Monday, 2 June 2008

The Lion King: best hangover movie ever?

I was trying to get my stomach to feel like something other than the Rubik cube that it seemed to be that morning what with the Whiskey swigs of the previous night, when someone suggested that 'The Lion King' is the best hangover film in the world. I don't know if it really deserves such high praise - Hitler: The Rise of Evil and Jurassic Park have something to say for themselves, for instance - but the fact of the matter is that I found myself watching the Disney version of ‘Crocodile Dundee in the Serengeti’ except with animals instead of actors (assuming that Paul Hogan can’t be considered an animal) for the first time in a great deal of years.

And I thought it to be highly interesting. It doesn't take a genius to figure that the core message of the film could have the balls drooping off a cactus, but that's not what I want to discuss, since even that retarded baboon who walks around with a stick all the time and couldn't put two coherent sentences together if he tried could tell you that Mufasa doesn't deserve the lion's act as much as the guillotine. After all, the entire film seems to revolve around the message that trying to change the status quo or improving one's social class will only lead to disaster and ruin, and that the best thing to do is to accept whatever (shit) we get. En passant, there's a demonisation of the peripheral elements of society. The mightily detestable hyenas are made to look and sound like the marginalia of current times: we have the idiot, the mafia stereotype Frankie guy (presumably Italian, who the fuck knows) and the black woman (who goes like peaches of course with the fact that all the good lions are markedly white, while the only bad one is the darker one; though Scar's traits are more Middle-Eastern than black, plastically). Add the fact that female lions also seem to have a purely supportive and subdued role throughout the whole film BLAH BLAH BLAH RACISM BLAH BLAH PATRIARCHY YADDA YADDA YADDA how the hell did I get into discussing this when I started off by saying it was as obvious as two buttcheeks on your windshield?

Le fuck. Scratch the blackboard, back to formula. Because for all its manifest authoritarianism I still found something under it (or on the surface?) which was much to be liked. Namely, as far as portraits of the Saturnian golden age go, this is a remarkably successful one. The fact that it’s set in the natural world in the first place gives it an edge to dream about. I mean, when you read the middle books of Paradise Lost, one of the things which really make heaven seem so unappealing (aside from the amount of yacking that the angel does - honestly, *six books* of iambic monologue? Jesus Christ) is the fact that it’s so goddam cloying: everything is made of gold, light and sugar. There’s not a single thing that seems natural; for a universal land of well-being predating the birth of societies, it seems only too accomodating to the requirements of 17th Century England. And it’s not like Dante’s visions of crosses and circles floating in the sky are particularly appealing, symbolically charged (and often beautifully versed) as they may be. But the Edenic canvas of The Lion King manages to remain gripping throughout, probably because by throwing the human element out of the window you’re left with a much more primordial-slash-natural atmosphere, which is the key to all Edenic representations (albeit hugely inaccurate in terms of portraying real nature, I know, I knew that since first seeing it as a kid in fact, so spare me the raised hands). Yeah, this is really so delightful to watch (thanks to the spectacular direction, among other things) that hangovers do become pleasant occasions to be shared with friends, rather than substitutive for funerals.

Then again, of course, it’s not like something being ‘delightful to watch’ makes it a good movie, but that’s a question I really cannot be arsed to unravel at the moment. Besides, what’s *really* interesting about the Lion King is that the success of the Edenic representation rests on its instability. The film’s view of history is cyclical, not Utopian or teleological; and the Saturnian golden age feels so good because we fall from its clouds and then regain them, not because we stay in them. It seems that we’re not really happy in heaven, and not even in hell. Rather, it’s their unwritten margin, the space of anxiety and anticipation, that gives us the real kicks. The death of tension, for the good or for the bad, is just fucking boring.

So what’s my point? Well, aside from the fact that Scar says the kind of things I’d expect from the good guy rather than the bad (‘I’ve got the lion’s share of intelligence, not brute force’, ‘Now begins a new glorious era in which lions and hyenas shall live together in peace’ or something along those lines), and aside from stating the obvious - i.e., it’s fine as roastbeef to speak of the ‘Circle of Life’ if you’re the king (or the retarded baboon - who incidentally is a mandril - since it’s not like he’s got anyone he could get laid with anyway even if he spoke sense), but what of the Madame Bovarys of this life, the Franz Kafkas, the Iagos, the Promethei - aside from all this, I wanted to say that I think The Lion King has some merits as a hangover movie because it’s a very inveigling representation of the little house we bear inside us and we’d someday like to return to. Oh yeah.

It's better than its tedious thematic equivalents like Death in Venice, anyway. What can I say? Hail to the Lion Fuhrer!

(Though I do have to confess that its hangover-movie appeal did take a vertical plunge down the hills for this viewer the minute the film started going all Hamlet on me. Of course they cut out the bit in which Scar is sheep-banging Mufasa’s wife doggy-style, but I swear that in the sequence where Simba sees his father’s ghost, returns home and has his mother mistake him for his father my post-alcohol nausea just went apeshit. I can take incest, I can take bestiality, but the two things mixed together and in a Disney movie for the love of God are just too much to take. Sorry Walt, you lost me in your circle of life).

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