Mar 14, 2013

Yankee Zulu: Homophobic Buddy Bonding

In 1969 South Africa, the black teenager Zulu (Bobo Seritano) has an intense homoromantic crush on the slightly older Rhino (Ruan Mandelstam), who is white.

They spend "carefree days down by the river," skinny-dipping (with screen-filling rear nudity), racing, pranking, and hugging.

 Full body hugs, with their faces pressed so close together that they look like they're about to kiss.

Then Rhino meets a girl, Rowena, who, as Zulu recalls,  "spoiled it for us" by sweet-talking him into a William Tell stunt, shooting a can from atop Zulu's head. Traumatized by the knowledge that his friend almost killed him,  "I knew my life here was over."

25 years pass.  Zulu (now played by John Matshikiza) has moved to America.  Arrested for car theft, he is deported back to South Africa by a racist organization run by the fascist Diehard, who happens to be married to Rowena.  Zulu escapes, and manages to steal Diehard's winning lottery ticket, and accidentally runs into Rhino (now played by Leon Schuster).

They head out to the resort of Sun City, accompanied by Rhino's daughter, with Diehard and Rowena in hot pursuit.  More slapstick hijinks ensue.  They get a gay-stereotype hairdresser to make them up as a 19th century slave owner and his black servant; they recreate the tin can incident, with Zulu as the shooter and a lemon instead of a gun; they are suspended over a cliff with an elephant; they meet Prince Charles and his son William.

There's a Zulu on my Stoep, released internationally as Yankee Zulu (1994), has been heavily criticized for its homophobia, but there are no more "fag" jokes than a standard episode of Family Guy, and they are outweighed by the homoromantic subtext: buddies with minimal heterosexual interest, aggressively heterosexual baddies,  and no fade-out kiss.  Instead, the movie ends with a full-body hug between Rhino, Zulu, and Rhino's daughter, who exclaims "Now I've got two daddies."

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