Where intelligence gives way to madness.
Disney movies have achieved the long running success they have seen due to a specific style of storytelling. Typically each story starts out with the creation of a scenario in which an unlikely hero has to recognize what they have been missing all along, in order to save the day. And truth be told, it works.
This style has created a method of targeting younger audiences and teaching them right from wrong. Disney heroes have been looked at as a parenting aide in the development of a child’s moral compass. The kid is entertained, learning something, and finally giving Mom and Dad two hours of relaxing silence.
The problem lies in the blind acceptance that the child applies to the lessons being learned. They are being taught to label people without thinking deeper into scenarios and this, once in a while, can lead to characters being classified as evil, when in fact they are just being seen through the wrong lens. The main character’s perception is what leads to us referring to certain characters as dicks. When this happens, certain characters fall through the cracks and are labeled as a villain. Undeserving characters like…
The Hyenas from The Lion King
Most of you are looking at that title and saying, “Oh, fuck right off! They were Scar’s minions!” In that sense you are correct. They did help Scar to overthrow the Pridelands and seize control. Then, apparently under his watch, a climate shift occurred and everything died. So how can they not be villains you ask? After all, they did cause the stampede that created the most heart breaking moment of your childhood in which Mufasa is killed. Those motherfuckers!
Here is a basket of puppies to help you forget that soul crushing sadness.
But wait. Why exactly were the Hyenas so willing to assist Scar in the coup? Did he offer them power or riches? No, Scar merely told them that if they helped him they “would never go hungry again.” That is it. Food. Under Mufasa’s rule, the hyenas were banished to a desolate wasteland where the only thing to eat was apparently bones and dirt. Mufasa had treated them like lesser beings, and they were sick of it.
The hyenas were merely trying to fight to stay alive and improve their proletariat lot in life. The symbolism could not have been any stronger than having the King live up on Pride Rock in an elevated state above the rest of the inhabitants. The bourgeoisie was flourishing, while the hyenas were slowly dying in a wasteland. I am not condoning the actions they took, but where one side sees a villain, the other sees a patriot. The hyenas were simply trying to reclaim their right to a better life. We were some red, white, and blue uniforms and Mufasa quote saying “Let them eat cake” away from having Les Lion Revolution.
Coming to Broadway in 2014.
Shere Khan from The Jungle Book
On the surface this one may appear pretty cut and dry. Boy enters jungle, Shere Khan plots his demise. One would think that it does not get more black and white than that when it comes to deciphering evil motives. Things start to get murky when you begin to look deeper into what was fueling his actions.
The seemingly fearless Shere Khan was shaken to his very core by something traumatic that led to him being scared shitless by fire and man’s gun. That is a pretty realistic fear and when taken into account that he travels alone at all times, things begin to fall into place. It becomes apparent that man must have hunted his wife, parents, siblings, or friends at some point to the extent that he now travels as a one man hunting machine set on vengeance. This is a development from a life altering event that we have seen once before. Clearly, Shere Khan has picked up the cowl and has become the Batman.
It’s time for this Jungle to get the hero it thinks it deserves to need.
Much like the Batman, Shere Khan is alone, has no patience for guns, and seeks to harm anyone who has wronged him from the shadows. Shere Khan is hell-bent on ensuring that the suffering he has seen never happens to anyone else. So, now that the child of the men from the shadows has returned to finish what his father had started, it is only logical that Shere Khan would attempt to Batman him the fuck out of the jungle by any means necessary to protect the rest of the jungle’s citizens. In the end, he was just trying to finish off his work so that he could retire to a life of banging the tiger version of Anne Hathaway.
Gaston from Beauty and the Beast
As you all know, it is a tale as old as time. Boy falls for girl. Boy tries too hard to woo girl. Girl is held hostage by other man until she falls in love with him. Boy makes an over the top gesture to try one last hail mary to convince her of his love. If I had a dollar for every time I lost a love interest due to this scenario, I would have a lot more free time for writing as I would have been able to retire years ago. What I am saying is that we have all been that person before.
A mirror image.
Sure, Gaston was obnoxiously over the top in his pursuit of the girl of his dreams, but we have all done some insane things in the name of love. The entire town literally just finished a rousing performance to praise his courage and marksmenship as the best hunter in the land. So when a recluse kidnaps the girl of his dreams and holds her hostage in his house, why would he not be the one the town rallied behind in order to lead them on the charge to free one of their citizens?
Gaston took it upon himself to apply his natural talents in an attempt to save Belle. He was the most qualified for the job in their little town, so he raised a pitchfork and was off to bring home the kidnapped girl. And if she fell in love with him for being her savior? Well that would just be icing on the cake to him.
Well hello there, Icing.
But when seen through the eyes of a girl who had fallen deep into the trap of Stockholm’s Syndrome, he is a murderous asshole. Yeah, Gaston was a bit over the top in his actions and his love for himself, but his motives were honest in order to free a captive from her abusive captor. It would even seem that his selfless actions of risking his life in this case, were speaking louder than his self serving words from earlier.
The main message this story is meant to deliver is to not judge a book by its cover, and it is an important message that is learned throughout. Although, when seeing things unfold from Gaston’s point of view the message becomes blurry, in that doing the right thing still results in the asshole getting the girl and everything else they had always wanted anyways. And we wonder why chivalrous men are a rare breed these days.