Stanley Crouch has an excellent commentary on the recent release of the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films. His approach:
Not one of the six films in The Tarzan Collection (Warner Home Video) is very good, but the unit of adventures reveals much about our naive conception of "purity" as it arrives in popular culture, where "something wild" always offers an answer to the problems and dilemmas that attend modern living.I have often argued that pedestrian entertainment, because it so closely mirrors the limitations and potentials of the culture that produced it, is far more interesting as a subject of historical inquiry than great art that transcends its times and speaks forcefully to people in all times and places. At the same time, no artistic representation, no matter how popular, can provide insight into more than a few small aspects of that culture. Crouch is well aware of both the power and limits of popular culture studies, and he does good work. Read him and learn.