The End…A Farewell

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hello all,

It has been wonderful being in a class with all of you. I had a great time and it was easily one of my favorite classes, in no small part due to the our awesome class. I doubt many of you will read this – what with the class being over and second semester seniors to boot – but I wanted to thank all of you for such a great semester. Especially Carla, since it’s not often that I get watch The Lion King and call it research =D


Have a great 5 days and 2011 everyone!

-Matthew Roy, “sǝɹıɟ & sɹıɟ”




Circle of Life

October 11, 2010 § 5 Comments

Bambi, The Lion King and Call of the Wild share many similarities. In each story there is a strong natural order and a social hierarchy in which one species dominates over another. Each protagonist also has a destiny to fulfill and inner strength that must be recognized. In Bambi, the title character had to mature in order to fill his father’s shoes as Great Prince of the forrest, Simba had to take charge and bring order back to his kingdom, and Buck must recognize the beast within. Another similarities between the three stories was the fact that all of the title characters underwent a transformation and came of age. For me the most striking similarity was a theme of respecting nature and its creatures.

Both of my parents are strict vegetarians. Despite my mother’s own refusal to eat meat she always left the decision up to me. I have never had meat in my life, not one bite (except that one time with my nanny at the grocery store but I spit it out) but my mom actually encouraged it. I of course couldn’t bear the thought of eating a dead animal and I think that these three stories actually led me to remain a vegetarian.

In Bambi, cute, lovable animals are destroyed for sport. As a little girl Bambi made me feverntly opposed to hunting and taught me to respect the natural world.

The Lion King also has some serious animal rights themes. The Lion King reinforced the respect for nature that Bambi introduced me to. It reminded me that just because you are “superior” to something does not mean that you should disrespect it just because you can. All links of the food chain are to be respected as they are all crucial aspects of the circle of life. It’s interesting that Simba ends up living off of bugs. All animals in The Lion King are personified but since the bugs weren’t it’s almost like Simba was living a off of a vegetarian diet.

In Call of the Wild, Buck is tormented by man. The first time I read Call of the Wild I became obsessed with dogs. I would wear those really ugly dog shirts with no intention of being ironic  and volunteered at animal shelters with my friend. I would never eat a dog and knew that I could never eat a pig either.

Bambi, Call of the Wild, and The Lion King are kind of like PETA’s wet dream.  Man is a source of corruption and a force of evil that exploits and abuses the natural world. Each story personified animals in such a way that they were more than cute they were human. These stories led me to respect nature and teach all children to do the same. 

Dealing with Loss

October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

In response to the recent tragedy that struck the Menlo community, I feel it is appropriate to discuss how different characters we have read about deal with loss. In Tom Sawyer, Bambi, and The Lion King death and loss is an very present issue. On more than one occasion, Aunt Polly believes that she has lost her beloved Tom in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In the Lion King, Simba and the all of the pride-lands deal with the loss of the great king, Mufasa. Similarly in Bambi, Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by hunters when she is unprotected in the meadow. The differences between how the different age groups are portrayed dealing with loss presents an interesting idea of maturity and adolescence.

In Tom Sawyer, when Tom and his friends decide to run away from home and be pirates on a nearby island, his Aunt Polly is overcome with grief because she believes that Tom has died. When Tom returns home and watches Aunt Polly sobbing, yet does nothing to make her aware of his presence, he demonstrates that he does not fully understand the concept of loss. Similarly when Mufasa dies, Simba repeatedly tells him to “get up,” and refuses to accept that he is gone until Scar explains the situation. Lastly, in Bambi when his mother is shot, Bambi is confused and relies on his fathers explanation that “[his] mother can no longer be with [him].” All three of these examples seem to suggest that children do not fully comprehend the idea of loss.

Conversely, all three have interesting portrayals of adults in tragic situations. Both Sarabi, Simba’s mother, and Bambi’s father are depicted as very strong in the case of the loss of their spouse. We see Sarabi’s overwhelming strength as she approaches her husband’s successor, Scar. Similarly we see Bambi’s father’s strength when he does not display emotion and instead takes Simba under his wing. Both of these characters seem not to display their emotions in a healthy manor. Each character seems weighed down by the responsibility they feel to either their kingdom (Sarabi) or their child (Bambi’s father) and thus deal with loss by just simply moving on. Alternatively, Aunt Polly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is petrified by emotion and is unable to do anything productive to help her cope with the loss of Tom. Aunt Polly somehow feels she is responsible for Tom’s death which causes her to deal with her grief in such a unhealthy way. These examples portray adults at one extreme or another in terms of how they deal with losses that they face.

