The Lion King

I never watched The Lion King as a kid so I missed out on the “Disney magic” that almost every one of my peers grew up with. I am always met with gasps and exclamations of, “you’ve never seen The Lion King! You’re really missing out!” whenever I reveal this not-so-secret fact about myself, but after doing a bit of research on the actual movie, I am not so sure that I missed out on very much. Though from the surface The Lion King seems like a wholesome children’s movie, after analyzing the layers of the movie from an outsider’s perspective, I’m not so sure. According to The Cambridge Dictionary cultural appropriation is defined as, “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” and I feel like the Lion King does this in some very noticeable ways and some subtle ways. One example of a very obvious example of cultural appropriation is the fact that two different languages African languages were used in the film seemingly without recognition that the two languages represent two different groups and cultures in Africa. The way english is used in the film is also an example of more subtle cultural appropriation. Though this movie takes place in Africa, I don’t think we hear a single African accent in the movie. Surprisingly though, we hear “American” accents associated with the “good” characters, and a British accent associated with the “evil” character Scar. This might not be a shocking revelation, but according to one article, Scar’s henchmen, the hyenas, had accents typically associated with minority groups, or “ghetto” accents. Even more surprisingly, one of the hyenas was portrayed as having characteristics similar to those of a disabled person. Though these are not examples of appropriation of African cultures directly, it shows that Disney was willing to avoid incorporating more African elements into the movie in order to keep it more “western” while still maintaining the African setting. In all, I don’t know if this was purposefully done to take away from African culture because these details are not the focus of the movie. The Lion King is a children’s Disney film about family and honor, according to what I know, but I don’t know if it’s ok to feed young children these concepts that homogenize African cultures.

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