Sunday, October 5, 2014

Repost: Tazi's Corner #80 - It's A Jungle Out There!

Dear Readers,

This week I was mellowing out to Jethro Tull when "Bungle In The Jungle" started to play and I awoke with a snort. Jungle? Isn't that what we now call a tropical rain forest? It is, in fact, what we now call a tropical rain forest, but "Let's bungle in the tropical rain forest, well that's alright by me..." doesn't quite have the same groove to it. Of course, I think we can all agree that "rain forest" sounds much more sophisticated than "jungle". This is why we use it, isn't it? Aside from scientists and Greenpeace, nobody gave a hoot about the deforestation of the jungles until the more glamorous sounding "rain forest" came into popular use, and it has to be a tropical rain forest to sound trendy; tell most people that you live in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest and they will look at you like you have three heads, and maybe even argue that rain forests are tropical (which is not true - there are, by scientific definition if not the popular one, temperate rain forests, too). This got me thinking about what else would lose it's charm, it's power, it's essential meaning if we set aside this simple word that sufficed for generations and used the popular eco-snobbery term that has taken hold.

Disney released The Jungle Book on Blu-Ray for the first time this week  [Ed. Note: SWEET!], a movie based upon All The Mowgli Stories by Rudyard Kipling and known to millions for generations. How silly would it be to update the title to The Rain Forest Book? Would some of the jungle magic that fascinates children and adults alike be lost? Speaking of jungle magic, the children's book turned movie Jumanji got its very name from those two root words. That's right, jumanji is not a Swahili or Afrikaans word at all; it is a made up word that was created by the author by recombining the letters of jungle and magic (and then getting a little creative, changing the "g" in magic to a second "j" to cleverly hide this fact). How exactly would rain forest and magic combine? Rainmanji? Do Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise star in the movie version? Or maybe Forestgumji? Is that too much of a stretch?

While on the subject of books that were turned into movies, I don't want to forget The Blackboard Jungle, a film that depicts the raw edges of life in the inner city (or ghettos, to use the tried and true word, lest I fall victim to my own accusations of snobbery). Times have changes since this movie was released in the 1950's and America's urban schools have gotten worse, not better. Which do you think best depicts the imagery of the violence that has besieged our young people? For me, The Blackboard Rain Forest doesn't make the cut.

For the open-minded/daring intellectual, we have Rita Mae Brown's  critically acclaimed 1973 novel Rubyfruit Jungle (upon which the 1985 short Me & Rubyfruit was loosely based). [Ed. Note: This one is not suitable for children!]. While Rubyfruit Rain Forest does have a nice ring to it due to its use of consonance, the word jungle maintains the sense of mystery and even fear that surrounds the themes of coming of age, sexual discovery, and coming out in an unforgiving world.

No reference to the jungle would be complete without mention of journalist Upton Sinclair's muckraking feat, The Jungle. While some would argue that it is a propaganda for the switch to socialism, none can argue against it's effect on the United States meat-packing industry and the effect it had on how it is run - specifically, this one work is responsible for the founding of what became the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the FDA, formerly known as the Bureau of Chemistry). But...what if Sinclair had titled his book The Rain Forest? How laughably and pitifully tame that sounds in comparison to the raw energy the title The Jungle evokes!

Nowadays, the word jungle is all but forgotten by a new generation who have never learned the difference between a tropical and temperate rain forest; who have never heard of a rain forest being called anything but a rain forest. However, these are those of us who remember and praise the power of this humbled word. As for me, I will continue to praise the power of the jungle by refusing to let its name fall out of use.


P.S. Rain Forest Fever? Is that Spike Lee I hear weeping?

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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