Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Analyzing the Disney Villains: Scar (The Lion King)


Origin: The Lion King (1994)

It's kind of nice to see a real royal struggle in a Disney film, with conspiracies and plotting and such. Scar is the power hungry brother to the king. He's Claudius. He's Iago. And he's not that bad. Doesn't hurt that his voice actor is Jeremy Irons, a voice that never deviates from snide, snake-like deviousness. It's ironic this post is after Prince John's, because they are not dissimilar.


Motivation: Well, power is nice. But unlike Prince John, Scar wasn't snubbed because of heredity or birth order. This takes place in nature, and the strongest rules. I don't think Scar really wants to be king as he just wants to prove he's a better lion than his brother. If these were humans, a simple "who's strongest" motivator would be appalling, but for animal predators, it makes sense. And it helps that Mufasa is kind and just. But some lions just want to watch the world burn. Or degrade into a lifeless wasteland. Problem is, I can't quite tell if it's out of jealousy, or desire for attention, or revenge. Jealousy is a powerful motivator, and it's intrinsically human and intrinsically evil.


Character Strengths: Hmm, tough one here. This category is for "other interests" and when you're a lion, you don't really take up knitting or model kits. We already know Scar doesn't have the balls to lead the kingdom, but he doesn't even take advantage when he has the throne. The hyenas are the ones that ravage the land, so he's not even indulging himself in delicious antelopes (unless he has really high metabolism).


Evilness: Scar doesn't have the wherewithal (how the did that ever become a word?) to be a king, but he knows about power. He likes it. He'd like to get more of it. And to that end he will lie, cheat, kill family members, and betray his own kingdom by allying with the enemy. I have no idea why people keep believing him -- he just looks devious.


Tools: Lack of opposable thumbs tends to be a hindrance for tool users. As such, Scar has to rely on his brains. He'll say anything to get what he wants, and he's silver-tongued enough to get people to believe him. And he keeps the hyenas dangling on a string, so he's pretty good at manipulation. Until his tongue gets him into trouble. If he were human, he'd have a promising career as a politician.


Complement to the Hero: Well, unfortunately, Simba is the hero here, not Mufasa. The story does a good job of setting the two brothers as opposites -- Mufasa relies on integrity and leads by action, because he's not quite as clever. It holds somewhat well for the progeny too. Simba is young, naive, and basically "loses" to Scar when the chips fall down (or the wildebeests, in this case). The whole story is about Simba growing into as fine a king as Mufasa, growing the same confidence and honor throughout the story. And the destruction of Scar is the final obstacle to that. But other than that, Scar's beef is with Mufasa, not Simba. So the rivalry falls a little flat.


Fatal Flaw: Scar's silver tongue is his greatest strength. It also leads to his downfall, and that's awesome. As soon as he realizes he's outmatched by Simba and his posse, he backtracks and names names. Even if he'd won, the hyenas would probably have skinned him alive anyway, for showing his true colors. It's not like they needed him anymore anyway.


Method of Defeat/Death: After Scar manages to finagle a pardon out of Simba, he throws some cinders in his eyes and attacks. Fire and flame explode as they race to the apex of Pride Rock. Slow-motion slap fight ensues (lions don't have fists). The visual is pretty cool -- it's like they're fighting in Hell. But when Scar leaps out of the flames, Simba judo-throws him over the edge, where the hyena army awaits. Disoriented, he asks his buddies for help. They don't take kindly to being thrown under the safari jeep. Among the licking shadows, they tear him to pieces in a scene I thought was pretty gruesome when I was a kid.


Final Rating: Three stars

PREVIOUS ANALYSES:
Prince John (Robin Hood)
Edgar (The Aristocats)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
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