Right-on critics maul 'Lion King'

YOU could scarcely call it a roar of protest, but angry growls they certainly are. As Walt Disney tots up its huge earnings from The Lion King, the latest money-spinner from the Magic Kingdom is being called sexist, racist and homophobic.

The movie, which has made a record-breaking dollars 199m (130m) in six weeks, is accused of perpetuating stereotypes by including cartoon hyenas who talk in black jive, lionesses who depend on a male hero, and a villain with a camped-up voice.

'The movie is full of stereotypes,' said Carolyn Newberger, a Harvard psychologist. 'The good-for-nothing hyenas are urban blacks; the arch-villain's gestures are effeminate, and he speaks in supposed gay cliches.' It is a 'fundamentally sexist film', wrote Neil Chethik in the Detroit Free Press: lionesses are seen as 'impotent victims whose only hope is to find a male . . . who can save them'.

The film has also been criticised as too violent for young children. But Jane Eisner saw different flaws: 'Parenting experts concerned about seeing one animated lion kill another ought to worry instead about the message broadcast by The Lion King, she wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer. 'If you aren't heir to a kingdom, don't expect to control your destiny. Anybody at Disney heard of empowerment?'

Disney is used to taking flak for its cartoons. In 1992, some lyrics were cut from Aladdin after Arab groups complained they were offensive. But the studio seems unmoved. A spokesman pointed out that Whoopi Goldberg has voiced some of the hyenas. 'Do you think Whoopi Goldberg would lend her voice to a character that is racist? I don't think so.'

Leading article, page 13

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