the exhibition’s curator, Roger Boulay, has also been keen to investigate why some are left uneasy about Tarzan – especially his relationship to black Africans.
But he says this queasiness is mainly generated by the Hollywood versions of the story, not by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original novels.
“Sometimes the books can be quite subtle and rich,” he says.
M. Boulay, I read those novels when I was a kid. And subtle is one expletiving thing they were not. Burroughs was a king of camp and in-your-face closeted homoeroticism, but subtle? Nuh-uh.
And it wasn’t so much Tarzan’s relationship to black africans that was a problem (they were, like everyone else in the place, just backdrops for the northern-european-but-not-german Uebermensch) as the author’s constant dicta about race and the bestial aspects of the lower races and the polluting effect of civlization on the noble savage blood and just the whole notion of using an entire goddam continent full of living, breathing intelligent people as a canvas for some white guy’s adventures with a white woman.
“but you do have to remember that he dates from 1912.”
and then some.