness. When the villain takes over, the rain stops, the lush vegetation dies for miles in all directions, the lions suddenly cannot find enough prey for food, and a literal darkness spreads over the whole country. The very moment the main character, Simba, resumes the throne, thereby restoring the delicate balance of nature, the rain comes, the plants grow, wild animals appear out of nowhere, and the sun comes again.
Warped and blatantly false ideas about the spirits of the dead are advanced in The Lion King, and more than that, their alleged truthfulness is made necessary to the plot.
The most positively portrayed character in the movie declares that the great (dead) kings of the past will always be there to guide Simba, even when he feels alone. He also tells Simba, “Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.” The young Simba asks, “Really?” and the immediate reply is, “Yes.” Simba’s ongoing belief that the stars are the spirits of dead lions is challenged by a suggestion that stars are stuck fireflies, and by the actual scientific definition of stars, and Simba’s view, while no less off-the-wall than the firefly idea, is portrayed as the most meaningful. It is also portrayed as insensitive and disrespectful to Simba’s (pagan) belief system when the comic relief characters laugh at it.
The spirit of Simba’s ancestor comes from the dead to guide him (and remind him of his New Age obligations). On multiple occasions, Simba receives messages from the dead, and obeys them.
The dependable advisor, portrayed as the wisest character after Simba’s father dies, practices divination.
Brief Cross Dressing
One of the (male) comic relief characters creates a diversion by confessedly “dress[ing] in drag”, wearing a skirt and a flower over his ear. The cross dressing is completely unjustifiable.
Lasting Approbation of Irresponsibility
Despite the ending moral of taking responsibility, the lasting message of The Lion King is the opposite. There are two catchy, memorable songs from Simba’s immoral, irresponsible and selfish point of view (“Hakuna Matata” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”), with engaging and appealing imagery to support the negative message, while there are no songs from the positive perspective. The inevitable result is that viewers walk away from The Lion King literally singing the praises of selfishness and irresponsibility.
Strong Disrespect of Authority
Simba’s constant disrespectfulness in the childhood half of the movie ranges from completely unresolved to actually commended.
The king’s second in command Zazu is portrayed as correct, but because of his mannerisms, worthy of mockery, contempt and practical jokes. Simba’s father Mufasa, despite his admonition to respect all the creatures, teaches Simba to play demeaning tricks on Zazu. Zazu is regularly beaten up, by both positively and negatively portrayed characters, to comic effect. Simba makes faces and rolls his eyes at Zazu, and he and the other characters regularly call him names behind his back and to his face. Strictly because of his mannerisms, Zazu is shown to severe disadvantage, even when he is obviously in the right and Simba is (according to the end of the movie) in the wrong.
Simba also publicly disrespects and lies to his mother.
Simba’s love interest is treated, in their childhood, without respect to gender, except for the predictable fact that when they wrestle, she pins Simba every time. Her physical (as well as moral) superiority is asserted again in their adulthood.
Slang and Crude Name Calling