“Arnold is Very Clever”

Now that former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is contemplating a return to acting, it only makes sense to highlight a video featuring one of the Governator’s biggest fans (goodness knows he doesn’t have very many in his adopted home state right now).  The video, which was recently highlighted on Boing Boing, features nine-year old Alex, a Tanzanian boy who recites, point-for-point, the plot of Arnie’s schlock classic, Commando. And although my scholarly inclinations make it difficult for me not to cringe at the entertainment economy that allows such a movie to become one of our most visible imports, it’s almost impossible not to smile when Alex cheerfully describes Arnie suiting up for battle in the fight to get his daughter back.

But even though the video offers all kinds of goofy fun, it also has a larger pedagogical purpose.  It was posted by the folks at Mama Hope, an organization devoted to breaking stereotypes about Africa (and its many millions of residents), with the hope of building more sustainable communities there.  As the video reminds us, Alex is healthy, he’s not a victim, he’s not a child soldier. He’s energetic, enthusiastic, bilingual (and well versed in Hollywood high-concept narrative style).  In fact, it’s Alex who initiates the discussion of Commando when he learns that the video makers are from California.  The video is a fascinating attempt to “re-humanize Africa,” to tell different stories about it, even ones that overlap with schlocky Hollywood movies.

Update: To see more videos that explain the goals of Mama Hope, check out their YouTube channel. I’m also told that Alex’s original narration of Commando ran for nearly fifteen minutes but was edited down, so if you’re looking for key plot points, he probably mentioned them.

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