Monday, April 18, 2016

The Law vs Propaganda: The Jungle Book (2016)

This is the main poster for the film, yet this scene never actually happens; it is, rather, a conglomeration of instances throughout the narrative that are brought together in one visual statement. It's very difficult to see (you can click on the image to enlarge it for better viewing) but Mowgli faces King Louie and Shere Kahn inside the temple area. Now, there is an important reference to The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug in the film (when Baloo goes and tries to save Mowgli from Louie, Baloo speaks to Louie the way Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) speaks to Smaug the dragon, begging the audience to liken the two villains in their mind (more on this below); why? In The Hobbit, Bilbo is the thief who is to steal back the Arkenstone from Smaug who stole it from the dwarfs. How is Mowgli a thief? He stole the fire he holds (from the man-village, because he doesn't know how to make fire himself) but we are also meant to see how Shere Kahn and King Louie are trying to steal something from Mowgli: Shere Kahn has stolen Mowgli's father--when he killed him--he stole Akela when he killed him, caused the separation of Mowgli's "family" with the wolves and has now tried to steal Mowgli's home by forcing him to leave, not to mention Mowgli's self-respect at running away from Shere Kahn. King Louie is trying to steal something in a more subtle way, but like Smaug, is a huge threat (and we'll discuss this below). Please note that Mowgli has gone up some steps to get to this temple area, meaning, Mowgli--and us, the viewers--have to ascend to a "higher" level of consciousness in order to understand what is going on in this scene, which, is,. exactly, what,...? Because Shere Kahn and King Louie occupy spaces inside the man-made temple area, we can assume that we are to interpret the two of them as humans or human types. 
"If you cannot learn to run with the pack, one of these days you will be someone's dinner," the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) tells Mowgli (Neel Sethi) in the first line of the film; why open with this line? Because it summarizes perfectly the differences between being a human being and being an animal: animals run in packs, humans are individuals and do not run with a pack. Throughout the film, Mowgli is taught to suppress his "tricks," inventions and cleverness which distinguishes him from animals, so he will better blend in, but he doesn't blend in, and each of the animals he encounters throughout the film represents a different kind of human quality or, even, a different form of government, and herein lies just one dimension of director Jon Favreau's genius in bringing The Jungle Book back to audiences.
Let's take a quick moment for a history lesson. Back in the 1960s, literary theorist/philosopher Jacques Derrida began writing about a practice that would become known as "deconstruction": Derrida realized that Western thought tends to be based upon polar oppositions: man/woman, white/black, right/left, right/wrong, good/bad, virtue/vice, etc., and, additionally, that one of the concepts in the polarization-pairings were viewed as positive, while the other was viewed as negative, in other words, it was better to be a man than a woman; it was better to be white instead of black, and these patterns of thinking were being used by those who were in power in society (specifically white men) to keep their power; this critique is how the ideas of "political correctness" entered public discourse, a positive value cannot be placed on one without denying value to the other, so positives in thinking should be avoided so there isn't a negative introduced and people begin feeling bad about themselves for qualities they can't help (like being born a woman, or being born not-white),... then, after this power-move was achieved, they began censoring people for applying polarizations to behavior people could control but didn't want to, on the basis that it was still an arbitrary, power-application of morality limiting "freedom" disenfranchised minorities wanted to engage: chastity/promiscuity, sober/drunk, married/single, straight/gay.  So, what on earth does this have to do with a children's live animation film?
Everything.
In this opening chase scene when Bargheera is after Mowgli to teach him how to run away from danger, Mowgli goes out on a dead limb and it crashes and Bargheera is upset with him for not having known it was a dead limb that wouldn't have been able to support his weight. This is one of the first major differences between animals and humans which Favreau wants to point out to us: humans learn from our experiences and creatively apply that wisdom to other areas of life--e.g., when Shere Kahn chases him towards the end and Mowgli leads him out onto the dead limb so it will give way under his weight. Animals don't learn in this way or manner. Some animals, like the fox, might have their own "tricks" which they use for survival, however, this intelligence specifically belongs to man. Another important display of humanity Mowgli makes throughout the film: note how many times Mowgli runs and then jumps, often without looking? That's a "leap of faith," which humans are capable of making and animals are not; how many times does that leap of faith save Mowgli throughout the film?
