100 Years of Tarzan

Posted on October 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm

The Washington Post has a wonderful tribute to Tarzan in honor of the 100th anniversary of first Tarzan story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, with a fascinating gallery of portrayals of this now-iconic character.  Burroughs had no special calling to be a writer.  According to Neely Tucker’s story in the Post, after a series of unsuccessful jobs,

Burroughs was suddenly in his mid-30s and pawning his wife’s jewelry for cash.

And then — there’s always a “and then” in these kinds of stories — he was reading a pulp magazine, checking to see whether his company’s ads were correctly placed. He thought the magazine’s stories were so lousy that even he could write better.

So he sat down and wrote a science-fiction piece, “Under the Moons of Mars,” and sold it to All-Story. (Today, you know this tale as “John Carter,” the Disney film from earlier this year.)

He sold it for $400, roughly the modern equivalent of $9,300. This got his attention.

“I was not writing because of any urge to write nor for any particular love of writing. I was writing because I had a wife and two babies,” he later told an interviewer. “I loathed poverty and I would have liked to put my hands on the party who said that poverty is an honorable estate.”

The character of Tarzan was an instant sensation, and Burroughs was a good enough businessman that he not only copyrighted his stories, but he trademarked the character.  Copyrights expire, but trademarks do not.  Burroughs wrote two dozen Tarzan books but the character is best known for its many popular movie and television versions, from Elmo Lincoln’s portrayal in the silent era to an animated Disney feature film with music by Phil Collins.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6BlkuifHi0

My favorite is still the classic with swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan.

Burroughs’ version of Tarzan was highly educated (he had the books left behind by his late parents and was able to speak many languages).  But what makes the character so enduringly appealing over a century is the idea of him as completely isolated from civilization, raised in the jungle, and giving us a chance to consider the deepest questions about what makes us human at the same time as we have the pleasure of imaging ourselves, like Tarzan, Jane, Boy, and Cheetah, swinging through the trees.

 

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For Your Netflix Queue

Still Puzzling about “Cloud Atlas?” Here’s Some Help

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm

“Cloud Atlas” is confusing, with six different stories set in six different time periods told in six different styles but with the same actors in different roles in all of them and the same themes — fighting tyranny and oppression, the power of love, the spirit of creation.  And a comet-shaped birthmark.  Those who are still trying to figure it all out and would like some help should try:

My friend Jen Chaney has an excellent primer in the Washington Post on the movie’s Where’s Waldo-style age, race, and gender-melding multiple casting.

Entertainment Weekly helpfully explains the differences between the book and the movie.  Big surprise — the movie has more emphasis on the love stories.

Slate’s Forrest Wickman takes on the movie’s themes of reincarnation, good vs. evil, interconnectedness and the bigotry that impedes it, revolution and change, and the birthmark.

Slate also has a glossary for the annoying Jar-Jar Binks-style patois of the episode set farthest in the future.  And the Slate Spoiler Special podcast has the kind of post-movie discussion you could have, too, if your friends were in grad school.

And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at what the Wachowskis (the “Matrix” siblings who are two-thirds of the directors of the film) have to say about it.  From Lana Wachowski:

Foucault gave us insight into power in the postmodern world, and now we understand it in a different way than Homer did, but power will be a subject in the human story, I think, as long as we’re human. And so when we first read David Mitchell’s book, I thought it was an unbelievable examination of incredibly varied perspectives, and also the relationship between the responsibility we have to people we have power over, and the responsibility we have to the people who have power over us. Are we meant to just accept their conventional construct of whatever they imagine the world to be? Or are we obliged in some way to struggle against it? In the reverse, what is the obligation of the person whose life we have power over? Are they obliged to struggle against that conventional relationship? This is stuff of good stories.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Family Movies that Scare Kids

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Common Sense Media‘s Betsy Bozdech has a timely post about classic family movies that some children find upsetting.  Everyone I’ve ever talked to about watching movies as a child had an immediate title when asked what a movie that was too scary for them.  (Mine: Darby O’Gill and the Little People — with a singing Sean Connery!  The banshee coach still scares me.)  It is impossible for even the most attentive parent to predict what any individual child will find upsetting all the time.  The best you can do is help your child develop some techniques for responding to being scared.  Just knowing those options are there will add to the child’s confidence and reduce the intensity and duration of any disturbance.  Some good techniques are to talk about what the child would like to say to the scary character or how the child would like to see the story end instead.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

New From Veggie Tales: The League of Incredible Vegetables

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 8:00 am

The Veggie Tales folks at Big Idea Entertainment have a new DVD just in time for Halloween, to help kids who might have a hard time telling the difference between fun scary and scary scary.  It’s called The League of Incredible Vegetables and it’s the first superhero-themed Veggie Tales story.  Bad guy Dr. Flurry wants to freeze the town — with fear!  That’s too much for just one superhero to handle, so LarryBoy,  Thingamabob (Bob the Tomato), S-Cape (Mr. Lunt), Vogue (Petunia Rhubarb) and Ricochet (Junior Asparagus) have to work together and learn to understand and overcome their own fears in order to save the day.  No one does silly stories with real lessons better than the Veggies.  This one is a lot of fun and a good way to start some conversations about fear, faith, and cooperation.  For a free craft and coloring sheet to go with the DVD, send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Veggies in the subject line.

 

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