My children and I chose The Lion King for our movie night and I was thoroughly entertained. Yes, it is a movie I have seen several dozen times in my life and one that has spawned the Disney show, Lion Guard, which I have also viewed. The heartwarming tale of redemption and leadership centered on life of animals on the Pride Land is well known to me. This time it was not so much the story line that entertained me; it was watching it with the commentary of a 6 year old critic.
Several portions of the plot caused him exclamation, particularly when straightforward communication would have circumvented conflict, but where is the fun in that? I am hoping to interview him about his views on the overall plot another time, but for today I am sharing his main and most frustrating point: “The hyenas are the real heroes.”
I have to admit, this statement gave me pause. I glanced at my spouse to gauge his reaction before asking, “what?” Thoughts were spiraling through my mind about this child. Perhaps he was not paying attention to the story and the redemption of Simba and his return to his rightful place in the pride? No, he understood all of that, but he pointed out that the hyenas were the characters left to deal with the villain, Scar. The conflict with Scar was not over when he was thrown off the rock.
“You see, when scar told the hyenas that they (the lions) were the enemy, they (the hyenas) thought they were on the good side and they attacked the enemy (lions). Then, scar was mean to them (the hyenas) and switched sides so the hyenas knew the lions are not the bad guys but now they (hyenas) are good guys because they got rid of scar, who was the bad guy all along. “
Okay, so much to unpack here. We have long joked that this child will either be a great mind that many books will be written about or he will be an enormous pain in the butt that many books have to mention due to his infamy. So, where are we on that spectrum?
Perhaps we can start with the hyena characters and their role in the story. They are introduced as loyal followers of Scar helping him with the goal of receiving a part of the bounty of the land he will rule. Okay, sounds good, they have that creepy song with all the shadows and whatnot and then harass young Simba at Scar’s request. Got it, they are in the league of bad guys and we do not like them. Everyone in our house agreed to that point.
Cut to: Scar bad-mouths the hyenas whilst pleading for his life to Simba (sorry if I spoiled this for you, but the movie is nearly 25 years old). Scar reveals that he is not loyal to the hyenas and he, in my son’s mind, is then alone as the bad guy. So, when he is tossed off the boulder and encounters the hyenas they stop him, and most likely eat him. Thank goodness those hyenas were there to rid the Pride Land of such a dangerous, flip-flopping, charismatic menace. This is where he breaks away from the previously decided view of the hyenas: noting their assistance in the decimation of the villain the hyenas were not and should not have ever been classified as “bad guys.”
I love a redemption story as much as the next guy and appreciate that people can change and evolve as they grow and learn. But, this idea that the hyenas have been painted with the wrong brush seriously messed with my head. What crazy ideas led my child to believe that villains can be rehabilitated or that evil actions do not mean evil intentions? I am glad he did not feel Simba should have eaten the hyenas or something, but, do they really deserve the designation as “heroes?” I always thought of hyenas as mangy, ruthless, nasty animals that would turn on even their best friends. I saw them as living up to this reputation when they attacked Scar, not as released from their contract with him and acting for the good of pride society.
The hyenas, to my son’s point, do the Pride Land and its leader a huge service by dealing with Scar. Yes, they are the fixers of the story. If this was a mob movie they would be the family thugs. They do the jobs not meant for the good clean folks in leadership. I picture them in their tracksuits discussing cold cuts and the sturdiest brand of brass knuckles. So now I wonder, if those hyenas had not been there would Scar have continued to trouble the lions and other animals in the Pride Land? Are their ruthless ways integral to the balance of society? Simba climbed the rock and united the animals of the land with his promise of protection, but who is really protecting them? Where would all of those animals, including Simba, be without the brave hyenas? And can we judge the hyenas as evil or good depending on whom their actions benefit?
So, I ask you, do the hyenas have the qualifications to be classified as “heroes” in The Lion King?
I am a highly opinionated and sassy mother of three and wife to one. I hope you enjoy reading about my efforts to tackle the infuriating obstacles of life using straight talk and humor. If I say it, I mean it, or maybe I am being sarcastic. I like to focus on topics from my everyday life: parenting, cooking, crocheting, and a whole list of other things that inspire my rage.