Throughout the entire film, oppositions aren't being torn down (the way they are in socialist art) rather, they are being re-assigned and strengthened, the most obvious dichotomy being that of human/animal. Why is this important? Socialists want us to believe that humans are animals, there is no demarcating boundaries between us and them; in the upcoming release for Tarzan, the animals might even be portrayed as superior to humans (Tarzan will return to England, for example, and fairly easily acclimate to humans, but humans can't acclimate to the jungle, so Tarzan is the smarter for being able to do both, but it's the animals who are the smartest; please recall in Dawn of the Planet Of the Apes, Jason Clarke's character humbly going to ask the ape Caesar for advice and help because humans can't do anything, and that's exactly what socialists want us to believe; it's the exact opposite of what Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book wants to remind us). The Jungle Book goes out of its way to remind audiences how different Mowgli is from the animals and, even, how superior he is to them. Now, speaking in terms of the last fifty years of political history, that's pretty radical of Favreau to do. But this is only one of many dichotomies Favreau re-establishes; although this is the most important, it's not the only polarization, which leads us to,... The Law.
Why does Akela die? The leader of the wolf pack, like other characters, must all ready be dead since Shere Kahn is so easily able to kill him, and--sadly--Akela is dead, i.e, a character that, for all his nobility, still isn't sufficient to survive. Akela doesn't stand up to Shere Kahn the way Mowgli does at the end. Why mention this? The same way English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain failed to stand up to Hitler, which helped start World War II is basically the same way Akela treats Shere Kahn. Just as Shere Kahn goes up to Akela's rock and lays down in a sign of peace so that Akela's guard is off, that's exactly what Hitler did to Chamberlain with the Anglo-German agreement, so that Chamberlain believed it would be "Peace in our time," but then, just as Hitler turned around and invaded Europe, so Shere Kahn turns around and destroys Akela with one swipe. What happened? Akela, in wanting to avoid "war" with Shere Kahn--which is a noble thing in and of itself--failed to recognize the tyrannical threat Shere Kahn was shouting out to the whole jungle, just like Hitler. It's sad Akela died, but Mowgli recognized that he couldn't do what Akela had done, and so Mowgli doesn't, and neither should we.
Most people probably think of a jungle as being a place without law, a place where it is kill or be killed and you do whatever you have to in order to survive. We are, however, quickly introduced to the law of the jungle when Mowgli re-joins the wolf pack that has cared for him all his life. Why is there a law? Because there is a total break-down of order when there is no law and no one keeps the law, so what is the law of the jungle? Here is the complete text from Rudyard Kipling's book:
There are three important film references (at least) in The Jungle Book, and this scene above is one of them, Disney's The Lion King. Shere Kahn looking down at Mowgli in the wildebeest stampede echoes Scar looking down at his brother, the king, and killing him, then blaming it on the king's son. Why would Favreau want to to invoke The Lion King? At least two reasons. First, Shere Kagn attempts to usurp (and I don't use that word lightly) Mowgli's superiority in the jungle with his own: Shere Kahn wants to be king (like King Louie) and Shere Kahn will do so by killing the obstacle in his path, man (Mowgli). The second reason we are meant to think of The Lion King is because, hasn't the scenario played out in American politics since 2008, with a usurper destroying the land just as Scar did? The second film, as mentioned above, is The Hobbit: the Desolation Of Smaug, when Baloo goes into the monkey temple and compliments King Louie on the legends not doing him justice and how huge he is. Again, why does Favreau want us to think about this film in this specific context? The Arkenstone is to the dwarfs in The Hobbit what fire is to man and Mowgli in The Jungle Book: the sign of the right to rule, and King Louie wanting to "trade" Mowgli for the secret to fire in exchange for protection is no deal at all. The third film referenced is The Village (M Night Shymalan) and not because they keep talking about the "man village." First, Mowgli does to Shere Kahn what Ivy does to Noah (when he's dressed at one of "Those of whom we do not speak,... but can't seem to stop talking about") in the forest when she recalls the mud pit by the old dead tree she fell into and uses it to trap Noah; Mowgli uses the lesson from the beginning of the film at the end of the film to trap Shere Kahn in the same dead tree trick that allowed Bagheera to catch him at the start of the film. There is likely a second reference to The Village as well: the "red flower." At the start of that film, two girls are sweeping the porch when they see a red flower and bury it in the ground because it's the bad color. Red is bad in the film because it's the color of blood, the blood of the loved ones whose blood was needlessly spilt, so it's "bad." There is, however, the color of blood that one spills for the one they love, and this is important because this is why Mowgli's loin cloth is red (more on this below). Just as the color red has a good and bad meaning--love when we care for someone, and bad when we spill blood--so the "red flower" has a positive use in warding off enemies like Shere Kahn, but also bad when it destroys the jungle. 

