Tarzan will always epitomize the history of eurocentric racist demonization of Africa -- whether it's the old black-and-white Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan of the 1930s with his jungle cry and interaction with bug-eyed African "savages", the 1950s Gordon Scott version, deep "in darkest Africa" or the Alexander Skarsgard 21st century version who has to be arm-twisted and convinced by a Black sidekick (Samuel L. Jackson as Dr. George Washington Williams; a tokenism role inserted to try and improve the problematic racial optics) to return to the jungle and help rescue Africans (Congolese in this case) from a bad White man, King Lepold of the Belgians, and his evil agents (in
In a famous 1971 interview with Michael Parkinson, the late, great Muhammad Ali flagged certain issues he had with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s most famous creation.
“I always wondered why Tarzan is the King of the Jungle in Africa . . . I saw this white man swinging around Africa with a diaper on, hollering . . . And all of the Africans, he’s beating them up and breaking the lion’s jaw, and here’s Tarzan, talking to the animals. And the Africans have been there for centuries and they can’t talk to the animals.”
It’s a central problem that David Yates’s new film can’t overcome, but, by golly, if it does
Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 story Tarzan of the Apes came at a time when racism and sexism were accepted, and between utilizing a "white savior" narrative, a cinematic trope in which a white person rescues people of color, and presenting its lead woman as a constant hostage, the Tarzan book and its sequels feel now more than a little old-fashioned. So it makes sense, then, that Legend of Tarzan attempted to insert some 21st-century values into the story. For the character of Jane, Tarzan's wife (Margot Robbie), that meant making her more vocal, more spunky, and more of a modern woman who expresses herself strongly, a lot different than the victimized Jane of Burroughs' o
he Legend of Tarzan may not have blown the doors off the box office, but it put up respectable numbers for its opening weekend. It's also getting solid fan support on Rotten Tomatoes. If it can continue on this pace, it's certainly a possibility that the movie could do the necessary business to still become a success, and if that happens, a sequel is certainly in the cards. Since Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote over two dozen Tarzan books in his life, there are numerous places the character could go from here.
The first film took a number of bits and pieces from Tarzan lore to create its story and added a healthy dose of reality for good measure. While Edgar Rice Burroughs Ta