A remake of Shakespeare's Hamlet, THE LION KING (1994) includes many of the seven deadly sins, from Simba’s pride to Pumba’s gluttony. But it is Scar’s (voiced by Jeremy Irons) envy that drives the narrative forward and creates one of the screen's most memorable animated villains.
The film begins within a Utopia. Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) is a beloved king and all the animals hold an inherent respect for each other; there is a “circle of life”. The outsider is Scar, and his jealousy towards his brother is the film's dominant conflict. From the very start he is presented as the "other", away from the rest and clearly the villain of the story. However, his evil ways are constructed through the deadly sin of envy. He is jealous of his brother’s power, he is angry at being the second born son and, with the birth of Simba (voiced by Matthew Broderick), he is suddenly the third in line to the throne.
Scar’s jealousy is apparent from the very beginning. Having not turned up to Simba's birth ceremony, he captures a mouse and exclaims “life’s not fair”. It is an important character point and an indication of how he views his own life. This is further explored when Mufasa shows up. Scar refers to Simba as a “hairball”, highlighting his discontent at being pushed further back down the pecking order in terms of the throne and then refusing to challenge Mufasa due to his “brute strength” being “at the shallow end of the gene pool”. Scar is incredibly self-aware and realises that he cannot defeat Mufasa in a fight nor can he claim the throne through sheer force. Therefore he must use his “lion's share” of deceptive wit to get what he wants and what he wants is Mufasa and Simba dead.
Envy is the catalyst that drives the story forward. Without the jealousy within Scar, he would feel no need to instigate the death of his brother and tear the family apart. As can be remembered in one of the most heart-breaking scenes throughout Disney’s long history, Scar tricks Mufasa into trying to save his impulsive son. We watch as Mufasa tries to scramble to safety, calling out to his brother to save him. Instead, Scar sadistically exclaims “long live the King”.
Of course, Scar must meet an untimely end. His penchant for deadly sins defines his character as evil yet the deadly sin of envy reframes Scar with an element of understanding. We all feel jealously from time to time, whether regarding looks or power. This is what makes Scar such an interesting villain. His motives are based on a relatable, human feeling and the way he acts them out is through the use of his mind rather than strength.