WHY DO TARZAN KEEP TARZANIN' AGIN, AN' AGIN', AN' AGIN?
By N. Khalfani Mwamba (04/19/99)
AAAHEEAAHEEAAH! Oh joy! (Not really) The tree-swingin', stampede-callin', Afrika-livin', pale yet skin-cancer-evadin', king-o-da-apes, AKA Lord Greystoke is back agin. Dark Horse Comics has recently redistributed his strip.
In June of '99 Disney will release a cartoon movie. In August of '99 Activision will release the Greystoke video Gameboy, and soon thereafter, another live-action feature film from Buena Vista will splat onto silver screens, perhaps the eighty fourth since 1918.
Of course, he's been returning for fully 87 years. Since 1912, one Racist medium after another has asserted "white supremacy" and assaulted "Black Counciousness" from Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) first Lord of the Apes story for which he was paid $700.00. This grew into his having his own California townwhich still standscalled; you guessed it, Tarzana. It's the hub of a mega-multi-million dollar empire trade marking everything from hats to hamburgers.
But why? What makes Tarzan, meaning "White Skin," according to Ms. Catherine Jurca, worthy of having the longest running continuous comic strip, global distribution of books, internet websites, radio and TV programsin fact a massive media empire wholly controlled by his heirs through the ERB Inc. Estate? Why does it fit so well into the culture of Anglo-Americans and how differently does it affect Afrikan Americans?
Any discussion of media or mass communication demands some definitions. Webster's New World of 1969 informs that a MEDIUM is "an intervening thing through which a force acts or an effect is produced." MEDIA are more than one of these. So then ERB's first Tarzan short was a literal medium through which THE FORCE of Racism was conveyed that helped PRODUCE in Afrikan people a rejection of our Afrikan identity. Subsequent movies, video games, TV, radio, books and comics are MEDIA continuously creating the same EFFECT.
One popular misconception created by movies like, and including Tarzan but also "Jewell of the Nile," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Out of Africa," "The Mighty Joe Young," etc. is that Afrika is a land of jungle. We will call these "Tarzan Untruths." Though the word comes from the Sanskrit "Jungala" meaning "dry, desert," in English it means the opposite or "thick vegetation and dense forest." But the Afrikan truth is that our Motherland has less forest per square mile than any other continent.
This is no insignificant statistic. Since Afrikans have for centuries been programmed to sense shame for being "Jungle Bunnies." But then who's the jungle bunny if Eurasia has more Jungle per square mile than Afrika? Of course the correct response is "nobody" since the term is insulting and no one should name-call. Still, the label falsely sticks to Afrikans with Tarzan helping to put it and keep it there.
"Mass media, or more accurately, PROPAGANDA," said J.J. Ellul in 1965, "is at least of two types: INTEGRATION and AGITATION. The first tries to convince the target group that they should presume certain myths to live by." That "America is the land of liberty" few Afrikans would challenge even though one million of our men are in prison, and those aged 18 to 25 have a higher death rate than U.S. soldiers did in Vietnam. That's genocide, not freedom. That pre-slavery Afrika was "uncivilized" and "unchristian" is another Tarzan Untruth or myth many live by. Yet civil comes from "city," and Afrika's Ta Ibit (centuries AFTER its construction, called Thebes by the Greeks) is the first historic city of record. Plus, Ethiopia was the first Christian country in history, declared so by King Azana fully a century BEFORE Constantine did so in Greece, 325 A.D.
" (I)t is still very difficult to determine what constitutes propaganda in our world and what the nature of propaganda is because it is a secret action," Ellul continues, "Agitation propaganda propels people to act in a particular way desired by the propagandist." Here is where mass communications and media merge, and why our Honored Ancestor John Henrik Clark (Peace be unto him.) said, "Hollywood has never spent a dime to SIMPLY ENTERTAIN anyone." Recall that though 12% of the U.S. population, Afrikan Americans are 30% of the movie-viewing audience buying 25% of the tickets. This means that we go so often that sometimes they let us in for free! Through such massive viewing of media, we learn to hate ourselves and our sourceAfrika.
All the many movies having Tarzan Untruths do different things to different ethnic groups. For Anglo-Americans, these flicks foster the embrace of Afrika as a "Safari- land" of intrigue and entertainment where the sea, the land AND THE PEOPLE aren't subjects of honor, but instead are objects of pleasureor danger to be overcome. Yet for Afrikan Americans, THE VERY SAME films foster the rejection of Afrika as a source of self-understanding and inspiration. All the reader need do to confirm that the media with Tarzan Untruths have a devastating impact, is to poll the next 5 Afrikan Americans you meet on their interest in travelling to Afrika or their knowing their stake in stopping Ethiopian, Liberian, or Zairian conflicts. The outraged objections you'll hear from four out of the five, at least, were learned somewhere and reinforced somewhere.
"Kovel says that mass media and (t)he movie industry has had an obvious ("white") nationalist propagandist character; a function that it has performed expertly. THERE IS NOTHING COMPARABLE IN ANY OTHER CULTURE IN TERMS OF EFFECT." (Ani; 1994) Quite personally, this Afrikan American Jallido (Griot) has six close family members who have all traveled outside of the U.S., but none to Afrika. Then again, why go? What more is there than trees, "tribal war," and an Anglo "ape-man" lording over the "lesser-than" with Jane, Boy and Cheetah too?
It all fits finely into the mind-feel of Anglo-America who's self image as ADVENTURING EXPLORER, CONVERTING MISSIONARY, CIVILIZING PIONNEER, and/or RATIONALIZING SCIENTIST has justified continuing crimes against the humanity of First Nations for many a millennia. Thirteen years before birthing the Tarzan myth, the author wrote poetically to our people: "Take up the white man's burden, the yoke ye sought to spurn; and spurn your fathers customs, your fathers temples burn Take up the white man's burden, go learn to wear his clothes. You may look like the devil, but nobody cares who knows " (Burroughs; 1899) Later, he advocated the extermination of "moral imbeciles" and the deportation of all Japanese from the U.S. Small wonder then, that in one recent "comic" strip scene, called "Jungle Fury"please recall "Jungala" and the square mileage issueTarzan is covered with blood and stands over a pile of dead, bloody, black bodies, and is described as a god.
In still another, called "Legion Of Hate," an all-woman Afrikan Nationcalled of course a tribeand referred to as "Amazons," forge an alliance with, get ready now, NAZIS. This is because they're only interested in "mating with white men!!!" (Hey! If you don't believe me, go read it yourself and if you don't like it, then help us to assemble a boycott.) The Amazons are written to favor a fictional German victory of WWII since it will expose these wanton Black women to a global breeding stock of white males. Never fear, though, Tarzan's here and he prevails over the Nazi/Amazon axis because "Tarzan provides welcome reassurance of the white man's supremacy over HIS women and HIS blacks, a supremacy that is maintained in any circumstance, no matter how dire " (J. Newsinger; 1986) He is Racist, Sexist, Adventurist, and Individualist. Thus, the massive Tarzan media march will thrive in America for exactly as long as Racism, Sexism, Military Adventurism and Greedy Individualism thrive in America.
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