Now this is the Law of the Jungle --
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip;
drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting,
and forget not the day is for sleep.

The Jackal may follow the Tiger,
but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a Hunter --
go forth and get food of thine own.

Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle --
the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
And trouble not Hathi the Silent,
and mock not the Boar in his lair.

When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle,
and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken --
it may be fair words shall prevail.

When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack,
ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel,
and the Pack be diminished by war.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge,
and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter,
not even the Council may come.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge,
but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message,
and so he shall change it again.

If ye kill before midnight, be silent,
and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop,
and your brothers go empty away.

Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates
,
and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing,
and seven times never kill Man!

If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker,
devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest;
so leave him the head and the hide.

The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack.
Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair,
or he dies.

The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf.
He may do what he will;
But, till he has given permission,
the Pack may not eat of that Kill.

Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling.
From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten;
and none may refuse him the same.

Lair-Right is the right of the Mother.
From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter,
and none may deny her the same.

Cave-Right is the right of the Father --
to hunt by himself for his own:
He is freed of all calls to the Pack;
he is judged by the Council alone.

Because of his age and his cunning,
because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open,
the word of your Head Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the Jungle,
and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law
and the haunch and the hump is -- Obey!


Only the first stanza is quoted in the film, however, it makes an important appearance. When we meet Baloo the bear, he sings the famous song, The Bare Necessities about the "good life." Never having heard a song before, Baloo explains it to Mowgli and asks if he knew any songs and Mowgli recites the Law of the Jungle, to which Baloo replies, "That's not a song, it's propaganda." Why would Baloo say that?
In the fourth stanza, it calls the tiger, panther and bear the "lords of the jungle," and they are meant to be kept peace with. What does Bagheera symbolize, then? We can say that Bagheera himself symbolizes the law, because--as Baloo annoyingly points out--Bagheera always sticks to the rules and Bagheera's wisdom comes from a deep understanding of the law. So, if the panther and the bear both like Mowgli, why does the tiger Shere Kahn have a problem with him? Shere Kahn doesn't want to respect the other "lords of the jungle," Shere Kahn wants to be the only lord of the jungle.
The Law of the Jungle is about each person doing their part; Baloo is an opportunist, he doesn't do his part, he leaves that up to others: in his song, Baloo says the honeybees are making honey just for him, right? No, they are making honey for themselves, and Baloo is taking it for himself. Baloo is a lovable character, and I don't want to dampen audience members' experience of him, however, he presents us with an important part in the film, and introduces propaganda as a theme, so, why then, if Baloo sees the Law of the Jungle as "propaganda" is he then one that uses it to unite the animals against Shere Kahn towards the end?
The Law of the Jungle symbolizes the Constitution.
Why is Shere Kahn blind in one eye? Well, it happened when he killed Mowgli's father, yes, but symbolically speaking, when a character has a blindness, it denotes that they are blind to some greater issue in the narrative, like Shere Kahn thinking he is greater than man because of his fur, claws and teeth. Further, we can deduce that Shere Kahn believes that, because he is so mean and vicious, no one is going to challenge him because fear is a greater power than is loyalty and love (the end when the animals all gang up against him disproves that). Finally, we can say that Shere Kahn is blind because of what he deserves as his revenge: Mowgli lost his father to Shere Kahn, Shere Kahn lost his eye, Mowgli's loss, therefore, is greater, and Mowgli (we can argue) has a right to live in the jungle