Psychological Analysis of Allers’ “Lion King”

Oedipus Complex Theory

This paper will provide the analysis of the Lion King, specifically Simba’s life, in terms of Freud’s Oedipus complex theory. The Oedipus complex examines the myth about King Oedipus as a depiction of sexuality, infantilism, and neuroticism (Spencer, 2020). According to the Oedipal theory, the complex tends to occur during the phallic stage of psychical development, where a mother is an object or sexuality to the child. The child envies the father and subconsciously wants to get rid of him. Subsequently, he is faced with castration anxiety, which leads to a latency period that lasts until later in the puberty stage, when the child finds another sexual object (Spencer, 2020). The Lion King has various features that can be connected to psychoanalytic concepts. The first connection between the Oedipus complex and the Lion King is demonstrated when Mufasa tells Simba that everything the sun touches will be his day. This statement placed in an oedipal term suggested that Simba will one day replace his father and inherit all his possessions, including his mother.

The Lion King narrative uses a “shadowy place” to demonstrate Simba’s superego. The ego acts as a bridge that helps in dealing with societal expectations and impulses. The superego, which is the last component to be formed in our psyche, is based on societal rules about what’s right or wrong and allows one to take responsibility for their regrets (Spencer,2020). The moment when Simba ventures into the Shadowy place with Nala demonstrates the developmental stage where Simba’s superego has not been formed. The lyrics in his song show the narcissism in his character. Simba also faces an unmanageable case of Oedipal conflict since he takes all the guilt for the death of Mufasa. Simba exiles the pride lands and since he is not able to find his place there. The main reason behind Simba feeling more responsible for what happened could be that he was rebellious and disobeyed Mufasa’s instructions.


In the scene where Rafiki finds Simba, he experiences cognitive distortion when he refuses to go back home. Moreover, Simba views himself as helpless, which is a psychological aspect of confusion. Simba also shows changes in behavior and psychological orientation after Mufasa’s death. His behavioral change is characterized by impaired judgment, anxiety, and social withdrawal. This behavior change contributes to his character development in the films. Through the struggles of his growth, his personality is defined, and he attains maturity. However, the movie also describes Kiara as an adventurous lioness. According to Piaget’s concepts, during Kiara’s preoperational development stage, she identifies her worth and needs to prove it (Babakr et al., 2019). This stage employs the idea of imagination, which helps develop the brain’s ability to be creative (Dastpak, 2017). Later in the movie, Kiara expresses a strong belief in animals’ unity, which reflects Piaget’s final stage, the formal operational stage.

In comparing Simba and Scar as main characters, there is a great contrast in the development of character through personality and motivation. Simba shows constant neglect of his king’s responsibilities after the death of his father. He ran away from his problems instead of facing them. Later on, he takes responsibility and realizes he needs to take the pride lands back and become a great king that his father saw in him. When comparing him to Scar, the latter’s psychological needs are based on his motivation to become king. Scar comes across as narcissistic and does care about anyone other than himself. Scar’s primary aim was to gain respect from the other lions. Simba has the most character development than Scar since he started as naive and grew into a prideful king, while Scar never changed from his cynical ways.

Psychosocial Theory

Erikson’s Psychosocial theory focuses on the social and cultural aspects of life. Moreover, the idea delves into concepts of emerging self, identity search, relationships, and culture’s role in an individual’s life (Syed & McLean, 2017). The first stage of Erikson: Basic trust vs. Basic mistrust is reflected when Simba runs away from home and develops psychological needs, thus feeling the necessity to establish relationships. Furthermore, Simba felt a sense of security under the protection of Sarabi and Mufasa.

The second stage of autonomy vs. doubt is reflected when Simba grows up with the freedom to develop by himself but under motherly supervision. Importantly, Erikson establishes the need for protection during this stage. The third stage is reflected in the scene where Simba takes responsibility to make decisions, but he’s guilty about causing trouble to himself and his friends. The fourth phase, which is industry versus inferiority, is evident in the scene where Mufasa teaches Simba the new skills. The fifth stage is the identity versus role confusion, which is reflected in the scene where Simba develops essential peer relationships. Furthermore, Erikson’s sixth stage, intimacy versus isolation, is reflected in the scene where Simba develops a love relationship with Nala. Moreover, generativity versus stagnation is reflected in the scene where Mufasa assumes Simba’s father’s role. Ego integrity versus despair is reflected when Rafiki and Simba reflect back on their lives. Erikson suggests that during this stage of adulthood, one experiences acceptance and fulfillment through reflecting on life.


According to my evaluation, the analysis covers psychological concepts shared by various theorists. By focusing on cognitive development, psychosocial theory, and Oedipus complex, it is possible to draw psychology and development evidence in the film. In the movie, Simba’s infancy describes a stage in life where he learns to trust his parents and friends. Furthermore, the movie describes Simba’s search for identity, relationships, and responsibility through his growth to adulthood. Simba is inspired by his companions Timon and Pumbaa and follows them.

In comparison to other characters, Simba struggles through his development after Mufasa’s death, which makes him mature faster. The analysis helps to uncover the element of Simba’s maturity using evidence from various psychological theorists. Moreover, Simba forms essential relationships and makes his own decisions, which impacts his development. Psychological analysis in the Lion King movies helps to account for characters’ development irrespective of their distinct experiences.


Babakr, Z., Mohamedamin, P., & Kakamad, K. (2019). Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory: Critical review. Education Quarterly Reviews, 2(3), 517-524. Web.

Dastpak, M., Behjat, F., & Taghinezhad, A. (2017). A comparative study of Vygotsky’s Perspectives on child language development with Nativism and Behaviorism. International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching, 5(2), 230-238. Web.

Spencer, R. (2020). Freud’s Oedipus Complex in the# MeToo Era: A Discussion of the Validity of Psychoanalysis in Light of Contemporary Research. Philosophies, 5(4), 27. Web.

Syed, M., & McLean, K. C. (2017). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. In E. Braaten &Willoughby (Eds.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intellectual and Developmental Disorders. Web.

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