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How Rousseau reminded me of George of the Jungle

November 9, 2010

As I was listening to Professor Lavaque-Manty lecture on Rousseau, his description of Rousseau’s state of nature reminded me of this movie I saw as a kid. Rousseau’s state of nature is that we can’t go back to our original state. We have developed too much, have learned language and have become products of civilization. Rousseau believes we have been alienated and corrupted of unreflective freedom and contentment. We talked in discussion how to go back to original state, we must become isolated and forget language, civilization, etc. like the depiction of cavemen in movies. So I began thinking, since we cannot go back to our “natural state” what it would be like if someone from the “natural state” if thrown into a “civilized world”. Rousseau thought that natural man is stronger than civilized man but what if the table’s were turned. The movie I began thinking of was a Disney movie about this caveman who falls in love with this civilized woman and moves back to a city (San Francisco) and has trouble adapting to civilization. Then the title of the movie hit me, George of the Jungle! Starring Brendan Fraser, its a totally unrealistic movie about George who was raised by apes (being the only survivor of a plane crash), who falls in love with Ursula, a civilized woman. Of course there are talking animals and George somehow learned to speak while he was being raised by apes. But his encounters with Ursula remind me of how a natural man might act when with a civilized person. 

Now George is probably alot more civilized than what Rousseau thought of an ideal natural man but it’s still an interesting comparison. If you compare George with Lyle, her ex-fiance, you start to see how this is somewhat Rousseauian. Lyle is a rich pompous civilized man that shows off his property by flying in a private jet, going on exotic trips to Africa. Ursula and her fiance at the time, Lyle had encountered a lion and being the puny civilized man he was, ran away from his lady and left her to be eaten by the lion. George, the natural man swoops in and saves her, proving how more “natural man” will always be stronger than “civilized man”. Also if you compare Lyle and George you can see the difference psychologocially. George is in the original phase and gives simple self-love and compassion. Lyle has evolved and has become extremely egocentric and must amass property, etc. He’s also evil and ends up shooting George, being arrested and then breaking out and kidnapping Ursula eventually. This also shows how civilization has corrupted man and Rousseau would think we must go to simple times like George. You’ll be happy to know that George again saves Ursula and they live happily ever after in the jungle like all Disney movies. But I never thought a Disney movie could have so much in common with Rousseau.

7 Comments
  1. matteric9 permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:17 AM

    I see where you are going with this blog, and you bring up a very interesting point. Although George is being raised by apes, this example illustrates the idea of learning how to communicate without every having done so before. It is very interesting that you chose a Disney movie to compare Rousseau with. I never before thought I would have associated the two words in a single sentence, but, I really like your examples!

  2. jaclburr permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:32 AM

    Great connection. Any time I can connect real life to a disney movie, I am ecstatic. It is true though – George is “natural man” vs. the civilized man. The audience even is swayed to prefer George, when seeing the corrupt nature and evils of the civilized man in the movie. It reminds me of when Rousseau said that though a civilized man would kill natural man in a duel with his weapons, if they were stripped of weapons, the natural man would mutilate the other. This is just like the example you used of George saving the woman, while Lyle is helpless. I like your ideas!

  3. aubmarsh permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:33 AM

    This is a great idea, and being a Disney lover, I truly enjoyed this post. The comparisons really do work to an extent. When the idea that Lyle left Ursula to bet eaten by the lion and the George comes to save her, further exemplifies the ideas that “natural man” is compassionate towards others in the fact that he rescues her. Furthermore, this also creates a more modern look on Rousseau’s state of nature, making it easier for some to connect with the ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Zac Hiller permalink
    November 9, 2010 12:01 PM

    This is a great connection between entertainment and Rousseau. Another example of this is Elf. Will Ferrel is forced to leave his world in the North Pole and move to a civilized city in the U.S. Your post got me thinking about all the ways Rousseau and the other political thinkers connect to modern day entertainment. Great Job.

  5. erikamir permalink
    November 9, 2010 4:50 PM

    I also agree this post was a great connection to Rousseau. When I think of George of the Jungle, I think of the primitive man, much like the savage man described by Rousseau. We did an activity in discussion depicting the savage man merging into civil society. In a Rousseauian state of nature man is of the highest order. Man has to rely on pity more so than reason. Just like George of the Jungle, it is in the mind of the primitive man to help when he can, pity takes over reason; the lion is stronger than man but it is the man of nature who take the lead to help.

  6. Andrew Babat permalink
    November 9, 2010 6:27 PM

    This is an interesting comparison that I never thought of. When I think of the savage man described by Rousseau, I think of a man who could never function in todays society. George of the Jungle is a simple man, similar to the way I pictured the “natural man” Rousseau described. George struggling to fit into society is similar to what it would be like if the “natural man” tried to fit into todays society.

  7. eghat2 permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:09 PM

    This was a great post! To me, one of the most interesting things that you discuss is the comparison between Lyle (the ex) and George. I definitely think that this is ‘Rousseauian’, with George, the man who had been raised in a state of nature (and likely begins coming out of it throughout the move, although I have not seen it), and Lyle the civilized man.
    First of all, if a movie is to portray an ex, they are likely to be one of two types of people; extremely lazy, or very rich and egocentric. In the case of this movie, Lyle the ex is the egocentric type. This makes me wonder if the movie makers chose this because its the most drastic; maybe its the worst of the two. This is interesting because it then makes me wonder if the Rousseauian ideas of an undesirable civilization/civilized man have been instilled in us, based on our society, or our lifestyle. I’ m not quite sure the answers to these questions, but I definitely think it is something to ponder.

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