Based on the true story of a spunky young Indian boy who ignores the instructions of his older brother and gets himself into significant trouble because of it, the specific life circumstances he experiences wrenches at the heart strings almost as much as the perfectly timed musical score. Even at a young age, he is tasked with surviving terrible circumstances alone and without the help of his mother or brother to guide him.
He eventually gets adopted by an Australian family and after decades of not caring about his past he has the stereotypical
Think of it as a "The Gods Must Be Crazy II" but this time based on a true story and on a longer timeline.
We feel bad for the character, for the difficult circumstances and struggles, and are supposed to cheer him on in the hope that he can achieve his goal of reconnecting with his mother and brother, and that makes for a good distraction from something I noticed throughout the film: a nearly complete disdain for men.
The boy's father is never mentioned, even in passing. The first men the boy comes across after getting lost push him out of ticket lines or want to kidnap him and other homeless children. The next man wants to sell him into the (implied) sex slave trade. The only contrast comes from his adopted father who was cut from the same cloth as Cary Elwes effete character from Liar, Liar.
In case you doubt the last comparison, his adopted mother explicitly states that one of the things which attracted her to his adopted father in the first place was his desire to manifest a "vision" she had as a 12 year old girl of adopting a "brown skinned" child instead of having any children of her own. I am not kidding, though the order these details are presented attempt to grant greater significance than is really due. Coincidentally, Elwes' character from Liar, Liar was also trying very hard to endear himself to the child of another man, but we will come back to that.
The father of the boy's adopted mother was described as an alcoholic, but we hear nothing of his adopted paternal grandparents. The father of his girlfriend hates her mother because she refused to treat her terminal cancer and died. Male authority figures are always presented as cruel or indifferent. Only the women he interacts with ever seem to care about him in any amount, whether a lady who turns out to be a recruiter for a sex slave trader, or the female adoption staffer who goes so far as to state that the people running what appears to be an orphanage don't like her because she finds homes for the children instead of just letting them rot. Women are portrayed as "pure" in their motives and desires, and are only ever corrupted by the desires of men.
Even in the penultimate goals the adopted boy sets as an adult, his desire is to reconnect with only his mother and brother, and at no point does the apparent desire to know who is father is ever come up, even in the post-script.
The only male who is presented in a remotely positive light was entirely submissive to the will and desires of his wife. Every other male is cast as playing some role in the grander evil mechanisms which cause the boy's suffering in the first place.
Even his adopted brother, also Indian, becomes a mechanism for pain as it is implied the boy suffered from some sort of mental health issues which manifested as powerful rage and self-harm. Their adopted mother referred to his adopted brother having "energy" which just needed to be "harnessed", because she would know best, right? Despite not having been able to harness it herself, she still held a view that her adopted son could or would be someone different if only he did something different.
Note that his adoptive brother is portrayed as being single and never with a woman.
The film then tries hard to spin the reality that adopted children, as adults, have behavior more akin to their biological parents than their adopted. There are twin studies on this topic, where children were separated at birth and yet, being raised by different families, still retained a large number of similarities despite different upbringings. Studies on behavioral genetics show that you don't adopt a blank slate any more than your own biological children are born with one, and the cold facts about genetic heritage and the passing on of behavior traits has left many with the uncomfortable truth that "love" does not actually have the power to overcome parentage, let alone many other difficulties in life.
The adopted parents are supposed to be lauded for their willingness to deal with these difficulties, where only one of their two adoptive children is apparently relatively self-sufficient or successful. While surely not intentional, it cannot be missed that the adopted brother with issues lives in a run-down shack which would not likely have been much out of place in his native lands.
Nor are we supposed to make the connection that this exemplary young man was not the result of immaculate conception, and that his behavioral traits are only half due to the genetics of his mother, the other half would be his father, so why again is he never even mentioned in passing given that his genetics contributed to the boy's eventual demeanor?
Goddess worship cannot allow that, however. His adoptive father even does the cliche "knock on the door and have a one-sided conversation" routine in trying to solicit his adoptive son's sympathy. Everything revolves around the manifestation and satisfaction of the feelings of women, and men are either a hindrance to that, or they submit to the women in their lives and then are enabled in their role to manifest the woman's desires and "make things right."
The reason this distinction is important is because it denies the sin nature in women. When women are presented as inherently pure and only being corrupted due to the toxic influence of men in their lives, it necessarily demonizes men and idolizes women. It pretends that what the Bible says about the nature of women is wrong.
Adam's curse in Genesis 3 is explicitly stated to have been "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife". In 1 Timothy 2 it is stated that Adam wasn't deceived by Satan, and so because of that the role of women in teaching is eliminated in the church. 2 Corinthians 11 and 1 Peter 3 express the same sentiment, in that the natural state of women is not "pure" because of the actions and desires of women, but by the efforts of men to guide and direct them with care and understanding of the nature of women as created by God.
