Believe it or not, the famous cartoon adaptation of Hamlet starring a bunch of lions isn't exactly biologically accurate. The way lion prides work in real life...well, it's very different from the way things happen in The Lion King. Namely, in real lion prides, the female lions are the ones in charge. Now that's a reboot I would watch.
For National Geographic, writer Erin Biba explains how real lion communities work and what would happen in real life if the plot of The Lion King were to occur. It's a question that many lion researchers and scientists have been wanting to answer for a long time, and I don't blame them. The first line of Erin's article pretty much sums up the differences between The Lion King and real-life lion prides: "A lion pride is all females all the time."
"[Female lions] catch the vast majority of the food, and they guard the territory from intruders." According to Craig Packer, one of the world's leading lion researchers, said, "Females are the core. The heart and soul of the pride. The males come and go."
Basically, if The Lion King was real life, Nala and Sarabi would be the main characters. Simba would be a minor character. Mufasa probably wouldn't be the protective father figure, the central character that he is. Sarabi, Simba's mother, who has a minor role in the original movie, would "take on much more than a supporting role."
Real-life lion prides are in fact "matrilineal societies where the males barely stick around long enough to form the types of familial relationships shown in the Disney film." While Sarabi is definitely depicted as a strong character in the cartoon, she's also not a main character. If The Lion King were more accurate, she would have literally all the power.
I mean, look at her! She's a total BAMF. She deserves a bigger role in the movie. And speaking of female lions, Nala would also have a bigger role in the operation of the pride in real life. I have to assume that in the new adaptation which hits theaters soon, Nala is the main character because...Beyoncé. Right?
How can you put Beyoncé in your movie and not make her the main character? It's Beyoncé. Plus, she now has her own song, and it's great and I will be playing it on repeat until the movie comes out.
It also bears mentioning that, in real life, when lion prides get too big, "the females will even carve out a new territory next door for their daughters to take over and start their own pride." There is no doubt that if The Lion King was real life, Nala would have her own pride.
As far as male lions go, they aren't really permanent fixtures in real lion prides, so it's weird that they are the main characters of The Lion King. According to Erin Biba, "They come and go, mostly spending their time fighting each other and teaching male cubs how to survive when they eventually leave the pride."
And they have to leave because they are related to all the lions in their pride. So, when Simba comes back and gets with Nala in the movie? In a real lion pride, she'd be his sister. "Simba would have left and never come back," instead finding a new pride where he could produce more genetically diverse offspring.
Additionally, male lions almost never travel alone. That whole period where Simba is off on his own, "hakuna matata-ing" with Timon and Pumbaa? Well, it just wouldn't happen. Male lions always travel with at least one other male so they can protect each other.
According to Craig Packer, "the competition between Mufasa and Scar wouldn't make sense in the real world because, without each other to depend on, their pride would just be taken over by another coalition of males."
Male lions have hard lives, constantly fighting off other males to be able to claim and protect their prides. Meanwhile, the lady lions are like one big girl gang whose dynamic is "more or less unhindered by which males happen to be around at any moment." And they can decide which males they want around and which they don't. Sounds like total paradise!
One last difference? In real life, Mufasa would have been the one with a black mane instead of Scar. Black manes are more desirable, a signal of genetic superiority. Basically, The Lion King got lion prides all wrong.
Now all I want is a third Lion King movie called The Lion Queens about an edenic pride of supportive, powerful female lions fending off unwanted advances from annoying male lions. That's my kind of lion movie.
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