September 30, 2023

Lion King, circa 1994, is an all time classic. It was full of glee, sorrow and children’s trap music. From Simba being introduced into our lives in “Circle of Life” to young Simba and young Nala attempting to escape Zazu’s watchful eye in “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” to Scar revealing his villainous scheme in “Be Prepared,” Lion King was forever etched in our memory banks. Fast Forward to 2019 and here we are, grown as shit, hoping to re-live the same euphoria of paying no bills, eating free food and reciting Hakuna Matata. And as I attempted to re-live my childhood euphoria in 2019 Lion King, I noticed how much my life has changed since 1994. After 25 more years of living, life has turned an enthused 9-year-old kid with so much life ahead of him into a 34-year-old washed adult/father who searches for energy in the form of three expresso shots a day. Needless to say, fuck a Face App, life and her challenges have aged me plenty.

In 1994, my sympathies were with Simba. My 9-year-old self was able to relate to young Simba as he attempted to test his own limits and prove to himself and others that he was brave, and that bravado would one day translate to him becoming a great king, like his father. Simba’s attempt to emulate his father (or parent) was a very relatable experience a lot of children encounter. I saw both parents as providers, protectors and guardians, but they were also commercially successful while commanding respect in and outside our respective family structures. In 1994, I was attracted to Simba seeking adventure because sought after adventure, action and danger was romanticized in my 9-year-old world, just as it was in young Simba’s world. And like Simba, 9-year-old me was also very impressionable and could easily be influenced/manipulated.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Simba was influenced by not only Scar, but by how others viewed him. His attempt to impress Nala and Scar influenced him to seek danger, so he could prove some false sense of worthiness he conjured up in his sophomoric head. My 1994 self also sympathized with teenage/young adult Simba. A life of no worries seemed like a very plush existence. I’d imagine a day when I could wake up anytime I wanted; do anything I wanted; and ate anything I wanted. Now, unbeknownst to 1994 me, my Hakuna Matata apex would be reached in college, I strived to become teenage Simba, so I could be worry-free, while doing what I wanted without the annoying oversight of paternalism.

Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly

In 2019, my sympathies changed. I honestly went into Lion King this past weekend expecting to re-live my childhood and follow Simba on his journey from cub to teenager to young adult, as he found himself and became King of Pride Rock. However, as the movie progressed, I noticed that my sympathies were more aligned with Mufasa. In 1994, I was a child. In 2019, I am a parent, and as a parent, you worry about your children. It’s a constant worry that you can’t shake, regardless of how much you know this constant worry will affect your stress levels. Throughout the movie, Mufasa was constantly in state of worry, as Simba attempted time and time again to prove his worth to a father he had nothing to prove to. As the movie progressed even further, Mufasa’s life lessons resonated with me more than ever. While teaching Simba the true meaning of strength and leadership, including the delicate balance/circle of life, I thought to myself, “Shit, maybe I should write this down, so I can convey this exact message to my children in the future.” Simba’s naïve appreciation of Mufasa’s outwardly strength without really considering Mufasa’s compassion was something I never considered in 1994. With the exception of the legend James Earl Jones sounding more like Simba’s grandfather than his actual father (Lord forgive me, but it’s true), Simba’s naïveté stood out like a sore thumb in Lion King 2019.

Mufasa was almost like the animated representation of a black father worried about his black child with white America and her nature to prey on black children being Scar and the hyenas.

The stresses of parenting, especially black parenting in a white America is a stress that can’t fully be measured, but it’s there. And it’s real. Mufasa’s stress levels rivaled and probably even surpassed regular black parenting stress levels. Let’s just say that I’m no medial professional but I’m willing to bet that ruling a kingdom coupled with an adventure-seeking son like Simba sent his blood pressure sky high, to the point that the only danger that rivaled Scar and his heinous ambitions was diabetes.

2019 Lion King also allowed me to take a step back and observe how asinine Hakuna Matata really is. Life filled with no worries sound good, on the surface, but achieving that life style while also being a functioning adult who wouldn’t require moving back to their parents’ house is virtually impossible. Timon and Pumbaa’s proverb resonated in 1994 because it was anti-establishment. It spit in the face of society and its expectations, while raging against what it meant to be alive. Having no worries and doing what I pleased in 1994 felt right. Worrying about shit while doing what was necessary felt mundane. Well, if I could go back and talk to 1994 me, I would tell him to shut his lazy ass up. This life, unfortunately (because I am selfish) requires sacrifice. And whether your life goal encompasses being the best father you can be or taking your place as king of pride rock, sacrifices must be made. While 1994 Lion King reminded me to be an adventurous child with no worries, 2019 Lion King reminded me that doing what is right should come before doing what is easy.

2019 Lion King reminded me that I’m somebody’s washed ass daddy..

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