OP here, this is exactly the same feeling I have. Everywhere we go is exactly the same these days and I feel so sad that I missed the period where traveling was truly an adventure. Because things were so unknown before, even true accounts were magical. I guess as the world got smaller and smaller, more exaggeration/fantasy was needed to keep the magic but we've reached a point where exaggerating other people's cultures isn't considered appropriate (which I can understand).
I never made the connection with science fiction before but that's another genre I'm a huge fan of, especially Star Trek The Original Series where they encounter new and exotic cultures every episode. As that old meme goes, we were born too late to explore the Earth, born too early to explore space.
I just wish there was someway to have this colonial genre continue (on Earth) without the negative parts. I think something like a movie about an African woman exploring China for the first time would have a similar feel of two cultures clashing but no one is making that movie. Again, we are stuck in the annoying in-between part where the old style is no longer being done but new possibilities haven't been fully embraced yet.
>For example, it's impossible to write honestly about how violent and brutal a lot of hunter-gatherer tribes are, and the truthful early accounts get labeled "racist lies".
I do think you have to look at things from both sides as sometimes things can get misinterpreted, such as the Fore people of Papua New Guinea being labeled as cannibals when in reality eating their dead relatives was their burial ritual. Yes, it's still technically cannibalism but not the murderous way that usually comes to mind with the word. I'm not against people having more control over how their own culture is portrayed but I also agree that negative things shouldn't be completely covered up.
Another thing I really like about colonial movies is when they don't hold back about how awful colonialism was for the local people as that wasn't really spoken about that much until recently. The clash of the magical exploration and profits of the white people compared to the reality of the suffering of the local people is an important part of the genre. In Memoirs of a Geisha, the Americans are entertained by the beautiful geisha but we also see how much Sayuri suffered to become a geisha and how the war affected her. If these movies are no longer made, will out understanding of colonialism actual end up suffering?