October 24, 2017

Heroes and Villains: Shere Khan from The Jungle Book

  • by Dr. Craig Pohlman
  • April 20, 2016
  • 0

The Jungle Book reboot is a total winner for several reasons. It nostalgically retains elements from the original animated feature (“The . . . bear necessities!”), while also taking the concept in new directions. The animals are stunningly rendered with CGI. It’s exciting, funny, sad at times, and suspenseful at others. And the cast is fantastic, no one more so than Idris Elba as Shere Khan, the scarred tiger bent on revenge. Elba’s voice (one of the best in Hollywood) and the aforementioned CGI meld to create a truly menacing villain.

Previously I’ve described my Heroism Quotient (HQ) and Villainy Quotient (VQ). I rate villains along five factors (0-20), yielding a Villainy Quotient (VQ) with a maximum score of 100. The factors are drawn from the thinking and research of Dr. Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford prison experiment) and other experts on evil. The higher the VQ, the more diabolical the villain.

So here’s how I score Shere Khan:

1. Absence of typical moral restraints on actions:

Shere Khan is a killer who has no qualms about taking lives to meet his aims. However, I’m only giving him a 10 out of 20 because he’s at the top of the food chain so his predatory nature comes hard-wired.

2. Degree of harm or damage done:

I’m only going to consider the killing he has done as part of his vendetta against Mowgli the man-cub. Towards that evil end he did a fair amount of damage, but it could have been far, far worse. Hence, a 5.

3. Track-record of evil-doing:

As a carnivore, Shere Khan has been killing most of his life. But something changed in him after killing Mowgli’s father and getting his face burned. Mowgli’s not too old, so I’m going with a 12 on this factor.

4. Malice towards victims, intent to cause suffering:

Shere Khan earns a very high 17 because he really does hate Mowgli and wants him to suffer terribly for the wounds inflicted by the man-cub’s father.

5. Taking pleasure in actions:

Shere Khan’s demeanor seems more determined menace than sadistic glee. But he taunts Mowgli a fair amount, so I’m giving him a 9.

Sum up these factor scores and Shere Khan’s VQ is 53. His score is a bit lower than that of another animal movie baddie, Indominus Rex from Jurassic World (VQ 68). Check back to see which villain (or hero) gets rated next!

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Dr. Craig Pohlman

Craig Pohlman is a neurodevelopmental psychologist who has written several books about helping struggling learners achieve success. That’s cool and all, but what he really wants to do with his life is be a game show host. Or starship captain. Or Jedi Master. Or some combination of all three.

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