chapter  6
17 Pages

Tarzan the Ape Man

Screening ‘The Subordination of Women, Nature and Colonies’ in the 1930s
WithChris Campbell

At the heart of Black Skin, White Masks (1952), Frantz Fanon turns his attention to the role that culture performs in constituting colonial ideology. In the chapter titled ‘The Negro and Pyschopathology,’ he offers a now famously instructive reading of the dynamics that come into play in the viewing of a popular childhood film in two different locales:

In the Antilles, the young Negro identifies himself de facto with Tarzan against the Negroes. This is much more difficult for him in a European theater, for the rest of the audience, which is white, automatically identifies him with the savages on the screen. It is a conclusive experience. The Negro learns that one is not black without problems. A documentary film in Africa produces similar reactions when it is shown in a French city and in Fort-de-France. I will go farther and say that Bushmen and Zulus arouse even more laughter among the young Antilleans. It would be interesting to show how in this instance the reactional exaggeration betrays a hint of recognition. In France a Negro who sees this documentary is virtually petrified. There he has no more hope of flight: He is at once Antillean, Bushman, and Zulu. 1