and with the wolves because of what Shere Kahn stole from him. Shere Kahn, on the other hand, can't "see" that he doesn't have a case for his lost eye because he wouldn't have lost it had he not attacked Mowgli's father. Why is this important? We have a certain president in America who, like Shere Kahn, is taking revenge for what he believes are the wrongs America has committed, against him and others, and we are apt to gang up on him in the name of the Constitution, just the same way the animals do when Baloo recites the law to unite them. Lastly, Shere Kahn's name is interesting: "Kahn" likely comes from Genghis Khan who wore the title "Kahn" as "emperor," but in the West it became associated with a reign or leader of terror, so "Kahn" inspires "sheer" terror in people.
While some people (liberals) would call the Constitution "propaganda," it really preserves our values and code of ethics, which conflict with the way liberals want to change the country, so that's why they call it "propaganda." Just like the US Constitution brings people together (like all the immigrants who have come to America seeking a better life) so the Law of the Jungle unites the animals against the tyranny of Shere Kahn, and, yes, we can call it tyranny because after he has killed the wolf leader Akela, Shere Kahn promises the hills belong to him and all will live in fear until he gets Mowgli; yes, that is tyranny. What does it say in the Law of the Jungle above? "But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill Man!" and we know Shere Kahn has done both, killed for pleasure and killed man (Mowgli's father) and now he is using the law--that man is forbidden in the jungle--to his advantage even though Shere Kahn himself doesn't keep the law. How is it that Mowgli manages to overcome Shere Kahn? His "tricks," which brings us back to the dichotomy of human and animal.
What does the snake Kaa symbolize? It's important to note that when Disney made their original animated film, Kaa was voiced by a man, which was changed to a woman for Favreau's version, specifically, Scarlet Johannson. Why? In many circumstances, this would be a case of "gender-bending," that is, like liberals' affirmative action, you give to a minority what a white person might have earned, like a scholarship or a place at a select college. In order to diversify the cast, the character who would normally have been cast as a male was cast as a female because we all know how hard it is for Ms. Johannson to get work in Hollywood. With this film, however, I don't think that's the case, rather, Favreau wanted to draw attention to something that having a female voice the giant serpent in the garden, um, I mean, jungle, would provide commentary we might otherwise miss. For example, when you hear a woman speak to a child, especially a helpless child, all alone and lost, and the female voice tell the child to trust them, you think this woman's motherly instinct is going to protect the child, not take advantage of the child's trust and be killed for it. That Mowgli first finds the massive, shed skin of the snake suggests that there is a duplicitous identity in Kaa: one is the female offering to take care of Mowgli and protect him, but the other is going to have him for an afternoon snack. Is this how women have become today? Being a woman myself, I would answer with a big "yes." Now, it's interesting because what Kaa does is distract Mowgli with the story of his history, and while she's telling him the story of Shere Kahn killing his father, Kaa prepares to kill Mowgli. Has there been someone in the US recently--or for several years, now--who has distracted Americans with one sense of danger while another greater, imminent danger was waiting to hurt us? I'll let you decide that one for yourself.
Animals in the forest don't like the tricks of Mowgli because the tricks show how exceptional Mowgli is; in other words, it's the tall poppy syndrome; in still other words, it's Mowgli demonstrating the superiority of man which can not be hidden when he is amongst the animals. On one level, the drive to keep Mowgli's talents and skills hidden is the socialist tendency to keep everyone on the same level, in the same (zero) achievement zone and, on another, it's even our own human tendency to not try and achieve all that we can, because sometimes, it's just easier that way. There can't be any doubt that Mowgli's ability to reason, problem solve, use his hands and his head make him superior, and this is the driving thesis of Favreau's film, but he gives us a second supporting thesis against liberalism as well: the environment.
