December 19, 2005

Sometimes an Ape is. . . Just an Ape

The political correctness crowd has gained a frightful headlock on today's society. They see racist and prejudicial undertones in everything from Hershey's Kisses to Christmas trees.

Case in point, King Kong is racist.

Lots of people say it is. And, if it is, why does the film keep getting remade? What does it say about us if the new 'Kong' is a huge hit?

Oh, I don't know, that a classic story, redone with modern computer generated animation, appeals to a movie-going audience that is young enough to not even realize that Hollywood is, once again, proving it's out of original thought? It's a movie about a huge, dangerous creature. Apparently, Jurassic Park was uber-racist.

And, LOTS OF PEOPLE SAY IT IS. Oh, well, lots of people also believe the earth is flat. Lots of people say the holocaust didn't happen. Lots of people read my blog. In other words, lots of people aren't all that bright.

Any movie that features white people sailing off to the Third World to capture a giant ape and carry it back to the West for exploitation is going to be seen as a metaphor for colonialism and racism.

Only if you're bound and determined to see it as such. Let's pretend, the storyline was reversed a little bit. Let's pretend the expedition was led by, say, Morgan Freeman. Would it still be a compelling and interesting narrative. YES. Because Morgan Freeman kicks ass, mostly.

Besides all that, where else are you most likely to find a massive ape? Downtown Chicago? The King Kong narrative requires a Third World nation because many Third World nations are largely unexplored and unknown.

That was true for the original in 1933 and for the two remakes: the campy one in 1976, and the latest, directed by Peter Jackson. (In addition, a "Kong" wannabe, "Mighty Joe Young," has been made twice.)

Movie reviewer David Edelstein, writing in, notes the "implicit racism of 'King Kong' -- the implication that Kong stands for the black man brought in chains from a dark island (full of murderous primitive pagans) and with a penchant for skinny white blondes."

Uh, huh. And the implication that black men scale skyscrapers, knock planes out of the air, break the jaws of Tyrannasaurus Rex(es). All of these are trademark characteristics of your standard-issue African-American.

Indeed, a Google search using the words "King Kong racism" yielded 490,000 hits.

Oooh, a Google search contest! Let me try!

346,000 hits for "My+butt+stinks."

166,000 hits for "packers+suck+ass."

1,260,000 hits for "white+men+can't+jump+racism" Yes, really. Surprised me, too.

In other words, Google search results don't prove DICK.

Comparing the new film with the original, the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter observed, "It remains a parable of exploitation, cultural self-importance, the arrogance of the West, all issues that were obvious in the original but unexamined; they remain unexamined here, if more vivid."

If the Stephen Hunters of the world were left to craft the content coming out of Hollywood, we'd be inundated with three hour long boredom-fests featuring rich white men committing suicide out of guilty grief for their own good fortune.

Ah, and again with the arrogance of the West. Let's tweak the narrative again, shall we? Let's pretend it's a story about a Chinese expedition to the Tibetan plateau to investigate rumors of a gargantuan panda? Would it become the arrogance of the, er, East?

And by more vivid, Hunter might be referring to the natives of mythical Skull Island, where Kong is discovered. Director Jackson took people of Melanesian stock -- the dark-skinned peoples who are indigenous to much of the South Pacific, including Jackson's own country, New Zealand -- and made them up to look and act like monsters, more zombie-ish than human.

Yes, Jackson was originally going to go for a tribe of cultured white businessmen in suits drinking lattes. But then he realized, "oh, wait. . . "

Indeed, one is moved to compare these human devils to the ogre-ish Orcs from Jackson's mega-Oscar "Lord of the Rings" films. The bad guys are dark, hideous and undifferentiatedly evil.

It would have been better if the Orcs were portrayed as misunderstood, confused, and basically good-natured, if they only were given a fair shake. Jeezum crow. Now we're not only supposed to feel guilty for enjoying King Kong, but The Lord of The Rings as well.

One might note that the original source material for both films dates from the same period: "Kong" in '33, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" four years later. Both works are ultimately meditations on the West and Western uniqueness. Which is to say, what's the role for white Europe -- and for its ethnic offshoot, North America -- in a world that is mostly nonwhite?

One might also note that both King Kong and The Hobbit emerged during the Great Depression, a particularly dark and brooding time for most of the world, a time of uncertainty and the rise to power of some unlikely nations. But never mind all that. No, this is all about racism.

Some would label such sentiments as racist, but others would note that every ethnicity naturally feels a special affection for its own kind.

I admit it. I admit it. I feel a special affection for the human race over apes. I'm not afraid to admit that.

Yet, in the West, outright invocations of white nationalism, such as the 1915 film "Birth of a Nation," were politically unacceptable, even in the '30s, and so the same race-conscious sentiments were encrypted into allegory -- in print or on celluloid.

