I grew up watching Disney, and I have no memory of the song “My Own Home.” I have seen The Jungle Book many times, so I must have repressed this one. When I think of The Jungle Book, I remember “The Bare Necessities” and “I want to be like you.” Wholesome songs that evoke joy; not songs that make you think, “Yikes! How did they get away with that!” I can safely predict that I will again remove this song from my mind as soon as we’re done with this unit.
Shanti lays out her life plan within the lyrics of this song. Shanti is going to get the water, bring it home to her family, rinse and repeat, until the day she finds a man, births his babies, cooks his meals, instills the same gender roles into their children, and dies. That is her whole agenda as an Indian girl living in the jungle.
This scene is an example of imperialism without colonialism, in terms of an absence of colonial rule. The Jungle Book takes place in a lush Indian jungle that seems untouched by human industry, and yet there is a clear separation between the jungle and civilized society. The native animals inhabit the jungle, and the native people inhabit their “man-village.” According to Bagheera and Baloo’s attitudes in this scene, and throughout the movie, the animals and humans do not interact. Everyone minds their own business.
This song and corresponding scene from The Jungle Book exemplifies imperialism through Shanti’s powerful influence over Mowgli. He consensually follows her into the man-village. She did not force him in any physical way; she used her girlish charm to appeal to his budding sexuality. Notice that she’s wearing pink, a traditionally feminine color.
Mowgli is 10 years old and has never seen a girl before. He cannot HANDLE this much feminine beauty. His initial reaction is a bit much though; keep it in your loincloth there, buddy.
Notice the verse Shanti sings right after she meets Mowgli:
“Then I will have a handsome husband
And a daughter of my own
And I’ll send her to fetch the water
I’ll be cooking in the home.”
(Her vision for her future is so lame. We all cook.) This ideology creates a conventional and therefore heterosexual domestic relationship. In order to achieve her life goals, she must first have a handsome husband.
Shanti does not say that she wants a daughter, she states that she will have a daughter. She simply must carry out her purpose as a woman through reproduction. Specifically, she must have a baby girl, to pass on the torch of misogynistic gender roles. This verse in particular insinuates that her mother likely sang this song in her youth, and her mother before her.
The young women of the man-village fetch water each day, waiting until they are “grown.” In a setting like this, a woman is “grown” when she gets married. Marriage is what separates a girl from a woman; they now answer to their husbands rather than their fathers. It’s all about the day when Shanti can cook the food that her husband hunted for their growing family, rather than repetitively fetching water. It’s so much less degrading.
This movie was made in the 1960’s, a time where many women lived to please their husbands. Ania Loomba touches on the history of patriarchal control, “[T]he ideology and practices of male domination are historically, geographically, and and culturally variable. English patriarchal structures were different in the sixteenth century from what they are today, and they varied also between classes, then and now,” (Loomba 1109). Gender roles have always existed, but they are ever-changing. In this setting, Shanti’s purpose is to obey her parents and wait around for a man to propose marriage. Mowgli’s role is to use his boyish charm to win her over. I did not see The Jungle Book 2, so I’m not sure how our boy played out.
The only (false) hope for this song is that Shanti uses the possessive pronoun, “My” own home. At least she owns something, right? Wrong; it deceptively pushes the allusion even further. For Shanti, the combination of her female identity and her coming-of-age story lands her as a doting housewife. Shanti’s life goal of having a home of her own only reinforces a heteronormative domestic setting.