Raksha, the adoptive mother of Mowgli, plays an important role in the film because she wants to stand up to Shere Kahn even though the Wolf Council won't let her. Perhaps the most tense moment in the film is when she wakes up to see her cubs gathered around Shere Kahn and he's telling them about the cuckoo bird, and you're terrified he's going to kill her cubs the way he killed Akela. Why does Shere Kahn tell the cubs this story? It's the same story which Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) tells in Spectre about James Bond (so Mowgli is being likened to Bond in this sense and we hear about another similar bird--perhaps it's the cuckoo too, I can't recall exactly--in the film Stoker). Shere Kahn contends that the cuckoo bird gets another bird to raise its young so the unknowing mother neglects her own young and they starve to death while she takes care of the cuckoo bird; who, exactly, has starved to death in The Jungle Book? No one. How has Raksha neglected her own pubs in favor of Mowgli? She hasn't. This is the propaganda Baloo was talking about (because Baloo wouldn't have introduced propaganda into the film if it weren't somewhere). Just as Shere Kahn falsely portrays himself as the victim of man's brutality (which he brought upon himself when he attacked Mowgli's father) so now he's setting up false-victimization with the wolf cubs; is there anyone else in America today that have been taught they are victims even though they aren't?
It's regrettable that Mowgli sets the jungle on fire when he's taking the fire to overthrow Shere Kahn, and we can say that Favreau makes a concession to liberals that yes, humans have done some damage to the environment, however, the elephants demonstrate how man can help save the environment by being man, not resorting to abandoning our real nature and trying to act like animals. When the baby elephant has fallen into the trench, the superior animals of the jungle, the elephants, can't do anything to save their own, only man can, only Mowgli. And he does, with no "pay back" (like Baloo for saving Mowgli's life from Kaa). The baby elephant is precious to the herd because female elephants only give birth (on average) once every five years (and she doesn't become fertile until she's at least ten years old). So, the baby elephant is precious to them, which is why the whole herd is riled up at the infant having fallen into the trench and ready to smash Mowgli when he comes to see what has happened if he appears to offer any harm to the infant elephant. Mowgli's ingenuity saves the baby, and had Mowgli not been there, the baby would have died, eventually.
The elephants are the royalty of the jungle, because their tusks and strength created the jungle, so no one is allowed to get very close to them. At the end, they allow Mowgli to ride upon the back of the baby elephant he saved, thereby making him jungle royalty as well. It might seem strange to some that Mowgli doesn't go back to the man village, the way he does at the end of Disney's original animated film, however, the studio began the sequel before this film was even released, so we know Mowgli's adventure isn't over yet, and there are more lessons for him to learn. We can probably be confident that Mowgli will only return to the man-village when he's ready, not because he's been run out and dominated by a bully like Shere Kahn who has usurped the law. When the elephants dam the river so the water will put out the fire started by Mowgli, that, too, is a sign that Mowgli has brought the animals together, and each gets to do their own part, because everyone is good at something. 
In conclusion, The Jungle Book offers audience members some important concepts to think about and consider, mostly by resurrecting a traditional mind-set the liberal left has tried to undermine and sabotage for their own ends.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
King Louie will probably be the main villain of The Jungle Book 2. Just as Shere Kahn's blindness is unnatural, so the icy blue eyes of the orangutan is unnatural. Why? King Louie sees himself as being just like man with the exception of having the secret to making fire, and there is obviously a lot of differences between Louie and Mowgli. Louie wanting to become a man is a topic we will see again shortly in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows when the turtles get a hold of a formula that could turn them into humans but they are turtles, "Whether we like it or not." Remember, in the film Noah, Noah believes the animals are more important than the humans and wants the humans to die out so the animals can live in peace in the world, so animals are more important than humans in that film. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss has returned from the Games and hunts turkey in the woods and, just before she shoots it, it turns into a young man, because one of the liberal-carry-overs of the text was this blurring of the line between animal and human. Just as Mowgli isn't an ape, so Louie is not a man, and this is the dichotomy which Favreau erects and fills out through the narrative; why? Socialists want us to believe that we do not have a soul and are not created in the image of God, so it will be easier to treat us like animals--because that is what the socialist state does--when we believe and accept that we are animals. Favreau wants to remind us that we are not, and we are the rightful rulers of the world, not the animals.