Friday, September 12, 2008

Yikes! Not a good story for the adoption-conscious!

Last night, Maya picked The Jungle Book for our night-time read, which was a new one for us (it's not a new book, copyright 1967, one of the original Little Golden Books that we picked up used, probably at a garage sale!).

I'm sure I saw the Disney movie as a kid, but I don't remember it, and I haven't read the Rudyard Kipling original, so I went into this story blind.

And I'm reading along: Mowgli, the man-cub, is "left all alone in the jungle," and then found by the panther, Basheera, and taken to a wolf family "with young cubs of their own. That is how it happened that Mowgli was raised among the wolves." OK, I'm starting to get worried! The picture shows the baby all bundled up, so it sure looks like infant abandonment to me. And I'm not quite sure how to gauge the look on the wolf mom's face -- startled? dismayed? Happily surprised?!

Now ten years have passed, and danger returns to the wolf pack's land, in the form of the tiger, Shere Khan, who hates all men. If he learns that the wolf pack is "harboring a man-cub," the wolves will be in danger. So they all agree that "the man-cub must go." Ouch!

Basheera says he'll take Mowgli to a nearby man-village where he'll be well cared for. After some resistance, Mowgli makes his way back to the village. And Basheera says approvingly of this happy ending, "It is just as it should be. . . . He has found his true home." So much for A-Mother-For-Choco themed transracial adoption story! (Yes, yes, I know. It's really trans-species, not the same thing!).

The girls don't seem fazed by the story, it's just mom who's saying, "Gee, thanks, Disney!" We didn't talk about it at all (it was late, the girls were tired (and so was I!) -- they have late gymnastics classes on Thursday). We might, though. It could be a good teaching moment:
How do you think the baby got into the jungle? What do you think about that?

Do you think the wolf family adopted him? It doesn't seem so to me, since they don't keep him forever. What do you think?

Was Basheera right to want him to go to the man-village? Why did Mowgli want to stay in the jungle? Why did he decide to go to the man-village?
Hmmmm, maybe the book wasn't so bad, after all . . . .


Wendy said...

I had an entire collection of movies and books from my childhood that I never really thought much of and kept for when I had children, notice I said had. There are so many that are inappropriate and should have been for me as well, but I think our parents were appeased by the Disney or Golden book name. There are only a handful of old items I have kept, some related to bad adoption talk or representation, but mostly due to lack of respect for women. I refuse to give my daughter the whole "rescue me" background that was sublimally given to us. The "classics" are so full of crap! The other reason many hit the garbage is the message that those born different equate to bad, weird, or not equal.

Beverly said...

the movie shows (sort of) how the boy got into the jungle kind of like the movie tarzan. The bad part of Jungle Book is that the orangutan scenes sort of smacks of racism but a kid that age may not pick up on it. Sort of like the black birds in the movie Dumbo.

Wendy said...

Duh, it should say I got rid of all but ahndful, the rest had the problems I mentioned!

zoe'sfriendsyd said...

I never read this one either, but sounds like he was a foster baby. And since furry animals can't take care of humans, he was later adopted and found his true home. Some kids come home later, you know.
What did you think of Mulan? I know the idea was to empower this woman by making her a guy, but the movie was trying to be "too" culturally correct for me.

zoe'sfriendsyd'sbabblingmom said...

PS Wendy I agree with you 100%. I've always looked over books quickly before Syd got to them. Now that she is 7 it's not so easy, she can grab and run through a book in the blink of an eye. But I decided now is a good time to discuss WHY it's so inappropriate when we see books or movies that don't agree with our parenting and family philosphies.

Wendy said...

Geez, now I can't spell!

Wendy said...

I agree Zoe's friend. We have found time to discuss appropriateness when birthday parties come, when she goes to friends homes, and when we go shopping for books or at the library. We try to teach her now, and I am hoping when she is bigger she will take the time to review; she does at four, but no guarantees at fourteen! I guess we can only teach what we believe and hope they take something from it.

Sheri said...

I loved the original Kipling books as a child... Mowgli returns to the jungle and has many adventures. Since there are NO wolves NO bears NO black panthers and NO pythons in India, something I figured out at a very early age, the whole story cycle never rang true to me!! The girls like the Dis@ney movie cuz the music is good, but we don't have it - my sister does. Malinda: check out Peter Pan, if you want to be really irritated. I bought the video years BC (before children), watched it once, and threw it away. "What makes the red man red?" "Why does he just say 'How'?", the Lost Boys... crikey, even the blimey Englishman is a loathesome stereotype!!