Cancel Culture

High School Cancels Tarzan Musical Because Parents Said It's Racist

"I think if we decide we’re just going to immediately hair-trigger cancel anything that might make anyone uncomfortable, we’re missing a chance to teach.”

|

Add Disney's Tarzan to the list of theater productions no longer tolerated on a school campus.

Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford, New York, had planned to stage a musical based on the Disney version of Tarzan. But the production was canceled just before auditions due to concerns from some parents.

According to The Washington Post:

"'The concerns were over the original story line behind 'Tarzan of the Apes,' Elmsford Union Free School District Superintendent Marc P. Baiocco told the Journal News, referencing Edgar Rice Burroughs's story, which was first published in 1912.

Baiocco added that the parents were also troubled by the possibility that nonwhite students would appear as apes onstage. According to state education data, the district that includes Alexander Hamilton serves a diverse student population. More than 50 percent of students are Hispanic or Latino and about 23 percent are black or African American.

'They just were worried about the portrayal of our students in terms of students of color and whatnot in that,' Baiocco said of the parents."

So these are two different objections: First, that the source material, Tarzan of the Apes, is problematic, and second, that students of color might be dressed up as apes. It would be wrong to say that both concerns are entirely unfounded. (The novel, like many things written more than a hundred years ago, is no doubt flawed by modern standards.) But here's a pertinent question: Did any of the actual students share these objections? The Post article puts it all on the parents, who must seemingly be placated at any cost.

"One of the things that we're working on this year is a big equity push in terms of making sure that we're equitable in everything that we do," said Baiocco. "One of the messages that I had conveyed to parents at the beginning of school year was that if one person felt uncomfortable with something, please let us know that. We want those voices to be heard."

Susan Van Buskirk, who directed a Tarzan play at another high school, pointed out that there are real downsides when a school defaults to knee-jerk censorship the moment anyone complains:

"'The whole point of theater is to reflect society and discuss society, whatever it is you're seeing,' Van Buskirk told the Journal News. 'I think if we decide we're just going to immediately hair-trigger cancel anything that might make anyone uncomfortable, we're missing a chance to teach.'"

This development follows the cancellation of an anti-racist play at Washington College because some members of the campus community said any depiction of the Ku Klux Klan—even as the villains of the story—would make people feel unsafe.

Censoring depictions of past injustices will not make society better educated about injustice. Similarly, forbidding teenagers from acting out Disney's Tarzan due to past racial stereotypes (and the original source material of the Disney rendition that has since been deviated from) seems likely to reinforce, rather than undermine, past racism.

Advertisement

NEXT: 3 Winners and 3 Losers From Today's North America Trade Deal Announcement

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Does anyone perform Othello any more?

    1. Iago is a great name.

  2. And with that Disney turns its busload of attorneys around and heads it home.

    1. If they’re smart, they’re working on the proper narrative about how if a school decides to put on a Black Panther play, kids will be allowed to be a part of the Jabari Tribe.

      The superficially obvious solution is to have just the white kids play members of that tribe but that gets complicated and maybe even pointedly on the nose when the Jabari are instrumental in restoring T’Challa to power.

      1. They could just put the white kids in brown makeup . . .

        1. That would hurt them politically… the most they would be able to look forward to would be being Premier of Canada or governor of some state.

  3. Tarzan is superior to everyone else, so portraying him as superior is not racist. How many of you could teach yourselves to read and write with no human contact from birth, and only children’s books to learn from?

    1. Seems pretty easy to make this a racist story. White man raised in jungle becomes the superior being. And the apes aren’t really apes, they’re proxies for black people.

      Totally ridiculous. But I suspect some serious idiot wrote something like that somewhere.

    2. I honestly would’ve guessed sexist first. The layered irony of protecting children from an overt Victorian Era depiction of a woman as a prim and proper object to be claimed/protected at all costs being completely lost on neo-Victorians.

    3. Look, let’s say what the real issue is here. High school boys shouldn’t be parading around onstage in loin cloths. It’s too titillating!

