Finally a Tarzan with better, not perfect, cultural overtones.
Taking time this morning with my 4 year old son Mysaac watching Netflix's new original Tarzan and Jane and it's so refreshing to finally see a professional feature presentation that lends credence to the likelihood of a more accurate depiction of this fictional (possibly non-fictional) character based on the geographical area.
Based on the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs, this Tarzan (name means white skin) and Jane pairs the dreadlocked ape-like man Tarzan with an African American woman and daughter of another white man looking to practice medicine on the West coast of Africa.
Growing up I watched my favorite Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, run and fly around the jungle on vines like Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man while all the native Africans tripped and fell all over themselves trying to avoid being eaten by another roaring king of the jungle.
Back then, I didn't really care about the skin color of this urban jungle hero who commanded the attention of wild and ferocious jungle animals to come save the day. I just wanted to be entertained just like any other normal kid.
Funny, thinking back I never really thought much about race until I made my home in Wisconsin. I grew up in East St. Louis where there was a strong black presence, and moved down to Tuskegee, Alabama, where blacks were all I saw, before graduating and heading to Beloit and then Madison, Wisconsin for college to make my home amongst whites. I was actually optimistic about moving up north. I couldn't wait to meet and be around more white folks. That's how green and sheltered I was. I'd probably still be watching old TV episodes right now hollering like I'm Tarzan.
Looking back now, as things stand today, I feel doped. I feel like my innocence as a child was and has been taken advantage of; all the while I was just being a kid and watching these cool shows featuring human beings with amazing powers, somewhere behind the scenes somebody was purposely selling me out. Robbing my psyche of who I am and what I could be in the real world.
Of course, the real world would eventually remind you, consciously or unconsciously, that Tarzan and any other superhero was only reserved for white boys and men. Heck, I even heard Captain America was black before he was white. This actually makes sense if you think about the fact that your typical white scientist or doctor would have agreed at the time if there was going to be some "testing of untested medicines and unproven procedures" going on they'd much rather prefer to try things out on a much lessor life deserving human being first. In America, Blacks and maim soldiers come to my mind. In Germany, it would have been a Jew or non-antisemitic person or family. You get the point... every culture has its problems. America's continues to be black and white.
Warner Brothers pictures recently released the "Legend of Tarzan" on the big screen in 2016. I would have completely flipped as a kid if I'd seen a dynamic version like this one when I was growing up. On the other hand, I may have suffered a severe shattering shift in balanced emotional perspective if I'd grown up thinking what some kids think about who and/or what I could be based on what they/we see on TV and at the movies today and over the years.
I've come to love and accept Madison; low freezing temperatures not so much. If I wasn't so stubborn, determined and ambitions about making a better life for my wife and family despite the odds, and hadn't lived such a nomadic lifestyle growing up, I may have moved on by now to warmer pastures. Outside of my blood brothers and church brothers, my closest of close friends are here in Madison. They happened to be white men. In fact, it's our Christian values that bind us the most -- politics not withstanding.
If we expect to build trust particularly between the black and white races and restore faith in our humanity as credible people and human beings, modern shows like this that acknowledge and embrace obvious human realities may just serve to break up the visual and mental misconstructions hard wired in minds overtime through history.
A point I make clear in a quote from my new book Winning People, Losing America is this:
“Every time we lie about history, the credibility of the one doing the talking, teaching, speaking, or preaching is pushed deeper and deeper down the drain (of truth).”
Excerpt From: C. Coliér McNair. “Winning People, Losing America.” XlibrisUS, 2016-12-28T05:00:00+00:00. iBooks.
This material is protected by copyright.
In other words, every chance we get we should do our best to be honest about our history by painting and reframing -- as best we can -- a more accurate truth of things we see through film, media, and books and/or pushback on cultural misconceptions that go unchecked and/or unnoticed when we talk to people in our circles.
Now, I've got to convince my 4 year old to stop watching after two episodes so we can gather up the rest of the family and make this new cool show a part of our structured family time.
This is going to be fun to see in 4K.