This article by Kåre Hansen of Galashiels Academy was highly commended in the Scottish Schools' Young Writer of the Year competition, organised by the SR team
This article was almost called something else. 'The Dubious Canonicity of the Gap Between Lion Kings One and Two.' Not the most snappy of titles, but it got me thinking. The canonicity of the period of time between 'The Lion King' and 'The Lion King Two' is dubious, for sure, but it started me thinking about something with more scope – namely, why do I care?
Most people aren't even aware there exists a second 'Lion King,' so why do I worry about something so…obscure? Why, for that matter, does anyone?
Everyone has something they're experts on, some arcana which we share with but a few people. Maybe it's an indie band, maybe it's your family history, maybe you can, with perfect clarity, recall every 'Doctor Who' story ever put to film. After a moment's thought, I reached a rather unsavoury idea: perhaps we care because we want to feel better than other people.
We want to feel we know something they don't, that we're set apart, different. We almost need it. Yeah, that Jim over there, sitting behind you in his fancy padded chair, he might make more that you, be more successful, good-looking, richer that you, he may make twice your salary and do half the work, but you know something he doesn't. You're better at something than he is. At the end of the day, you can go home safe in the knowledge that, at least in one area, you're superior.
An exaggerated pettiness, to be sure, but at some level it's in us all. There's a pride in it. That's part of the truth, in my opinion – that we just like to know
more than others.
It's almost like a secret. Something definitively uncommon knowledge, to feel smug about. To those with no interest whatsoever, the information is utterly useless. But to someone who has a passing knowledge of the subject, it can be impressive as hell. I have a friend who takes great satisfaction in his 'Doctor Who' obsession. He can recite every single story ever put to film, in order. All 200-plus of them. To me, as a casual watcher of the show, it's genuinely awe-inspiring; for others, it seems a pointless time-sink. Whichever view you take, it's a knowledge he's proud of, and has every right to be proud of. Yet it is not, as I relievedly countered, quite as simple as that.
It is not only that we want to feel special, but that the very knowledge which
makes us so also creates groups. That knowledge, it's almost like a code. The vast majority of people may not care about the existence of 'Six New
Adventures' and its effect on the 'Lion King' canon, but for those who do, it's a fascinating discussion. It's something to talk about, break bread over. No-one else may give a flying warthog about the continuity problems, but to fellow fans, it can be a badge of acceptance. You care? Well, so do we. It can create communities, things like that. It's almost entirely what online communities are built upon. The internet is largely what has made obscurity enjoyable. We can easily research, find pointless information, and find others, spread thin across the globe, to discuss it with.
Yes, part of the pleasure of obscure information is the (mostly unconscious)
feeling of superiority, but part of it is finding others to discuss it with, too.
Small communities form around the most obscure of topics, for no other
reason than that people with similar minds want to talk about it. The same satisfaction exits within these communities, pride in their specialisation. But
from this pride can stem a pompously self-important mindset.
It makes us feel special – why shouldn't it? After all, when you know
something which the overwhelming majority of people you meet do not, that is special. We all like knowing secrets, being able to choose, at our discretion, who to give information to. Perhaps this is why so many fans get upset when an indie band they like make it big, or a niche series finds success. The knowledge isn't theirs any more, they've lost that. That group of maybe 5,000 people you were part of? Suddenly it's 50,000,000. And when 50m people are aware of something, it's not exactly obscure. Secrets are no fun when everyone knows them. Yet an important point for these people to remember: it, whatever it was, was never yours. At no point did it belong to you. Feel glad you can talk about it to thousands more than you could before, shed a quiet tear for the loss of that small community, and find some other crumb of obscurity to dive into.
There is a limit, though. There is a danger in, like Alice, going too far down the rabbit hole. Many people become so obsessed that they simply lose
themselves, associate their personality so closely with their interests that any criticism of these interests is seen as a personal attack upon themselves. Like anything, it can be taken too far.
Nevertheless, there is an undeniable satisfaction in knowing something others don't. There's nothing wrong with that. Everyone has some odd, unusual, useless information they know, and it's something to be proud of. So take it, hold onto it, but don't be upset when it becomes common knowledge. It can bring people together, it can bring great satisfaction – there's a joy to be had in obscurity.