      If they already have all the costumes they could instead do a stage production of Planet of the Apes. Who could find anything controversial in that.

      1. If they already have all the costumes they could instead do a stage production of Planet of the Apes.

        OK, here’s my pitch, stop me if you hear this before: Somebody writes a story along the lines of Mr. Mom or Three Men And A Little Lady type story titled “The Muslim Brotherhood And Planet Of The Apes Had A Baby”. It can be a crap story about a legit Egyptian man who’s was a former member of the Muslim brotherhood who’s now stuck at home with the baby after Mom gets tapped for a role in the stage production of Planet Of The Apes.

        Then, when that play gets cancelled, they just go with Tarzan instead.

  4. I wager there’s substantial overlap between people who think Tarzan is racist, and people who think enforcing a national border is racist. We Koch / Reason libertarians need to understand that so-called “performatively woke” progressives are on our side.

    #LibertariansForCancelCulture

    1. you would be right my satirical friend… these are the same people that elected Schumer and Gillibrand.

  5. Look, the rules are simple. No white person can ever play a person of color. And only white people can play apes. As for meeting the diversity quotas for the next Planet Of The Apes re-make, that’s gonna take some creativity.

    1. > No white person can ever play a person of color.

      Ironic given that the color white consists of all visible colors.

      1. Report for re-education, citizen.

      2. Not white *pigment*. It rejects all color. That’s why we’re so racist.

  6. High School Cancels ‘Tarzan’ Musical Because Parents Said It’s Racist

    High school is racist? Tarzan is racist? Musicals are racist? Parents are racist? Saying it’s racist is racist? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Shut it all down.

    Fun fact: Edgar Rice Burroughs didn’t invent “Tarzan”, he was just adapting ancient myths and folklore of black folks and attaching the white man’s colonialist ideas of copyright and “ownership” of the cultural commons. This proposed “Tarzan” play would therefore be a racial empowerment of taking back what was stolen. Or at least that’s what I’d tell ’em – it’s not like those ignorant fucks would know the difference.

    1. Fun Fact: Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan isn’t Disney’s first encounter with such an inconvenient cultural reinterpretation of history. Uncle Remus from Song Of The South was actually the product of Joel Chandler Harris, an Irish bastard (literal) largely raised by slaves who felt that he was recording cultural history that future historians would (deliberately) misrepresent.

      The abundance of remakes, restorations, and re-releases from Disney entirely absent Song Of The South tells you everything you need to know about Disney’s confidence in getting themselves tossed into that briar patch.

    2. Huh. I thought Tarzan was a literary conception of Darwin’s Orgins of Man.

      The close relationship between apes and humans makes apes raising a human child a fantastic proposition and the evolutionary superiority of human vs ape has human dominating the jungle.

      So rejecting Tarzan is rejecting evolution.

      1. The concept of a lost feral child raised by animals is not at all new in legend and literature even when he wrote those books.

        Tarzan does not reject evolution at all. He as a fictional character does not reject anything.

        If you read the books Tarzan does not dominate the jungle. He is able to exist in it.

  7. “Tarzan” means white skin in ape language. Thus, racist.

    1. errrr…. colorist?

  8. So these busybodies are saying that “students of color” are not smart enough to take on the role of an ape?
    Sounds like a bunch of racists.
    Call DCF on them and take away their children.

  9. parents should look in mirror.

  10. The novel, like many things written more than a hundred years ago, is no doubt flawed by modern standards.

    *Obligatory comment about Robby’s refusal to consider the writing to be fine and the very thinking which he’s nominally chastising to be flawed.*

    1. I mean, when you actually think about it, Tarzan is kind of a dick.

    2. Mad casual you have a great point.

      It is not at all flawed. His work in the sci fi mars and Tarzan series were brilliant. They inspired a generation of classic fiction.

  11. It would seem to me the most racist thing you can do is point out something as racist, when it is not.

    1. Objecting to Black students playing apes seems especially racist. You have to mentally equate apes and Blacks to find that offensive.

