“Oh no, Mufasa. Perhaps you shouldn't turn your back on me.”-Scar
As the standings of the Disney villains go, a hierarchy has arisen to rank these animated antagonists, a Legion of Doom all of their own. The Evil Queen (of Snow White fame) usually leads them, due to seniority. Following her is usually the great sorceress Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty’s tormentor), a second in command who at times can usurp the leadership position herself. Yet among a group of spellcasters and royals, a lowly lion stands out: Scar, the designated villain of The Lion King. Scar has no fantastic powers, only a forked tongue and an unmatched cunning. With those limited attributes, he conquers a kingdom and more importantly, corrects what he believes is a ghastly wrong against him.
As The Lion King is clearly derived from Hamlet, the murderous Uncle Claudius finds his modern, animated counterpart in Scar. Both are brothers to kings, and by extension, uncles to the protagonists of their respective works. Both also commit stealthy fratricide to assume the thrones of their domains, before later being dethroned themselves by their nephews. The two share a sharp mind and cunning, and to an extent, are portrayed as cowards.
Spinelessness seems to be something one would immediately ascribe to Scar’s actions, as he very sneakily murdered his brother and used deceit and lies to maintain his regime until its fiery end. Yet, why does cunning and strategy indicate cowardice? Scar himself points out the differences between he and his burly brother Mufasa, saying to him, “Well as far as brains go I got the lion's share but when it comes to brute strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool.” The two brothers have their attributes: strength vs. smarts, brains vs. brawn. A ‘brave’ fight, to some, would be a no-holds barred brawl between the two, which Scar would of course lose.
So he attacks through his own element, setting a deadly trap to bring about Mufasa’s demise through causing a wildebeest stampede. Again, some would call this a cowardly plot, but why can’t it be seen as a fair move? A physical confrontation would be an unfair to Scar, he is clearly outmatched by his brother’s physicality. Stealth attacks are a thinking warrior’s way to even the scales against a stronger foe, and his plot was just that. The question then becomes, why does Scar need to have this fight with Mufasa at all? Why does he need to try to assume the throne, shouldn’t he let the rightful king pass the kingdom onto the rightful prince?
One would point out his status as the film’s villain. He is the designated evil character, so some assume a black heart is the reason he feels entitled to the throne. Envy is his sin. And yet, is it so evil to feel jealous of his brother, who was given their entire realm for no other reason than being born first?
This now becomes a question of fate. Scar laments in the first spoken lines of the movie to a caught mouse, “Life's not fair, is it? You see, I... well, I shall never be king.” Mufasa is deemed the rightful leader of the Pride Lands, presumably for being the first-born. Mufasa and his descendants receive everything for no other reason than being born first. Scar, on the other hand, gets nothing. The difference between receiving everything and nothing is nothing more than a matter of birth order.
Do Scar’s feelings of jealousy begin to make logical sense? Imagine growing up, never escaping the shadow of your older brother. Imagine being the frail younger brother, constantly compared to the stronger older son who has been hyped as the one to inherit everything. Imagine never being able to accomplish anything that can top what he has earned, through no effort of his own. One could either sorrowfully accept such a life, or try to act against the injustice.
And act Scar does. He was not content to accept the half-hearted decrees of fate and resign himself to a life in the shadow of Mufasa, and later Simba, he acts. He sees the ownership of the kingdom as a grave injustice, and he makes his bid for the throne. It almost comes off as a dark interpretation of the famous Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change Scar desires is a wrong corrected, and he takes the action to correct it. A true coward would be afraid to try, but Scar skillfully executes his plan fearlessly.
And so I have come to view Scar as a heroic character. He is not a sniveling coward in the shadows, but a cunning freedom fighter. He was denied something for an inane reason, and fought against the forces saying he should accept life as it is. Are we not told to take action when injustice presents itself? Scar took action, instead of complaining. Even if in the end his reign was spoiled by the returning forces of the establishment, he still held the world in his paw for a time, correcting the wrongs that he had suffered in life.
“Fate is for those too weak to determine their own destiny.”-Kamran Hamid