Put differently, God did not create women with discernment and understanding that men were, and for both men and women to be at peace with God in obedience, men must protect their wives from themselves due to the deceptions of Satan being so much more effective on women than men. Men must be obedient to God, not women, and not other men either.
This is, of course, offensive to all who participate goddess worship. Women must be placed on a pedestal and given the role of God, to whom men then submit to. Never mind that sin entered through the world because a man literally listened to his wife instead of God, if the world is to be made "better" then men must submit to women in worship and veneration.
Returning to the adopted father's cuckoldry, this is another extension of goddess worship. God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply", yet the adopted father is portrayed as believing with his wife that the "world has enough people" and so they would be better off trying to help those that are already here than to have children of their own. This is, again, in direct conflict with the goals set by God for humanity.
Ultimately, this is the admission that one's own genetic line needs to end. By not having children of your own, you have condemned the survival of all of your ancestors to having been a wasted effort. You ironically cut down the tree that you grew from, viewing the "selfishness" of your ancestors discrimination as some evil curse which can only be lifted by the sacrifice of your time and efforts to instead allow someone else's lineage to continue.
For decades we have heard of the starving in Africa, but when we provide food and aid, Africans have more children they still cannot support, so for every one mouth we've fed today, in some countries, as many as 7-8 more will be born tomorrow. How then does the aid today to feed one mouth, which then creates many more hungry mouths tomorrow, ethically sound?
It doesn't outside of emotional satisfaction, but this is the same quandary with international and interracial adoption, especially in circumstances where the parents were biologically capable of having children but decided not to. Folks who are not capable of conceiving are a different story, and I can understand their desire to fulfill the need for children who will carry on what they have worked hard for in this life after they are gone. But again, from earlier with regard to behavioral genetics, the adoptive parents do not actually get to choose the legacy that continues, and their adopted children are only likely to continue in their adoptive parent's footsteps if their actual biological parents were sufficiently similar.
So, while it is emotionally satisfying to sacrifice for others, the most vapid and vain actions that can be taken are rooted in emotional satisfaction absent the context of reality, and in this movie we are supposed to view this selfishness as selflessness.
We're supposed to believe that adoptive parents who cared more about what their children meant to themselves is sacrifice, when the reality is that they made a choice based on how it would make them feel and not on what was really happening. Even to the end of the film the adoptive mother was still placing her own desires for her adoptive children before the actual needs and wants of the children. She placed her "vision" and her interpretation of reality as filtered through her emotional convictions before the actual needs of her second adoptive son.
When you continue the genetic legacy of someone else, you do not ever have the opportunity to change the genetic traits that the child inherited from their parents. You may certainly slide traits around within a margin, but you cannot create the person you want through "love" or force of will, and this is again true even of biological children.
This movie is emotional masturbation so that women feel motherly desires even if the rest of their lifestyle denies it, and to justify their emotional desires and convictions as not only correct, but that they alone are necessary as part of every child's life. Never mind the role of the father, if a son has a good connection with his mother, he'll turn out alright and that's "good enough". I am sure the rapidly rising rate of single motherhood has nothing to do with why this message would resound with anyone.
This denies that fathers and mothers both play integral but distinct roles in the raising of children, and that when either parent denies the role of the other, problems arise. This denies that the default desires of women, being entrapped in the sinful flesh just as much of men, are no more laudable or holy. But go after the goddess and women feel like you're denigrating women.
Downgrade women from a position of worship to one demanding submission of them and you're now the "evil one". You're just like those evil men in the orphanage who didn't want to let children be loved and grow up to be something they would have otherwise!
"Lion" is an emotionally moving film with a lot of philosophical rot hidden just beneath the surface. The best propaganda is always the kind which hides itself and injects its message, and that message takes hold, without ever being noticed. Much like how the cuckoo bird is more than happy to replace the original children of other birds with its own, countries with gigantic problems of their own creation are more than happy to peddle an emotional tale about how, if only Westerners were less selfish, the children that they cause to suffer wouldn't suffer so much.
At no point are you supposed to connect the dots that the suffering of the children is due to the selfishness of their own parents, and that the responsibility to care for family falls to family, not foreigners. But when you can guilt-trip someone else into thinking that it is their responsibility to solve the problems you created for yourself, what will ever change in your behavior to avert future repetitions of the same behavior?
Nothing, and the problems will only get worse, and more will suffer because of the selfishness of the few who were too cowardly to hold others accountable for their behavior.
Adam failed to follow God instead of Eve, and before Babel humanity had already become "comfortable" with the number of people on earth. Repeating these same behaviors with a modern spin does not make them holy, but continued rebellion against God and God's design for this reality.
See "Lion" if only you want to understand how deeply embedded the hatred of God is, and how the dismissal of men in the act of goddess worship has become so common that most do not even see it anymore.