Disney makes movies with characters that experience some pretty horrifying deaths. Have you ever thought about that? Bambi’s mama got shot, the barracuda killed Nemo’s mom and siblings, the Beast got shanked, Ursula got stabbed by a boat. If you sit and watch with your kids one day, you might be a little appalled at the wanton violence and blatant disregard for life in Disney movies.
Now, throughout the celebration, we’ve had the opportunity look at a couple Disney villains: specifically a puppy killer and a truly wicked stepmother. Dastardly characters indeed. But, if we were looking at this through our Nancy Grace lens, Cruella DeVille and the Evil Queen are only guilty of Attempted Murder: the 101 Dalmatians lived to fight another day and Snow White got her prince (I’m not sure this is a good thing: everybody thought Snow was dead. Doesn’t that make the prince a necrophiliac?). Try as they might, they were unsuccessful. And like Brandy said, Almost doesn’t count.
But then there’s Scar, brother of the king in The Lion King. This cat (literally) is a true criminal. In the Shakespearian sense. He partners with an army from another land, masterminds the deaths of his brother and his nephew, takes over the pride lands only to run it into the ground. But that’s not the best part. Scar took matters into his own hands and personally murdered his own brother.
This part is significant. The Lion King is the highest grossing hand-drawn animated film in history, earning nearly $1B in revenues. It’s won 2 Oscars, 6 Tonys and a Golden Globe. Everybody knows about the “Circle of Life” and people of all ages suddenly became Elton John fans. Millions of people—millions of kids—have seen the movie; millions of people have been affected by it. Millions of people got to watch Scar kill his brother on screen.
You didn’t get to see the bullet physically pierce Bambi’s mother’s heart. You didn’t get to see the barracuda actually eat Nemo’s family. But you got to watch Scar plunge his claws into Mufasa’s wrists; you got to watch Mufasa fall into a valley of stampeding wildebeasts and get trampled to death; you got to watch Simba beg his dad to wake up—it was like the last scene in The Champ. And you got to watch Scar blame Simba—a child, mind you—for his father’s death. That’s fucked up. And it happened in a kid’s movie. It was so bad, I actually got upset: I kept waiting for Mufasa to wake up and come back. I was pissed all the way until I saw that bird singing the Negro spiritual, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” That part was funny.
Scar is cool, calculating, ambitious, wrangles an army of henchmen, and has a wonderful English accent—he’s the feline version of Ernst Blofeld, right? (Blofeld is the quintessential Bond villain—we’ll talk about him later in the Celebration). But what makes Scar truly a vile character is he gets his hands dirty. For all his refinement, he literally has blood on his hands. He murdered Mufasa and tried to kill his son. Three times. He emotionally abused a kid who was trying to comprehend his father’s death. He’s a murderer, a tyrant, a heartless bastard. All of this makes him a spectacular villain period. What makes him exceptional is that this is the villain in a children’s movie.
The A to Z Challenge takes another break tomorrow but you know how we feel about breaks: they’re for suckers. Tomorrow we’ll look at the character that made a nation frightened of fava beans: Hannibal Lecter.