Willful Ignorance In

“Philadelphia” And The Lion King Essay, Research Paper

Dana Forsythe

Studies in Popular Culture

Paul Morrison

Willful Ignorance and The Lion King

The subject of willful ignorance in the movie Philadelphia is obvious as the

partners in Andy?s law firm pretend to not notice that he is sick with the deadly

syndrome AIDS. This is a form of power on their point because they use it to

justify firing Andy for fear of contamination. Willful ignorance is also a major

part of The Lion King. The main difference in the two movies though is that in

Philadelphia, willful ignorance is shown through the characters of the law firm

partners. In The Lion King we as an audience are the ones who are invited to be

ignorant to the subject matter held within.

The main points of the forced ignorance in the movie are the fact that Scar?s

sexuality is masked through the movie and that his true identity of being a

homosexual is never discussed, only hinted at. The fact that the hyenas represent

inner city black youth, is never discussed or pointed out is another example. The

last example is how in The Lion King the circle of life is a paradox to the food

chain. This shows how the lions symbolizing white suburban America is always on


The fact that Scar is gay in this movie is a curious one. The movie?s villain

turns out to be gay. So what does that say about the communities outlook on

homosexuals. Scars quote to Simba when he is younger ? You have no idea? in

response to Simba?s statement ?You?re really weird uncle Scar?, hints at Scars true

self. The audience?s ignorance is invited by the movie through dialogue like this.

The audience?s hatred for Scar comes into play when Scars sexuality comes into

question. They are forced to hate Scar for being the villain but why not make Scar

gay so the audience has not choice to hate gay people. The comment by Mufasa?s

messenger ? There?s always one in every family.?, is another example of how the

movie hints at Scar?s sexuality. Also the example of Scar being gay is used in the

movies reason why he is so wicked. Being the villain, he wants everything to be

his way. This relays the message that a straight world is not an option in the minds

of homosexuals. This gives audiences another hidden hatred for homosexuals and

tarnishes the way they should be seen as fellow human beings.

The second way The Lion King invites the audience to be ignorant of it?s

message is the guise placed on the fact that the hyenas in the movie represent inner

city black youth. The movies outlook on these creatures is that they live in the

?slum? of the kingdom otherwise identified as the elephant grave yard. This

continues as a biased view as the hyenas are shown to be the end of civilization as

the lions know it to be at the end of the movie when the kingdom is show to be in

ruins as a cause of the hyenas. These images give the audience the subconscious

view that inner city black youth is the evil and if they are allowed to rise from

where they came from the upper white middle class, the lions, will lose everything.

It is also not a coincidence that the hyenas are placed, much like inner city youth,

in a slum. The hyenas also have a attitude and overall evilness about them which

is seen as a stereotypical view that most white middle class and upper class people

have for inner city black youth. The last way that the audience is invited to look

over the movies agenda to stereotype inner city black youth is everyone in the

kingdoms hatred for the lowly hyenas and all they stand for.

The final point where The Lion King is shown to be a forceful suit of


and reveals its hidden ideological agenda is through the so called circle of life in

the movie. An example of this is where Mufasa is taking Simba through a tour of

his majestic kingdom. Mufasa says ?Simba all the light touches is ours?, this

shows the superiority of the white upper-middle class, symbolized by the lions.

Mufasa goes on to say that, ?we are all a part of the great circle of life. From the

grazing antelope to the tiny ant ? and that every animal is connected to each other.

After this Simba soon questions the circle, and asks ?don?t we eat the antelope??.

This is where we are invited to be ignorant of the subject at hand. Mufasa gives

Simba a cheesy explanation that they turn into grass when they die and the

antelope eat the grass. etc. But what Mufasa is really explaining to Simba is that

they live at the top of the food chain. Instead of a circle where they are only a part,

they are members of a chain where they rule. This is where the audience is forced

to believe that the lions have good intentions and aren?t the supreme rulers of the

kingdom even though they really are.

The hidden ideological view of this is that the lions or the upper-middle class

whites rule over all and can take what they want when they want. The overall

view of the paradox between willful ignorance and The Lion King is also show

through the circle of life?s hesitation to include the hyenas in its ranks. This goes

back to the hidden connotation of the hyenas representing inner city black youth.

Overall in the movie The Lion King willful ignorance is very much a part

of the movie, in that the creators have hidden their own outlook and bias on the

work. Just as Andy?s partners in the law firm decide to pretend not to know he is

sick, the creators of this movie may pretend not to know all the hidden stereotypes

and overall ideological view they have included in it. The subject of the viewing

audience is a different subject though. They are being shown a this subject matter,

but its being masked behind a Disney film is where the argument begins. Some

say that they are forced not to see that Scar is gay or the hyenas represent inner city

black youth or that the lions, symbolizing white upper-middle class America,

control the system represented by the circle of life or the food chain. I believe that

they are invited to not see this though. The audience is tempted not to look that far

into the movie for fear of feeling guilty. The fact that they themselves could

possibly be the lions or anyone else in the movie could cast a shadow of guilt on

themselves. Because no one wants to be called a stereotypical racist or a bigot. For

these reasons I believe that the audience is only invited as far as they want to go.

The comfortable mask of a Disney movie makes it even easier to stomach. All in

all willful ignorance is a great form of power, in the matter that it is the most useful

tool to keep people where you think they may belong in a certain class structure.


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