In seems that teenagers seem to deal with loss in the most healthy manor of all of the age groups. They are old enough to understand the concept and comprehend the implications of losing someone that they love, but their emotions are not clouded by their sense of responsibility. Simba fights for revenge to save the kingdom, tom finds a way out of the cave, and Bambi is able to overcome his own gunshot wound. While all three of these stories are consistent in their portrayal of teenagers as dealing with loss in a more balanced manor, I don’t think that there is one “right” way to deal with loss. The teenagers are portrayed as being empowered by loss, but I don’t think that this is necessarily true. Loss brings about such a complicated set of emotions that it upsets me that it seems to be simplified in such a manor in these examples.

Christianity and the Lion King, how much do we socialize our children?

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Life goes on, Long after the thrill of living is gone”

It’s the key line in the once popular song called Jack and Dianne, by John Mellacamp.  The song tells of two “American” kids who do they best they can.  It’s what many, as parents, wish for their children.  We instill in youth the values and morals that we believe they should have.  Consciously or not kids are always learning how to behave, and we are always teaching them.

That they learn values is unquestionable.  What these values are, however, is another story.  Many things influence the way children see the world.  What they learn from their parents, those around them, the media, the books they read, and the movies they watch.

It no wonder than that parents, and babysitters, are so concerned about how life is portrayed in such movies.  For example when the Disney production of Lion King came about in 1994, there was a flurry of critics claiming that the movie instilled various false, or negative morals on children.

Annalee R. Ward analysis these various critics in her article published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television (though I found it on the gale database document number GAlEIA18299548).  In the article Ward discusses both the overall allegory of the tale as well as the various messages that is sends to kids.

She explains that the Lion King could be viewed as a allegory for religion (specifically Christianity).  The characters fit relatively with this allegory:

Mufasa = God

Simba = Christ,

Scar = snake in garden of Eden

as well as the overall plot:

elephant graveyard = garden of Eden (forbidden fruit)

Kingdom before Mufasa dies = paradise

Kingdom under scar = The Book of Matthew

and so on and so forth….

Of course the two stories are not completely alike.  For one the endings are drastically different for Jesus Christ, unlike Simba, dies for the sins of others.  Simba’s journey is also much less individual then that of christian heroes.  In The Lion King there are characters such a Nalla, Timon and Pumba, and Rafiki who influence Simba’s decisions along his journey.  The Christian allegory also begs the question “Why does Mufasa die?”   How could all powerful God be simply thrown off of a rock?

While the christian allegory fits very closely with the story of the Lion King, another argument is that the moral is much less specific.  By using animated characters Disney is able to form the tale into a generalized problem, one that children, or any person for that matter, would not have. I mean, how often do Americans get trampled by wildebeest?  With animals, animation, and over-dramatization children are able to project their own worlds and spirituality onto the plot line.

The movie itself does not teach specific morals or values.  It is more, however, a portrayal of a general society, which has problems, faults, and “shadowy regions.”  The intense colors, and exciting music, however, instill similar emotions in every child.  In this way the children they can feel the power and intimidation that comes with Mufasa’s entrance, whoever Mufasa may represent in their own lives.

Many adults have interpreted the movies to have specific morals or values based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and maybe they do.  But many children are not focused as much on these details.  They get the general sense of society, who has power, who should not, and this is the role Disney movies take as our moral educators.

Are they really the same?

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

The age between when one first views the Lion King and reads Hamlet is quite a gap. And it is a gap most people probably do not even think about…they seem to be unrelated.

Well Rosemarie Gavin would beg to differ.

Gavin is an english teacher who wrote an article in the English Journal describing her journey of discovering the similar qualities between Simba and Hamlet. Her and her students seemed to agree that there were  parallel characters in both Hamlet and The Lion King throughout both films.

Gavin and her class argued that:

  • The ghost of Hamlet’s father = Mufasa (both appear to their sons reminding them to remember them and fufill their duties)
  • Gertrude = Sarabi (both used by the former king’s brother to fill their needs.)
  • Horatio= Timon and Pumba (both show extreme faithfulness towards their friend.)
  • Claudius=Scar (both villains who kill their brother in order to become king.)

When first reading these pieces of evidence and analysis, I thought, “oh wow! The characters really are extraordinarily similar in both films.”But then I began to think about it… and overall, while many of the situations may sound similar, when I compared the character’s motives and actual situations, they are quite different.

I argue that:

  • The ghost of Hamlet’s father = Mufasa (while both appear to their sons reminding them to remember them and fulfill their duties, Hamlet’s father appears asking for revenge against Claudio, whereas Mufasa appears not asking for revenge against scar, but rather to remind Simba who he is supposed to be.)
  • Gertrude = Sarabi (while both are used by the former king’s brother to fill their needs, but Gertrude voluntarily aids Claudio, whereas Sarabi is forced into helping Scar.)
  • Horatio= Timon and Pumba (while both show extreme faithfulness towards their friend, I don’t find this argument to really prove an interesting point. Many characters in almost every movie have someone they can always rely on.)
  • Claudius=Scar (while both villains kill their brother in order to become king, Claudius does it on his own, scheming in secrecy, and seems to be well liked. Whereas Scar does it with the help of many hyenas backing him, and the rest of the kingdom despising him.)

