Postmodernism & Christianity in “The Lion King”

Watch this excerpt from “The Lion King”.

This excerpt is provided as an illustration of postmodernism and includes numerous explicit Christological allusions and images. Whether or not those images are intentional, they are there and they are clear.

Right away, you get the idea that there is good news being proclaimed. Whether it’s the loud voice shouting the good news, or it’s a visual sign. Regardless, the animals are all reacting by shifting their attention to something in the distance and immediately heading toward the good news. This depicts the shepherds reacting to the good news of their Savior being born and following the North Star to the newborn. You can see that they are heading the same direction in packs of their own breed. They are acting in community by traveling together and helping each other out a bit along the way, with concern for the “other”, which are characteristics of postmodernity. The way they are caring for one another can be seen in the way Christians are to love their neighbor. There is even overlapping of communities when all the different breeds come together along the way and at the face of the mountain. Just as in Christianity, Jesus came for all people, not excluding any breed or race. On top of that, their communities overlapping at the face of the mountain is also a characteristic of postmodernity and Christianity, in that Christians are accepting of other breeds and cultures and often overlap.

The lyrics of the opening song also display postmodernity.

“From the day we arrive on the planet

And blinking, step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

There’s far too much to take in here

More to find than can ever be found”

This excerpt is characteristic of postmodernity because it could be perceived as rejecting the idea of the need for an ultimate foundation of human knowledge and is skeptical about anyone’s ability to know everything.

It goes on to say:

“It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life”

This also supports the view of postmodernity, considering the previous lyrics, because it again rejects the idea of modernity trying to explain life with reason and rationality. The lyrics acknowledge that there is a truth of the “Circle of Life” that can be accepted and understood without having a comprehensive explanation of any “master story” of life.

Once all the animals have arrived at the mountain, you can see more imagery of Christianity. The good news the animals were heading towards is greeted by the father lion, who alludes to Joseph (in this context and God, The Father in others). The baboon who greets the father lion could symbolize the wise men. Then you see there is a lion cub, who alludes to Jesus, being held and nurtured by the mother lion, or Mary. The way the scene is set, you can see the imagery that this lion cub is born of royalty and will someday be the king of that land. All the animals of the kingdom celebrate this. Just as when Jesus was born King and was, at times, celebrated by his followers.

Towards the end of the scene, the father lion takes his son to the top of the mountain to look over all the kingdom and tells him that one day his time will end and the son’s time begins. This is an image of Christianity where God, The Father, has ruled throughout the time of the Old Testament, and then when Jesus is born and grown of age (in the New Testament), The Son’s reign begins. Even when the father says the kingdom is “everything the light touches” and excludes “the shadowy place” (and the introduction to the character Scar earlier) indicates that there is some tension between good and evil, just like in Christianity. Then as they walk among the kingdom, the father lion tells his son that “everything exists together in a delicate balance” and that everyone is to be respected. This again portrays community and care for the “other”, which are characteristics of postmodernity. He ends the scene by saying that we are all connected by the great circle of life. This can allude to Christians all being connected by the Holy Spirit.

I believe the Christological imagery of this film has significance because those who aren’t familiar with Christianity are introduced to a part of the narrative probably without expecting to, or perhaps without even realizing it. For those who are already Christian, or are familiar with the Christian teaching, this imagery serves as a good reminder of the characteristics of the Christian narrative: God, Jesus, community, caring for one another, good, and evil.

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