Saturday, January 25, 2014

Growing up at the Movies: The Lion King

The Lion King

     “The Lion King” is the first movie I remember seeing in theaters. Apparently my parents had taken me to movies before, but this is the first one I actually remember. No one can forget that opening! I came away with eyes wider than than my gigantic glasses. This Disney classic may very well have started my obsession with film.

   Ask my parents. I was obsessed. I owned the VHS, the soundtrack, and as much Nala merchandise as I could get my hands on.

   I would beg my friends to re-enact my favorite scenes and could practically recite the screenplay verbatim.

   And you thought my obsession with Les Mis was bad!

   Yes, “The Lion King” touched something pretty deep inside my six-year-old soul. I think it did that for a lot of people. After all it’s considered one of the greatest animated films of all time!

   Even though I can basically play the movie in my head, every so often I like to sit down and actually watch “The Lion King”.

   As I started putting this list of childhood favorites together- well “Lion King” was at the top. I knew I had to write about it, but I wasn’t sure exactly which aspect I would expound upon.
   This movie shaped my world in a ton of ways. It brought exotic Africa into my home, the brilliance of good cinema to my imagination, and actually introduced me to one of my favorite composers- Hans Zimmer.

  The part where Simba makes the decision to return to his home never really stood out to me, but now that I’m older I’m beginning to appreciate Simba’s journey on a whole new level.

   I left home for the first time five years ago. It was kind of a big deal. Between then and now, I’ve spent months, and even a year or two living “at home”, but ever since that first move to Orlando, it was never “home home” anymore.

   I’m sure a lot of young adults can understand when I say: it is really hard to go back to old places. I’ve done it several times- and it doesn’t get any easier.

   Every time I’m away- spreading my wings- as it were, I find myself growing and changing. It’s like I start a new life, and almost become a new and different person.

   Then I go home for a few months and I turn back into a fifteen-year-old.

   I’ve been told that this is normal.

   Sometimes I don’t even have to go to my old neighborhood. Even when I’m living somewhere else, I will meet someone, or be faced with some situation from my past.

   Compared to Simba, my past is kind of boring. However, there’s a lot of things I did and said way back when (meaning during my teenage years) that I’m not proud about.

  Nothing horrible, just stupid comments or selfish actions that I regret and wish I could take back. When I meet someone who was around during those times, I’m embarrassed. I wonder if when they look at me, they just see that moody teen who always talked people’s ears off about movies. 

   Okay... maybe some things never change.

   The point is: I feel a desperate need to prove that I’m not that kid anymore. That I’ve grown up and (hopefully) changed for the better. In reality, this is just petty, but that doesn’t help snuff out the voice inside telling me I’m just a little kid who messes up all the time.

   What does this have to do with the “Lion King”? Well, if you haven’t made the connection already, Simba has to return to a place where he’s pretty sure his loved ones believe that he killed his father! 

  And I worry about those times I screwed up my lines in theater class. I got nothing on Simba.

  The cool thing? Simba goes back. It’s only now that I can appreciate just how difficult it is to make that kind of decision. He goes back, and immediately Scar accuses him for Mufasa’s death.  What does Simba do? He takes it. He acknowledges bad things happened, but he doesn’t want to let that hold the lion pride from a better future.

   I should back up.... When I was six, the most boring part of the movie was when Rafiki has that long (seemingly endless) conversation with Simba about the Past. To a kid, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and I always felt slightly inclined to skip ahead to the cool fight scene.

   Now as an adult, that part hit me to the core, like Mufasa’s death hit me to the core when I was a kid.

  I have a Past now. It’s not incredibly long, but long enough for me to have made mistakes. When I was a moody, agnst-y teen, there were a lot of things that I wanted to run away from. And in a way, I saw moving to Orlando as my escape. What did I run away from? Mostly a lot of fears. That, and the fact I was tired of cold Colorado winters. A big fear was watching my sister enter adolescence. Growing up was scary for me, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to help my sister if she started developing depression issues like I did. 

   In the end it doesn’t really matter if my reasons were legit or not. In my mind I called it “running away”, so that’s what it was.

   And it was awesome! I was living in a place where no one knew who I was. No one remembered the goofy buck-toothed kid or the overly dramatic teen I used to be. I had the space to explore who I could be, and that helped me grow a lot.

   Yeah, it was great, but after a few months I had to return to Colorado.

   Ever since, I’ve had to face bits of those fears that I ran from. I had to own up to my sister that I felt like I’d abandoned her. I had to apologize for running away. It wasn’t simply moving to a different place, it was the way I’d dealt with the situation- and I did it poorly.

   I’ve lived in a lot of different places, and am constantly making mistakes, and working through fears. Now I look at my time in Orlando and am embarrassed at being a dramatic twenty-year-old who talked everyone’s ear off about movies.

   So the last time I watched “The Lion King”, when Rafiki starts talking about the Past, my ears perked up.

   “The past can hurt, but you can either run from it.. or learn from it.”

   Who says stuff like that in a kid’s movie? Suddenly that scene was far from boring, and I finally understood why people of all ages love “The Lion King”.

   I have a feeling no matter where I live or what I do, I will make embarrassing mistakes.

   After a while, you get really tired of running, and so I’ve started trying to learn.

   The past can hurt an awful lot. In the past few years I made some hard choices, and lost friends. It hurts. I’m not proud of some of the things I did and said- to the point where I can’t even really write any good solid examples for this review. It’s just too embarrassing.

   I’m kind of a perfectionist, so when I mess up I either want to climb into a hole for a decade, or run away to Australia.

   I can’t really afford a ticket to Australia right now, so I’m going to have to start learning from my mistakes instead. Part of that is admitting they happened.

   Apparently when you’re an adult you see things differently than when you did as a child. In a lot of ways this is really awesome, because I can look back at some of my angst-y teenage mistakes and say “Nah, that’s not a big deal anymore.”
   In the same way, I can look at the “Lion King” and see new and touching aspects that I could never comprehend as a kid.

   You just can’t beat that opening though. That never changes.

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