One of the biggest arguments on the internet among fictional writers and movie enthusiasts has been Confused Matthew’s infamous review of “The Lion King.” His hatred of this movie is legendary. If you would like to see his famous review yourself you can view it at this link. For those of you who don’t want to sit through the review, in short his argument depends on three main points.
1. Hakuna Matata is a terrible philosophy.
2. Timon and Pumba corrupt Simba.
3. Simba is a jackass in the beginning of the story.
Here are my thoughts on each:
Point 1: Hakuna Matata is a terrible philosophy.
I actually understand Matthew’s problem with Hakuna Matata. When I first saw the review a few years ago, I actually agreed with his argument. Hakuna Matata basically means what’s in the past, is past and there is no point in dwelling on it. But after further thought I realized that Jesus had said some things similar to this in scripture. So did Buddha and Gandhi for that matter.
After a lot of thought, I’ve come to believe that it’s not the philosophy that’s the problem in this story, but a matter of how it’s applied. Letting go of past mistakes (that you can’t change) is a good idea. Applying the philosophy to mean running away from your problems? Not so much.
Point 2: Timon and Pumba corrupt Simba.
I can’t really defend Timon and Pumba though. Their motivation for befriending Simba is outright stated in the movie: that they wanted a lion as a “friend” to use for their own personal gain. Then later when Nala finds Simba and they start to fall in love, all Timon and Pumba can think about how they’re losing their free meal ticket. They even make a whole Disney song out of that plot point.
Later Timon and Pumba (without any stated motivation) do decide to help Simba return to his home. This is redeeming in a way, but without explaining why they changed their position, it’s hard to really give them the benefit of the doubt. (Which, I do realize that’s what most people doing, just giving them the benefit of the doubt.) They are charming in their own way, and they are the comic relief for the film. But then so was Jar-Jar Binks, go figure. I expect that’s why most people give them this particular pass. Meh!
Point 3: Simba is a jackass in the beginning of the story
Simba’s development drives the theme of the movie. And while Matthew is correct that Simba starts off as a jerk, you see him become a very different character as the movie progresses. It must be noted that Simba is a child at the beginning of this film, and although he makes mistakes throughout the film, then learns from them.
Finally Simba takes responsibility for said mistakes. And that is the point the movie is trying to make. The conversation Simba has with Rafiki is very telling. Now that theme is botched a bit with the final scene.
Seriously, one of those lionesses really should’ve told Scar: “If he was really was responsible for Mufasa’s death, then so what? He was a kid when Mufasa died. YOU brought the Hyenas, and YOU are about to starve us all to death. I’ll go with the new guy, thank you very much.” As it’s written, the film seems to take the position that if you make mistakes as a kid — which we all have done — then that really does matter.
I do realize that, that’s not what the film was intending to say, but that really is how it comes off. Meh! It’s a kid’s movie, so that’s a minor point.
Editor's note: There are some extra Star Trek analogies in Nidan's post here, if you'd like to check them out!