The Lion King.
April 6, 2011 § 3 Comments
Caught the broadway musical for the second time this (or yesterday) evening. I first watched it when I was in London with mom and sis in 2009, and was totally blown away by the set and costuming.
Back then I was a freshly minted sophomore. Movies were not yet ruined for me as a result of my film education. The ‘formulae’ of storytelling had not yet become itemized segments in my mind.
Two years down the road and a few more short films later, I’ve become far more sensitive to the nuances, hooks and turning points in the process of telling a story, be it one on screen or stage.
There will be spoilers, but really, how many of you don’t know the story of Lion King?
A regular consumer of media generally just laps things up hook, line, sinker, the fisherman and his boots. But despite all the complaints we (okay, I) make about how a media school teaches us nothing we really need to know to survive in the real world, it has made me very sensitive (and jaded) to many things, especially how we choose to communicate a message to our intended audiences. This is a discussion for another day, but my point is, studying the art of storytelling and scripting for a film has made me observe more closely how stories are told, and why the stories of another actually mean anything to us.
The Lion King is a story with many lessons, more than I will remember to write about in this post. It is a story filled with animal characters, but very human situations. What draws us so fondly to these tales are the mirrors of ourselves and our world that we see in theirs, tales that we can relate to.
There are two main types of observations I drew from The Lion King tonight; the spiritual, and the non. I shall begin with the latter.
Why are we drawn so intimately into their stories?
Simba running away and choosing the hakuna matata life, yet his outer veneer of happiness is weighed down by the guilt of his past that he keeps buried deep inside.
The one who makes a mistake he deems unforgivable, and condemns himself to running away forever to avoid facing the consequences of his actions, or to avoid facing the shame and guilt he believes he will wear on his heart forever.
The hakuna matata life.
No worries, no past, no future, no purpose; a hedonist’s existence. All three from a lonely, rejected past. Trying to plug their lives with the happiness of the world, a defense mechanism, a but all hiding inside, the holes they could only temporarily cover but never truly fill.
Simba snarling and walking away yelling “You’re WRONG!” after Nala tries to tell him that he has to go back and claim his rightful place.
The pride and defensiveness that is snappily released onto the ones who care enough about us to tell us to go back and face our fears. (And also, often, the case of men who just simply refuse the gentle advice of the woman who understands him best and who has more foresight than him, if he would only just lay down his pride for a moment to see it.)
The magic of storytelling is this: That regardless of whether you choose to tell a story with animals, or even garden gnomes, is that every story is just merely a reflection of our own existence. Don’t ask me about more abstract writing, but I believe that every storyteller writes a story just as much for another to appreciate as he writes for himself.
Some may argue that an author’s work can sometimes just be his own form of catharsis. I won’t comment on the self-indulgence of writing, but I believe that if you want to call yourself a storyteller, a curator of tales, the act itself is one that involves someone other than the author himself. Story told.
So a storyteller is one who must have stories that can and want to be heard. Stories that live on in the stories of others, because it is a story of others.
As a film student it has become an even more pertinent subject on mind to be able to tell a good story, hence the constant observation on the success of other stories. I think constantly of my subject, of the ones to whom my story will be told to, and how my stories will unfold in their minds to actually mean anything to them.
The human condition is an ageless tale, when adapted well to the context of your audience. It never dies nor goes away, because humans, despite the many lessons they can draw from history, are stubborn creatures and make the same mistakes even when they know the perfect answers to their supposed problems. And this is what I always remind myself of, when I start to weave a story in my mind.
The Spiritual Observations.
You may stop reading here, if you wish. I am candid and unabashed about my faith.
There were just too many to ignore: “He lives in you, he lives in me.”
The above three examples.
The entire story.
Running away from the Father.
In the story of the Lion King, Simba ran away because he believed he killed Mufasa. His guilt caused him to flee. Likewise, in the lives of many Christians who have walked out of the church, it is less because God disappointed them, but because of the guilt they bear when they believe they have disappointed God. Those that have not been taught the God of grace but the God of do-good-get-good, do-bad-get-beat, find themselves in positions where they simply cannot live up to ‘expectations’ (set by the institutionalized church, and not necessarily the bible), and decide to just drop it completely because it just isn’t worth it.
They run away to the world, like Simba does, and indulge in its pleasures to try and forget. Most of you have heard Christians rambling on about this ‘God-shaped hole’ that only God can fill. And many of you have scoffed at it. I have had my fair share of ‘debates’ (or confrontations in which many like to challenge my faith) with friends who have flatly told me in the face that God does not exist, that they would never step into a church again, that even if God were real so what their lives are perfectly fine without him.
But the hole is never truly filled, any temporary attempts to feed it remain, temporary. They satisfy but for the moment, and need to be often replenished.
Rafiki appears and Simba asks him, ‘Who are you?’ and Rafiki retorts with: “It is not who am I, but who are YOU.”
Simba sees Mufasa in his reflection in the water. “You have forgotten me,” Mufasa says. “No! I haven’t.” Simba replies.
“You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me.” the gentle voice of Mufasa replies, from the stars.
The same way, many of us forget God. We forget that when you KNOW you are the child of the King and what this means, you carry yourself that way. A gift is of no use until you stretch out your hand and actually take it. Likewise, you live who you believe your identity to be.
And from that turning point Simba finds the strength he never knew he had to confront Scar.
Knowing your identity gives you strength and boldness to say and do the right things.
There are so many lessons jammed into The Lion King that I’d never noticed before studying film became a part of my life.
Off to sleep now, KTM with the boys
tomorrow later for Rediscover.