The Jungle Book
Run Time: 106 minutes
Director: Jon Favreau
The Jungle Book does not significantly challenge constructions of cultural identities. While the film examines the importance of accepting others for their differences, the film does very little to engage with gender, disability, sexual orientation, or the body. However, it should be noted that the film makes an attempt at racial diversity and is an improvement from Disney’s 1967 version of the film.
Summary: A boy, Mowgli, goes on a journey of self-discovery after he is forced to leave the pack of wolves who raised him.
- Threating language-“the runt gets eaten,” “throw him off the cliff”
- Demeaning language- “weird,” “burned beast (in reference to a physical disability),” “what is that” (in reference to Mowgli)
- Several scary scenes- For example, animals fight and cause injury to one another multiple times.
- Main and minor character deaths (murder, off-screen death by fire).
- Visible injuries- scrapes, scratches, bee stings.
Sex: 0 poo(s)
Drugs and Alcohol: 0 poo(s)
- The jungle animals are gendered but do not always appear to adhere to traditional gender roles regarding femininity and masculinity. For example, Raksha, the mother wolf, stands up to Shere Khan, an evil tiger, after he threatens her and her wolf pack. Also, Mowgli challenges traditional gender roles regarding masculinity as he expresses fear and emotion throughout the film.
- Mowgli, played by Indian-American actor Neel Sethi, is the main character of the film and the film’s hero. This is important because people of color are often absent or play minor roles in film.
- Oftentimes in films, dark colors are used to signify evil. In the film, a black panther, Bagheera, is depicted as a good character in which he is Mowgli’s main protector and brought Mowgli to the wolf pack when Mowgli was just a young child.
Sexual Orientation: N/A
- Oftentimes in media, invisible and/or visible disabilities are used as signifiers of immoral character. Shere Khan, who is blind in one eye and has visible facial scarring, is the villain of the film. In the film, Shere Khan murders two characters and tries to kill several others.
Suggested talking points:
- A fear of the Other is a major theme in the film. The film explains how the Other is constructed (stereotypes) and how the fear of the Other can have detrimental consequences. For example, throughout the film, Mowgli is often told he does not belong because he is different and is eventually forced to leave the jungle to be with his “own kind.” However, once other animals get to know Mowgli, they realize that Mowgli is kind and harmless. This interaction, and many others similar to it, suggests that if humans and animals took the time to listen and understand one another, then perhaps it would reduce the fear between the two groups.
- An important theme in the film is family. The film suggests that friends can also be family as there are many different types of family structures in society (two mothers, one guardian and two children, one father and one child, etc.). For example, although Mowgli is not a wolf, Mowgli was adopted into the wolf pack’s family. According to the film, family is anyone who cares for and appreciates you.
- The film makes a statement regarding the creative and destructive capabilities of human beings in relationship to the environment. For example, Mowgli uses his human creativity to help Baloo get honey and to save an elephant from a pit. However, the destructive capabilities of human beings are also present in the film. For example, fire (called “red flower” in the film), is associated with the destructive power of human beings where humans have the power to completely destroy the jungle. In order to show his respect for the jungle as a human, Mowgli symbolically tosses a torch into water.
the jungle book, race, characters of color, gender, the other, environment, 1 paw, one paw, family, animals, music