Vilified or Vindicated: An Artist's Responsibility
Monday, April, 18th
We saw the Jungle Book over the weekend and enjoyed it thoroughly. Mowgli, the man cub clambered though the dense jungle playground of towering trees and vine, rivers and even ancient ruins, recalling for us viewers a sense of wild wonder and adventure. The animals are eerily real, Shere Khan the tiger, terrifying!
And this was my only disappointment; the vilifying of any animal group given our current gross misunderstanding of nature, tends to create fear and separation. One tiny sentence could have remedied this like, “Mowgli, most tigers are not evil like Shere Khan,” or “Shere Khan has a wounded heart which causes him to seek vengeance.” I did like the reverence shown the elephants, however.
Our technology-reared children already have less an opportunity to value the natural world, and anytime we anthropomorphize the animal kingdom, assigning characteristics like vengeance and hatred for the sake of story, it is also our responsibility to curtail our creative license. We need effective villains, but perhaps we can also demonstrate for the less conscious amongst us, and I am not solely referring to younger audiences here, redemptive qualities to the same species portrayed negatively.
One author, Peter Benchley who later took responsibility for the devastatingly skewed understanding he helped perpetuate in 1975 about great white sharks in Jaws, wrote another book in 2002 in an attempt to paint a truer, conservationist viewpoint. Here’s an in-depth study about sharks if you are interested, and how Jaws is linked to the decimation of the shark population: http://cnso.nova.edu/ghri/forms/news-shark-diver-magazine-from-the-jaws-of-extinction.pdf
Hopefully we will not start whaling again after seeing, Into the Heart of the Sea! You get my point. Artists have an equally weighted responsibility to good storytelling as we do to life-affirming experiences with redemptive qualities that further our relationship with the natural world, as opposed to drive us further from it —these are the better stories anyway, and the only ones worthy of showing our children.