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The 36 Dramatic Situations: The Lion King (1994) and Kindred Upon Kindred Vengeance

The Lion King
By  · Published on August 17th, 2010

This article is part of our 36 Dramatic Situations series.

For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by presenting a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th-century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today.

Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t burst into song and proclaim your impatience at becoming the leader of the land.

Part 9 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Vengeance Taken For Kindred Upon Kindred” with The Lion King.

The Synopsis

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, a murderous plot is taken out on Mufasa, the King. With the vicious Scar as the new king of Pride Rock (so, actually nowhere near a jungle), Mufasa’s son Simba must grow up, learn the truth about his uncle Scar and take his rightful place as the leader of the pack.

The Situation

“Vengeance Taken For Kindred Upon Kindred” might be the most convoluted of the situations, but that’s only because it doesn’t appear in a lot of modern works. It essentially involves a family member wronged by a family member and a third family member taking revenge upon the treacherous family member on behalf of the victimized family member. It’s a typical revenge story where everyone is related. You can see why that might have been more popular during times of Royalty (or in countries that still have Royalty) than in contemporary American film.

Of course, the situation (which requires the Avenging Kinsman, the Guilty Kinsman, and a Remembrance of the Victim who is Relative of both) was most famously used in Hamlet – which has been converted into hundreds of films.

The Film

The Lion King is one of those adaptations of the Hamlet story, but it’s unique for many reasons. It’s animated, it involves humanized animals, and it’s a musical. Plus, we get to really learn who Mufasa is and only have to deal with his ghost once.

In the same sense, the audience also gets a chance to see the scheming of Scar which considerably dilutes the original power of Hamlet in that the Prince of Denmark’s uncle’s betrayal is done before any action ever takes place, so it becomes a specter of what it could be. This makes the psychological weight of the play and its central question much heavier.

In The Lion King, Scar singing from the crag tops about his murdering ways is a solid indication that we, as an audience, should definitely hate the bastard.

Simba is clearly the Avenging Kin who takes on the Guilty Kin, Scar, in the most emotionally satisfying way possible – at the very same location where the movie begins. The circle of life theme continues both as Simba reaches maturity by fighting his uncle at the place of his birth announcement and by defeating him in the same way that Scar dispatched Simba’s brave father Mufasa. (Since we can’t have the hero of a children’s film directly kill anyone, and because it’s far more brutal (even if those ideas conflict), it’s the hyenas who ultimately rip Scar apart for his deceit.)

This is an important aspect of the film because of the dramatic situation it fits into. Whereas the entire concept of the film involves the heightened idea of family, Scar is left with no one. Not even his adopted hyena family. He is, at his end, left without any kindred and he is kindred to no one.

As a counterpoint, Simba has discovered a different meaning of family after losing his father. He’s found friends that are close enough to be blood relatives. Plus, of course, the film ends with the circle of life (and family) continuing as Simba and Nala’s young cub is presented to the kingdom on the very spot where Scar was vanquished.

Bonus Examples: Hamlet, The Proposition, Winter’s Bone

Check out our entire series of 36 Dramatic Situations, 36 Movies.

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