Bad as it is that the powerful are presented as inherently superior to all other species, things get substantially worse once the hyenas are introduced. With the lions standing in for the ruling class and the “good” herbivores embodying society’s decent, law-abiding citizens, the hyenas transparently represent the black, brown and disabled bodies that are forcefully excluded from this fascist society. Noticeably marked by their ethnically coded “street” accents, the hyenas blatantly symbolize racist and anti-Semitic stereotypes of “verminous” groups that form an inherent threat to society. Just as fascist leaders constantly pinpoint specific groups they seek to villainize and cast out from “natural” society, the film’s heroes are preoccupied with keeping their kingdom free of contamination by undesirable elements, who are consigned to the shadowy ghettolike areas “beyond our borders” – on the wrong side of the tracks. With these elements in place, the film’s plot centers on what happens when the “natural” supremacy of traditional patriarchal rule is interrupted. This foul betrayal of tradition is predictably orchestrated by Scar, the misfit lion whose opportunistic desire to advance the status of minorities echoes the way conservatives speak of liberal politicians, when they act as if compassion is merely opportunism. Simultaneously, his effeminate gestures and lack of interest in heterosexual reproduction mark him as queer, like the vast majority of other villains in Disney’s exclusively heterosexual world. Adding insult to injury, the social outcasts’ rebellion against Mufasa’s autocratic regime is explicitly associated with the imagery of goose-stepping Nazis. But as so often in Hollywood films, the explicit Nazi iconography serves primarily to distract us from the heroes’ own fascism. Simba’s final ascent to the throne, his masculine roar returning Scar’s dystopia to its Edenic natural state, is nothing less than the Führer Principle at work: the idea that those we entrust with positions of leadership are blessed with a natural, even divine superiority.
Dan Hassler-Forest in ‘The Lion King’ is a fascistic story. No remake can change that. (Washingtonpost)