First to clear things up this is absolutely not a quiz. This is about childhood influencing the type of person you ultimately grow up to be. Specifically this is about two Disney movies with very different heroes.

Let’s set the stage shall we? And how about we lay off 9 or 10 year old me for having very linear gender stereotypes set up in my mind.

I was an early 80s kid. Born in ’83 I was hitting my “age where I remember movies” coming into the early 90s. Like a lot of families, seeing the latest big Disney animated film was almost automatic; if not in theaters then definitely when it came out on video. They were safe bets for family fun. I have fleeting memories of seeing both The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in theaters. However, by the time 1992 rolled around I was at least slightly convinced that Disney movies were pretty much “for girls”. At this point the really big Disney flicks featured memorable female protagonists and generic cookie-cutter “Princes” (with a little less traditional “Prince” in the form of Peter Pan being the main exception).  So yeah, I would watch these movies, but none of the male characters resonated with my little expanding brain.alladin vs simba

Enter Aladdin. When this movie came out and we saw it in theaters I freaked the fuck out. First of all there was the Genie, who just killed it to my 9 year old self. I didn’t get half of the impersonations Robin Williams was pulling out but I didn’t care, the Genie was a comedy God and I was in stitches and dropping Genie quotes for weeks afterwards. Secondly, the hero was a guy. Not just any guy, he was a street urchin petty thief. He was quick witted and had no problem lying and stealing to get ahead. Yes, this is very nearly his undoing and he needs to come clean, atone for his mistakes and become a real hero to save the day, but before that he was all about trickery and deception of everybody. Even in his grand heroic moment of taking down Jafar he does so by thinking fast on his feet and tricking Jafar into wishing he was a genie to trap him in a lamp. He was amazing. Aladdin taught me (and I really doubt this was the point) that there was a good time to lie. Lying to Jasmine and her dad was bad, lying to the bad guy to save the day was good.

It’s an important lesson kids.

Two years later Disney would release its next major animated release The Lion King. Another film with a male protagonist. Another film that I absolutely loved. Another film with incredibly quotable (to a 9-11 year old) comedy relief in the form of Timon and Pumbaa. However, the hero was very different from Aladdin. Let’s be real: Simba is a little dumb. He doesn’t listen to his dad who tells him not to go to the elephant graveyard, he awkwardly believes his obviously evil uncle that everyone would hate him and never even questions this as he grows up. Fuck, he’s a goddamn lion who despite being a several hundred pound killing machine has no problem eating bugs because he just never thought to eat anything else.

Basically Simba just does what he’s told the entire film (except for going into the elephant graveyard, maybe that’s why he just blindly listens to everyone for the rest of the film, he disobeyed once and his dad died, so now he’ll just follow anyone). Leave Pride Rock! Done. Eat bugs! Done. Regain your throne and birthright! Sure thing. Don’t get me wrong, Simba’s got all the makings of a real hero. Tragic past, life in exile, return to claim his rightful place as ruler of the animal kingdom, all that usual “hero” stuff. However, you’ve gotta imagine that if it ever came down to a duel of wits between Simba and Aladdin, Aladdin would have no problem tricking Simba into just conceding. Simba wouldn’t even know he was giving up. I guess you could argue that Simba could easily overpower and possibly eat Aladdin but that doesn’t really measure his character.

When it boils down to it, they’re the two heroes that little boys emulate. One of them is incredibly trusting, willing to do what’s right no matter what, wins his fight with brawn and skill and is generally a knight in shining armour. The other is a trickster himself (so is hard to trick), willing the break the rules to do what’s right and wins his fight with quick thinking and cleverness. If for some insane reason you haven’t seen these movies, there’s a much more geeky duo that exemplifies the same thing: Han Solo and Luke

Some kids grow up wanting to be Luke, some grow up wanting to be Han. I think it goes more or less without saying that I was a Han kid.

Is one better? I don’t know. I definitely think the scoundrel is more interesting. I also think it’s at least somewhat fair to say that whether they know it or not most guys who are interested in being “good guys” fall into one of those two archetypes. Whether this is just dominant personality traits or a product of those two archetypes being reproduced in countless movies is hard to tell.

I would really be interested in knowing which of the two is more attractive. I guess it sort of depends on what you’re looking for, right? The bad boy with the heart of gold who will do the right thing in the end or the maybe slightly less intelligent straight shooter who is dependable and trustworthy to a fault?

Either way, Aladdin is a boss and Simba can suck an egg. A big ole’ egg.

Keith does all sorts of things here on, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

Aladdin and Simba images from WikiMedia.
Han and Luke from Tienlon Ho’s Blog