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Marcus, P. (1995). The Lion King. Psychoanal. Rev., 82(1):159-161.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Review, 82(1):159-161

The Lion King

Paul Marcus

Some films call it the “Me Generation.” Others go with the versatile “Generation X.” Most recently, the teen rebel film Pump Up the Volume coined the “Why-Bother Generation.” Yet all these pictures have tried to capture the mindset of that same group of children who are trying to grow up with parents who have done it all, from mass protests to financial conquests, who have left their kids with no demons to kill but their own sense of guilt, inadequacy, and fear of failure. Films about these youngsters tend to revolve around lifelike heros who are brooding, introspective, and constantly escaping from demands and responsibility (Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume, Ethan Hawke in Reality Bytes, etc.).

But the most recent, and perhaps most ambitious, message for the Generation X'ers comes from an unlikely source: Walt Disney Productions. Yes, Disney's The Lion King is made specifically for today's generation of kids, at a time when dreams of rags to riches are obsolete and guilt is more prevalent than hope.

Of course, at its heart The Lion King remains a children's movie, with stunning animated splendor to keep the kids gazing wide-eyed at the screen. The action is dazzling, taking our eyes on a hot pursuit of lions and hyenas racing through an animated landscape like the three-dimensional “Virtual Reality” rides to which today's youngsters have grown accustomed.

But the colorful animal kingdom resembles the world in which today's kids are growing up in other respects. The main character, Simba, knows he cannot surpass the accomplishments of his father, for his Dad has already conquered the land “as far as the eye can see.” Simba must not go beyond the Pridelands, warns the King, because it is a dangerous neighborhood of bloodthirsty Hyenas who linger like all the terrorists, criminals, kidnappers, and child-molesters that threaten the serenity of American suburbia. The animals in the kingdom have come to accept the jungle hierarchy as an inevitable result of the kingdom's economy, the food chain.

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