  12. One of these days, the school powers that be will wake to the fact that the popular high school play, Romeo and Juliet, is about teen age sex aided and abetted by a religious figure, and deadly gang warfare over somebody disrespecting another.

    1. Romeo and Juliet, is about teen age sex aided and abetted by a religious figure

      They get married in the play… so teen marriage, which is worse.

      I think people are currently more concerned with teens not having sex.

  13. Shorewood High School in Wisconsin canceled To Kill A Mockingbird a few days before the play opened. All of the work had been done: auditions, lines, staging, sets, lights, marketing, playbills, etc. and only then did the school board cave to a few complainers. At least the decision in this case was made before auditions — the theater director can now pick something nobody can misconstrue, like Birth of a Nation, The Musical

    1. Safer would be “Springtime for Hitler”

      1. Little Black Sambo? The Turner Diaries?

      2. Watermelon Man?

  14. ‘The whole point of theater is to reflect society and discuss society, whatever it is you’re seeing,’

    Really? With *Tarzan*? OK, I guess it’s symbolic of civilization, nature/nurture, and the dangers of rope-burn. But it’s also (correct me if I’m wrong) about a guy who grows up in the jungle, which reminds me…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM3cE8g5iYg

    1. vine-burn, not rope-burn

  15. The irony is that Tarzan, while he is fully capable in society eventually leaves and returns to Africa because he can’t deal with all of the BS that it requires. This is a great example of the utter nonsense you go through in so called civilization.

  16. had planned to stage a musical based on the Disney version of Tarzan. But the production was canceled just before auditions due to concerns from some parents.

    Are we sure that it was because it was ‘racist’ and not because it was guaranteed to be shit?

    I mean, FFS, *Disney’s* Tarzan? Not the source material they shat all over? Fucking kids these days – goddamned Millennial teachers probably don’t even know anything about Tarzan other than the Disney movie!!11!

  17. Back in school I recall that we learned about US slavery several times. That shit was racist as fuck. I’m pretty sure we could all learn something else instead.

  18. Is the Tarzan story also anti-Semitic?

    “Take off that loincloth!”

  19. Just do the Wizard of Oz, problems solved

  20. The school should do Shaft or Black Dynamite

  21. Well yeah, white savior, teaches himself to read by looking at books, member of the English nobility. They do have a point.

    1. He is the only human he knows to that point until he meets Jane. As a human he learns those things from what he has left. He knows he is a different animal. His animal friends and mentors teach him the ways of the forest and how to live in that environment.

      Am I the only one here who read the stories.

      1. Actually, he met D’Arnot and saved his life before he met Jane Porter. Since D’Arnot was French, he taught Tarzan to speak French. As a result, Tarzan at first could only read or write English, and could only speak French.
        And yes, the stories were as racist and misogynistic as the times when it was written. They also accurately reflected the class structures of England, France, and Russia.
        Deal with it.

  22. …said Baiocco. “One of the messages that I had conveyed to parents at the beginning of school year was that if one person felt uncomfortable with something, please let us know that. We want those voices to be heard.”

    Translation: Each and every one of you has complete veto power over everything that goes on at the school. Looking forward to a productive and harmonious school year.

  23. Each and every one of you…

    No, just “people of color” and trannies.

  24. Easy solution: cast an African-American as Tarzan, those with lighter skin as “natives,” and whites as the apes. Then set the thing in London.

    Then let the good times roll!!

  25. Democracy is dead! Minority Rule has de facto taken over our schools. “… if one person felt uncomfortable with something, please let us know that. We want those voices to be heard.” Well, sure – let them be heard, but it is insanity to let those voices decide for the majority. Democracy is dead.

  26. Thanks admin for giving such valuable information through your article . Your article is much more similar to https://www.creative-diagnostics.com/VLDL-EIA-Kit-245834-497.htm word unscramble tool because it also provides a lot of knowledge of vocabulary new words with its meanings.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.