Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Clash in The Jungle

Film has played a large role in influencing the minds of everyday people. The topics within these works can be subtle or extremely prominent. In our textbook Understanding Movies, the author Louis Gianetti explains that, “Ideology is usually defined as a body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspiration of an individual, group, class, or culture” (403). Most, if not all, films fall into this definition and as adults, we are keen to picking up these messages due to our maturity. Filmmakers have realized that to change the world, you must start with the children. Disney has been a household name in the children’s film world, but has had a checkered past with subliminal messaging. The company’s newest film, The Jungle Book, focuses more on oneself than our society. The ideology in The Jungle Book is implicit, but creates an underlying message of self-acceptance and tradition shown through its protagonist and supporting characters. Each character brings their own morals and values that exemplify a clash between good versus evil, and right versus left.

The film begins with Mowgli, a man abandoned in the jungle raised by wolves. The audience is introduced to the slant of the film when the wolves recite the “Law of the Jungle”, a code that is recited as tradition. Gianetti infers that, “people on the right have a deep veneration for the past, for ancient rituals, and especially for tradition,” which is clearly the case here for the wolves, and the path that the film shall follow (414). They value the traditions they’ve held and those that their ancestors have created. Not all characters, however, are very accommodating in their beliefs. Some often have evil tendencies that shine through their character arc.

                Shere Khan the tiger, the film’s antagonist, displays the evilness of certain rightist beliefs. The tiger is tyrannical, hunting for pleasure and killing for power. He hates man with all his might and believes that Mowgli will grow up to have man’s destructive tendencies. This belief by Shere Khan is a rightist belief in the fact that, “rightist believe that character is largely inborn and genetically inherited,” which isn’t the case here with Mowgli. Mowgli even says in the film, “Why does he want to kill me? He hasn’t even met me yet”. Shere Khan is the darkness of the rightist belief system in The Jungle Book according to his values. He does die in the end due to Mowgli’s ingenuity and backing of the entire jungle including, Bagheera and Baloo.

                Bagheera, the panther, and Baloo, the sloth bear, are two of Mowgli’s closest companions in the film (seen in the poster above). Bagheera was there from the start while Baloo met Mowgli while he was going to the man village. Both characters balance leftist and rightist beliefs in this story. Bagheera shares the rightist idea of “judging human behavior”, since he commands Mowgli to do as he says. He exemplifies the leftist belief that “human behavior is learned and can be changed by proper environmental incentives” (411). He tells Mowgli at the end of the story that he can’t fight Shere Khan like one of the animals, but he needs to “fight him like a man”. Baloo believes the same way that with his “tricks” he can be a huge asset to him and one of the smartest creatures in the
jungle. Baloo also shifts his ideology in the end to a more rightist belief of ideology when all the creatures recite the “Law of the Jungle”. He exclaimed when Mowgli first recited it, that it was propaganda. These shifts in ideology greatly impact Mowgli.

     Mowgli’s journey is one of survival and self-acceptance. Since he is a man, he is different and feels the need to join animals that he feels he can become. Through his meetings and obstacles, he learns that he needs to accept himself which allows him to defeat Shere Khan. This is the underlying theme of The Jungle Book. I really enjoyed this film due to this message. In our society, people tend to just join to a group because of the way they think to feel powerful. This film shows the greatest power comes from self-acceptance, a belief that both leftists and rightist can agree upon. In short, this film deserves a 5/5. It had a great story, great characters, and award-winning computer graphics that made the feel of the fabled jungle come to reality. The Jungle Book is a classic for the ages, and if you want a child’s moving with a great story, I greatly recommend this film.


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