So while on first glance, the characters of Hamlet may seem to match up perfectly with the characters of the Lion King, I don’t believe I agree with this argument. I suggest to Gavin that while she thinks it may be a good idea to help her students understand Hamlet through the Lion King, it may not be the most helpful tool, it is a stretch of an argument.

oh i just can’t wait to be (or not to be) king

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

In Rosemarie Gavin’s article, “The Lion King and Hamlet: A Homecoming for the Exiled Child”, the Woburn Collegiate Institute professor discusses the similarities between the two different but equally brilliant works. By studying them simultaneously, Gavin’s students were able to discover that both story’s protagonists represent the archetype of the exiled child forced to restore order to his world. The students found similarities between The Lion King and Hamlet in terms of the characters, themes, ending scenes and archetypal patterns.
Gavin’s students noticed that both Hamlet and Simba are princes banished from their homes who return at the end of the story to avenge their lost fathers. Both boys’ late fathers appear to them and  help them to fulfill their duties. Gertrude and Sarabi are manipulated and used by their brothers in-law. Both Simba and Hamlet have villainous and greedy uncles. Hamlet and Simba are both overcome by guilt regarding the deaths of their fathers.  Claudius and Scar were willing to commit fratricide in order to make political gains. Gavin discusses how the themes of revenge, absolute power and innocence versus experience are prevalent themes in The Lion King and Hamlet. Gavin also highlights the fact that Disney and Shakespeare used the archetypal pattern of the exiled child to shape their heroes and how at the end of both stories peace is restored and power is returned to the proper ruler.
I enjoyed this article and felt that the similarities highlighted were quite striking. I did however disagree with her belief that her students experience similar mythical patterns in their own lives. The first time I read Hamlet I did notice similarities between Scar and Claudius and was glad that Gavin and her students did too. Simba and Hamlet are very similar characters in terms of their circumstances but I do feel that Simba is a much better hero than Hamlet because of the way he deals with adversity. Junior year my friends and I dubbed Hamlet the emo prince of Denmark. Hamlet is much more fearful than Simba and struggles to commit to his duties. The guilt surrounding the death of Hamlet’s father was based upon the fact that he, a mature and educated prince, couldn’t man up and avenge his father’s death while Simba, a tiny lion cub,  felt responsible for causing his father’s death. Simba did what Scar tricked him into thinking was honorable while Hamlet lacked the courage to be honorable. Hamlet alienates all the people who care for him while fulfilling his duty while Simba makes friends along the way. Simba is also a strong enough leader to assume the throne while Hamlet dies a whiny death and leaves the  throne  to a foreigner. There were a few differences between The Lion King and Hamlet that I was grateful for. Thank goodness that Nala doesn’t meet Ophelia’s fate! It’s also a relief that The Lion King has less deaths than its Shakespearean counterpart.

The Lion King ~ A controversial movie

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

When The Lion King hit the theaters it provoked a wide range of responses. On one hand, it enjoyed enormous popularity and grossed over $300 million in it’s first year. Yet it also evoked a storm of harsh criticisms, from charges of racism to claims it was too violent for young audiences. Those accusations are not without merit, but in my opinion many of them are overly provocative. The question is, why did people become so riled up at this timeless movie?

This scholarly article claims that The Lion King evoked such intense and opposing responses largely because of its usage of Christian and New Age mythologies. The author argues that in a time when America was searching for a way to “restore [the] value of personal responsibility” The Lion King leapt into the scene. But not everyone agreed with the values TLK was espousing. Among other things, the gender role messages in TLK were certain to causes strife among the viewing audiences. Throughout TLK, the females are unable to take a stand by themselves. They look to the males for guidance, even when it is obvious to them that Scar is destroying the land.

The author also argues (and I agree with him) that there is also the strong religious/spiritual aspect in TLK. From Simba looking to his father in the sky for guidance to the mandril priest Rafiki ‘baptizing’ the newborn Simba with symbol dabbed on his forehead with juice, religious references crop up everywhere. There is a “fall” (very literal, in this case) from grace that echoes the garden of Eden, followed by Simba’s exile. There is the ‘return of the rightful king’ woven through this narrative, an age old archetype. In fact, a shockingly familiar story takes place in none other than the little known play Hamlet. TLK retains large sections of the plot from Hamlet, such as from the evil uncle killing the king in order to take his place, or the murdered father returning as a ghost to guide his son. Disney threw in its own touches though, clearing up those inconvenient muddle gray areas that prevent characters from being pure good or bad. The article goes on in length how each and every scene can be attributed to a biblical reference, some of which I do not agree with. But what is obvious to me is that below the animal veneer lies a complex tangle of references and morals, many of them religious in nature.

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