Is 'The Lion King' based on fascism? Russell Moore responds

'The Lion King'
"The Lion King" stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé Carter-Knowles, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, and James Earl Jones. |

Evangelical leader Russell Moore rejected a highly publicized claim that the Disney movie “The Lion King” promotes fascism.

“I don’t think ‘The Lion King’ is fascistic at all,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “My own denomination boycotted Disney a generation ago. And some of the things you hear from the left sometimes sound like a leftish version of what I used to hear from the right.”

Moore was responding to a recent opinion column published by The Washington Post claiming that the movie “The Lion King” had fascist themes.

He labeled the allegation a “pseudo-controversy,” declaring that “nobody really believes that ‘The Lion King’ is fascist propaganda.”

Moore explained that this specifically is “a second-guessing of all art. That all art really has to be propaganda, which is really a Stalinist way of seeing things.”

The column held some merit, he noted, in its concern that many people use animals as an argument either to de-humanize others or to justify certain behaviors.

“The problem is whenever we think nature by itself is an indicator of how we ought to live,” continued Moore. “I’ve heard arguments for transgenderism on the basis of pregnant male seahorses. And I’ve heard arguments against helping the poor because in nature that doesn’t happen.”

“Those arguments don’t work because the Scripture gives us a fundamental distinction between humanity and the rest of the animal world. Humanity is to image God, with reason, with morality, with stewardship.”

Russell Moore
Russell Moore speaks at the 2019 Evangelicals for Life conference at the McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia on Jan. 17, 2019. |

Earlier this month, The Washington Post published an opinion column by Dan Hassler-Forest, assistant professor of media and cultural studies at Utrecht University.

Hassler-Forest argued that “The Lion King” promoted an “ideological agenda” that promotes “a seductive worldview in which absolute power goes unquestioned and the weak and the vulnerable are fundamentally inferior.”

“In other words: ‘The Lion King’ offers us fascist ideology writ large, and there is no obvious way out for the remake,” he wrote.

Hassler-Forest went on to write that Disney, in general, has promoted “authoritarian and anti-democratic values” with films like “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid,” the latter being labeled sexist by the author.

“At a moment when the far right is on the rise, when we debate whether to call the horrific shelters on our border concentration camps, and when anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crimes continue to increase, we should ask ourselves what it means to obsessively revisit narratives that celebrate the strong, the beautiful and the powerful, while looking down upon the rebels, the outcasts and the powerless,” continued Hassler-Forest.

“The Lion King,” which was released last week as a live-action remake and broke box office records, is not the only children’s entertainment to be labeled fascist. The popular television series “Paw Patrol” and “Thomas the Tank Engine” have weathered similar allegations in the past.

“’Thomas,’ the long-running television franchise about a group of working trains chugging away on the Island of Sodor, has been called a "premodern corporate-totalitarian dystopia" in The New Yorker, imperialist and sinister in Slate, and classist, sexist and anti-environmentalist in the Guardian,” wrote Elissa Strauss in a column for CNN in 2017.

“'Paw Patrol’ is equally polarizing … Buzzfeed called the show ‘terrible’ and pointed to instances of gender and social inequality that go unchecked on the show. In the Guardian, Ryder is described as a megalomaniac with an implied ‘unstoppable God complex.’”

Tom Knighton of PJ Media took issue with the labeling of the two TV shows, writing in 2017 that the complaints over the shows were “another example of the left trying to destroy things people enjoy in an effort to sound intelligent and ‘woke.’”

“None of these programs are harmful or do anything except make children sit down and be quiet for a few minutes, something any parent can tell you is a blessing that shouldn't be overlooked,” wrote Knighton.

“They overanalyze every aspect of the show until they find something to lash out at. Ironically, they target television folks who, by and large, tend to be liberals with a strong disdain for the modern right. In other words, they're accusing their own side of shilling for the enemy.”

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