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'Bwana' factor presses buttons

January 20, 2007

Re "Tarzan's children," Current, Jan. 14

Thank you for Joe Queenan's spot-on denunciation of the "Just Let Bwana Do It" factor in multiracial films. My husband and I have seethed through most of the films he mentioned because they always come down to the white man saving great swaths of Africa. It's a ridiculous notion that is perpetuated time and again in American films. The newest addition is the "Let Bwana Screw It Up" version, now seen in "The Last King of Scotland." More realistic maybe, but just as unwatchable. Seems to me there are enough problems in the good ol' U.S. for filmmakers to mine. Either do justice to African stories or leave them alone.

KATHI KING

Santa Barbara

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Queenan seems to be vexed by Western culture's tendency to illustrate Third World issues with Western protagonists.

Perhaps he could create a Ministry of Cultural Adjustment and dispatch agents throughout the world to monitor the distortions that aggrieve him. I sense he's a fair man, and so he probably wouldn't be too resistant to expanding these "corrections" to include the very cultures he thinks have been victimized. That, of course, would entail editing their narratives to remedy their tendency to do exactly the same thing, substituting their own cultural types or skin color. It's human nature. Get over it.

MICHAEL JENNING

Van Nuys

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Queenan stopped short of the real reason for such stereotypical casting. Most films can't get financing unless they bring Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Ralph Fiennes or Leonardo DiCaprio to the film. Until this changes, we'll be seeing the same old white faces that keep the financiers happy. I'm not holding my breath.

SANDRA HUNNICUTT

Los Angeles

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