Tarzan might be the big star of The Legend of Tarzan (for obvious reasons), but there's no Tarzan without Jane. And, lucky for us, the new film from Harry Potter director David Yates is well aware of that fact. In The Legend of Tarzan, Margot Robbie plays the legendary Jane Porter, who is abducted by Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz) because of her husband, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard). This newest interpretation of Tarzan's story has decided to forgo the origin tale we've all seen before, instead focusing on Tarzan's life post-jungle, living in England with his wife. Unlike other versions of Jane, however, Robbie's character isn't English, she's American. This new accent begs the question, is Jane from Tarzan a real person? And, if so, was she British or American?
Fans of Disney's animated film, Tarzan, might be confused when they see the new, American Jane, but they really shouldn't be. Jane wasn't actually British, but, then again Jane wasn't "actually" anything because she wasn't a real person. However, when her character was first created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs Jane was American. Specifically, she was a young woman from Baltimore who fell in love with the jungle-dwelling Tarzan in Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes — A Romance of the Jungle," published in a pulp magazine by the name of All-Story in 1912.
The story was such a hit, it launched a Tarzan series that elaborated on Tarzan's relationship with Jane and their life together. While some interpretations of Burroughs' work, like the short-lived 2003 television series or 2014's Tarzan animated movie, have taken liberties with the basic plot, most have stuck to the wild Tarzan meets sophisticated Jane approach. Over the years, adaptations have offered various backstories for Jane, with arguably the most influential interpretation (Disney's animated film) making Jane British. It could be argued that The Legend of Tarzan portrays a more accurate Jane Porter than its Disney predecessor, but in the end, it's all fiction.
Just because Robbie's Jane is returning the character back to her American roots doesn't mean this version of the character is going to be the classic damsel in distress character, though. "There's no way I was going to play the damsel in distress," Robbie told Vogue of her approach to the role. Yates has also spoken about their modern version of Jane, telling USA Today , "[Jane is] in no way a passive partner to Tarzan. She's a really strong, assertive, beautifully knowledgeable, very sexy modern woman who can more than look after herself."
Just because Jane and Tarzan weren't based on real people doesn't mean their story hasn't resonated. There are many stories from people around the world who claim to have, at least in part, been raised by wild animals and surviving alone in the wild. Just know, Jane wasn't one of them.
Images: Warner Bros.; Giphy (2)