National Geographic Sees Problems with The Lion King...Not Over Biology but Feminism

Image courtesy Disney Studios

The only way to make your hot take on a cartoon any dumber is to inject social politics.

It is always a staple of the social activism brigade to take the moment of a major Hollywood release and come up with some manner of contrived outrage to justify a think piece. These treatises on problematics, toxicity, and any other alleged social crime portrayed on screen are easily dismissed as the attention-seeking shrieking that they are.


It does need to be addressed however when a source of supposed scientific seriousness descends into the social scold strata. (Forgive the alliterative content.)

Disney is poised to release what is expected to be the biggest hit of the summer, the live action (that is, computer animated) remake of its classic hit “The Lion King”. This has a number of scribes scrambling to come up with their incisive interpretation of the triggering content, but why would National Geographic feel the need to wade into the social swamp? Their writer Erin Biba declared she was approached by the magazine to address what they saw as a problem with the story.

Right off at the start, the concept of questioning the veracity of an animal-based family film is a ridiculous proposition. Over the generations we have been weaned on classics that have been populated with a wide variety of animal depictions, and there has not been confusion over the portrayals being accurate. We have not needed an authoritative voice to inform us that animals do not, in fact, speak fluently. Jane Goodall was not called in to correct us that orangutans do not scat like Louis Prima (“The Jungle Book”), nor was a dog whisperer employed to let us know that terriers do not in fact sing Billy Joel tunes (“Oliver & Company”).


The main zoological issue for Nat Geo is that in the wild lions are ruled by the female family members. Males are more itinerant, the reason being that bloodlines need to remain pure. If the National Geographic staff thought they could use the film’s arrival as a teaching moment of lion pride dynamics, that is a wise move. But to couch the inaccuracies on screen as being a feminist issue is a dose of unneeded hysterics. But be assured, that is a problem.

Unless you’re a Lion King superfan, it’s a pretty good bet that you can’t remember the name of Simba’s mom. All the male lions have central and memorable roles in the film.

The opportunism here is evident that these complaints were not offered up in 1994, when the original was released, nor for the long-running Broadway production of the same. It feels absolutely ridiculous to descend into this level of discourse, but there was a dramatic rationale behind departing from the biological facts for “The Lion King”.

The story mirrors that of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, in which familial infighting for the crown takes place. Had they made an “accurate” portrayal of a lion pride you have sisters killing each other, and casting a niece out of the family. This would be done all to steal power in the name of avarice.


Not only does this fail to deliver an uplifting feminist message, consider the lecture we would be delivered had they feminized “Hamlet”. We would be hearing about how it is a poisonous portrayal of women onscreen while departing from the nurturing reality of females in the lion ecosystem. In other words, nothing at all would change.


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