Mar 23, 2013

Visiting Africa

With all of the teenage African and American boys pairing off, in A Visit to a Chief's Son (1974), African Journey (1989), and The Great Elephant Escape (1995), you'd think that sub-Saharan Africa would easily make my list of "good places," like India or the Pacific, but it didn't.  When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, I heard about Africa mostly from Tarzan movies: steaming jungles occupied by hoards of gibbering natives who were semi-nude but not very muscular, and spent all of their time trying to kill white people.  Here they plan to burn Tarzan's Boy (Johnny Sheffield) at the stake.  He was also almost drowned, forced to drink poison, attacked by a giant spider, and tied up for no particular reason.
School wasn't much better.  Our few lessons about Africa mentioned the steaming jungles and naked natives living in grass huts, fighting crocodiles and waiting for Stanley and Livingston to discover them.  Although occasionally the pictures showed some muscles (and some of the nudity), and suggested the potential for homoromantic liaisons.

Jungle comic books occasionally showed natives who were "civilized," though still in loincloths, but they were always in the background.  The focus was on the white European or American leads.  Here the white Dan-El is in the foreground, and the black Natongo in the background.

There were also two tv series about Americans in a more modern Africa: Daktari (1966-69), starring Yale Summers (left) and Hari Rhodes (right), and Cowboy in Africa (1967-68), starring Chuck Connors.  I never saw them.

I heard about the real Africa some time later, but it didn't help much.  Sub-Saharan Africa today has some of the most repressively homophobic regimes on the planet.