Click to read my introduction to this series, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.
Simba will be the second exception to my decision not to include animal characters in this series. After all, 1994's The Lion King has characters even more like people than in Bambi or 101 Dalmatians. The 90's Disney films started getting deep, too, didn't they? (Just wait until we get to The Hunchback of Notre Dame next time.) Not that Disney was ever not deep; it's just that Disney is traditionally more simply good versus evil, which is simple deep. The Lion King, though, is all of the crazy mess of inner life conflict reacting against the outer world that is Hamlet. And Simba, as Hamlet, has quite the personal journey there.
He begins as a normal child: eager, adventurous, positive, and friendly. He's excited to get into mischief and excited about the idea of being the king someday. But Simba's childhood ends early with the great shock that is the death of Mufasa. Following Scar's manipulation and bad advice, Simba flees into the "adolescent failure" stage. People nowadays call it "experimenting." Simba runs and hides, ignoring all that was important to him (his family, his home, and his friendship with Nala) in favor of looking out for himself only. He gives in to fear and, almost in a way, hedonism. And yet, even during this self-centered time, Simba's social side and his care for others still shows through in his friendship with Timon and Pumba. He doesn't just go off on his own; he finds a new posse, a new "family unit" to try and replace the one that he abandoned.
As the story goes on, you could say that this story is an instance where the princess saves the prince, assuming here that we want to consider Nala a princess (technically, after all, she's probably Simba's half-sister, right? though we'd probably rather not think about it that way). Nala, venturing far from home to try and help her people/family, finds Simba and tells him to come back. They talk about it and though Nala doesn't in that moment convince him, this conversation does lead in to Simba's encounter with Rafiki and then his vision of his father, all of which then leads to his decision to return to Pride Rock and take his place. So you can say that Simba and Nala make a good team.
Now, maybe everyone won't like this perspective, but I find Simba a great example of the male head of household setting up order for his family. What I like about this perspective is that Simba's taking on of this role emphasizes not the power of the role but the responsibility of it. This responsibility is what Mufasa tried to explain to the young Simba--what Simba could only understand for himself once he grew up and experienced that position for himself of seeing what it meant to stand up for his family/pride. And if you don't want to see it as specifically the "male head of household" thing, then you can simply see it as one person looking out for other people.
Or you can even see Simba's move to take his place as king as his move to take his place in the world. We all tend to struggle with wondering what our place is and finding out how to settle into it. It isn't always easy. So Simba's story shows what it means to realize what your role is and how you can perform it and how your own choices affect so many other people. That's life. Ah, these deep 90's Disney films.
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