I love movies. Not because they are so entertaining, but because they are layered with so much symbolism—and I love drawing parallels and meaning from movies and seeing what lessons I can learn from the stories and what truths I can apply to my life. Isn’t that the purpose of stories anyway?
I am a Black male Millennial living in America on a quest to discover earthly purpose and understand the spiritual significance of my life. This is the lens through which I watched The Lion King this time. And seeing it as an adult and as a live action remake helped me to see many things I didn’t clearly see before.
With you, I will share three (One race-related, one spiritual, and one romantic).
Pumbaa and Timon are NOT Simba’s friends. Pumbaa and Timon are self-interested, fear-ridden characters who seek benefit from Simba’s guilt, pain, and ignorance. They mask their fear as friendliness and tell all the animals that he is not like other lions (but is one of the “good ones”) and train against his nature. Pumbaa and Timon encourage Simba to reject the Circle of Life Philosophy of harmony and balance in exchange for a “meaningless line of indifference” philosophy where one not only worries about nothing (Hakuna Matata) but also does nothing. They change his diet, converting him from a carnivore to an insectivore, and even poke fun of his spiritual beliefs about his ancestors. Simba’s mis-education goes so far and deep that his only enemy was another lion which he was willing to kill in order protect those who are using him and duping into believing they are his friends and not his natural prey.
Mufasa represents Simba’s Higher Self. Mufasa is depicted on the surface as Simba’s father, but on another level of interpretation, Mufasa is Simba’s Higher Self. Remember when Rafiki tells Simba that he can show him where Mufasa is? The chase that ensues represents the spiritual journey we must all go on to find ourselves. At the end of this chase, Simba learns that Mufasa never died, but lives in him. Here, we can learn that the separation (of spirit and soul) that occurred after the “fall of man” is also an illusion, and that the higher principle of ourselves is still up there, rooting for us and cheering us on. This truth causes Simba to remember who he is and consequently return home to reclaim his position in the Circle of Life. On this other level of interpretation, Simba reconnects with his higher self and the truths he learned from his higher-self before the separation. On after this connection is he able to be the “mighty King” he dreamed of being when he was a cub. His fear disappears. His focus becomes more precise. His roar is more ferocious and powerful than ever before. Simba becomes a fully realized lion to such an extent that Scar thinks Simba is Mufasa; which I argue he is (John 10:30). In this state, Simba is able to defeat Scar and the hyenas and restore balance and bring back order to the home he was born to protect.
The Black women should be exalted. In my opinion, Nala is the most important character in the movie. She represents unconditional love, balance, power and unity. is the catalyst that calls Simba home. She is grounded, self-aware, and consistent (Simba’s number one fan since they were children). She sees courage in him when no one else is able to and literally enCOURAGEs him to be all that she sees. She puts courage in him. She calls out what she sees in him. She brings out the best in him. She demands that he is his best and does what is best for the family and the home. This process, for men, can be embarrassing, difficult, and even painful—the same way it was for Simba who hasn’t fully dealt with the puffed-up view he had of himself or the unprocessed pain and guilt he had from childhood. But Simba MUST find himself if he is going to be a suitable mate for Nala or a “mighty king” for Pride Rock. But because he is not ready, they break up. Nala leaves Simba. As much as she loves him, she intuitively knows that he has to come to the knowledge of the truth for himself. Her leaving, is not in vain though. It prompts him to think about himself in such a way it initiates his quest for self-discovery. He finds himself, finds Nala, and finds his place back in the Circle of Life.
Without Nala, Simba would have died in the wilderness. Her love for him and her belief in him saves Pride Rock and preserves the family that otherwise would have perished under Scar’s reign. Nala represents the divine feminine when, once joined to the divine masculine creates an enduring love that sustains life in magical and majestic ways.
I recently read a Facebook post that said: “Please stop putting all the problems of the world on the shoulders of Black Women.” For some reason I was hurt when I read this. It pained me because the truth is, the Black woman is the only human being that can handle such pressure. But the other truth is that she cannot succeed alone, the same way Nala couldn’t over throw Scar alone or Rule Pride Rock alone. Once they came together, and only then, was balance was fully restored.
For some reason, I was moved to stay in the theatre until the very end. The first song during the closing credits was “Never too Late” which, to me, speaks of the truth that it’s never too late to remember who you are, return to your home and reclaim you land and place on the throne. Compound that with the fact that when you reconnect to your higher-self, you have all of nature fighting with you to help you restore balance and restore order to the circle of life, the message to me was clear: 1) Disconnect from your enemies (within and without). 2) Reconnect with your higher self. 3) Connect with your woman.
My key to the characters and what they concepts they represented. I was probably distracting a few people around me trying to take notes on my phone during the movie. Messages were being downloaded like crazy and I didn’t want to forget them. The more time I have, the more I will unpack them, but here is what I have so far. Consider these when you watch the movie. See if they resonate.
Simba represents the Black Man.
Mufasa represents Simba’s higher self (truth)
Nala represents the Black Woman (unconditional love, power)
Rafiki represents Spiritual Guide
Scar represents Simba’s lower self (deceit, fear, guilt, death)
Pumba and Timon represent Foreign culture superimposed through education and religion (Colonialists)
Hyenas represent (western) culture of greed and insatiable appetite
Zazu represents guardian angel, order and knowledge (all seeingness (bird’s eye view) and all knowingness (messenger/snitch to King)
Pride Rock represents Home/ Paradise
Pumbaa and Timon’s home represents the Wilderness