Well, if you say so, man making gargantuan leaps in logic.

The new "Kong" drills home its race consciousness by making repeated references to Joseph Conrad's 1899 novel, "Heart of Darkness," which denigrates both the colonizing whites and colonized blacks. In the novel's climax, the once-idealistic character Kurtz writes of Africans, "Exterminate all the brutes!" Conrad presents Kurtz as crazy, but Africa is presented as a crazy-making place.

Okay, so far, the author of this piece has meandered from his original point of King Kong being racist, to the Lord of the Rings being racist, to Heart of Darkness, to. . . well, I'm not really sure what his point is any more.

The new Kong is, as always, a noble beast with a tender side. But, at the same time, his killing is presented as a cruel necessity. And at the end of the film, the white people -- love interests Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody -- are brought closer together, thanks to their brush with the big ape.

Again, I could care less if Jackson has cast two black people in the leading roles. It wouldn't change the story for me one bit. The fact that people like this piece's author are making such a stink about it seems to speak to their own prejudices more than anything. Good God, stick Halle Barry with Denzel Washington in there for all I care. Let's see a 20-foot-tall, destructive, skyscraper-scaling ape, God damnit!

But if the movie is so loaded with race-charged imagery, why isn't it being protested? Why aren't we seeing pickets and boycotts?

Hello?! Weren't you listening? There's a 20-foot-tall, destructive, skyscraper-scaling ape, God damnit!

Perhaps it's because today, as people look around the world, they see that most political strife is, in fact, ethnic strife. Folks like to say that "diversity is our strength," and they resolve to fight racism, but every day's news reminds us that ethnic conflict lurks in the human heart.

No, I like to say that. . . "LOOK! There's a 20-foot-tall, destructive, skyscraper-scaling ape, God damnit!"

That's a gloomy reality that "Kong" captures, in its crypto fashion, and so there's no point in getting worked up over it.

Finally! This guy makes some freakin' sense!

Indeed, since the film is entertaining -- like the similarly themed, much honored and extremely popular "Rings" movies of a few years back -- one might as well go see this one, too.

EXACTLY! So, what was the point of the rest of this column again?

IN A TOTALLY UNRELATED NOTE: This girl's really hot. That's right, Kyla Cole is hot. Kyla Cole is naked hot! Kyla Cole, Kyla Cole, Kyla Cole.

Posted by Ryan at December 19, 2005 11:17 PM | TrackBack

I suppose I should know it by now but we watched Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer the other night and I'm shocked at how blatantly and openly racist the movie is. And what real jerks alot of those reindeer are, until they NEED Rudolf.

The story, without the Christmas crap, is really a pretty ugly story of discrimination, exile and exploitation.

The PC crowd has some strong competition for shrillness this season with the "War on Christmas" nimrods on Fox. And now Pat Robertson's calling for a boycott of any store that doesn't loudly proclaim Merry Christmas to all who enter regardless of the basic fact that not everyone shopping is of the "faith".

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at December 20, 2005 12:05 PM

Pat Robertson's a douche.

Posted by: Ryan at December 20, 2005 12:46 PM

Sorry to go all Eva Young on your, er, ass, but I think I may have found that you can indeed prove some things with a google search:

Posted by: LearnedFoot at December 20, 2005 12:50 PM

The intention was not racist, but come on, all the previous human sacrifices (drawn from the local population of black people, presumably) were eaten up, but suddenly Kong is faced with an Aryan beauty and he falls in love.

Of course the story can be enjoyed on many levels, but the undertones are there.

Posted by: the patriarch at December 20, 2005 03:22 PM

Patriarch, admittedly, my knowledge of the original King Kong is sketchy. Did Kong only receive female sacrifices from the Skull Island natives?

Posted by: Ryan at December 20, 2005 03:33 PM

Naw patriarch, don't be soft - Kong would have never seen a white chick before and was probably curious. If all you ever ate were red tomatoes and all of a sudden one day there was a green tomato on your plate, wouldn't you take a closer look first?

Posted by: simon at December 20, 2005 05:34 PM

Was Kong supposed to have eaten his previous sacrifices? I always assumed more of an "Of Mice and Men" thing. He petted them so hard they didn't breathe no more.

Posted by: Doug at December 21, 2005 02:43 PM

Doug, that's the way I understood it, too. You wouldn't think a human female would make much in the way of a satisfying meal for a gargantuan gorilla; more like popping a strawberry in the mouth.

And, if Kong DID eat his sacrifices, maybe the reason he didn't eat the first white woman he encountered was because he didn't think she was ripe yet or something, waiting for her color to change.

Psychoanalyzing King Kong's eating habits is fun.

Posted by: Ryan at December 21, 2005 03:15 PM

They're called pseudo intellectuals with nothing better to do than read too much into shit! Isn't it something like idle hands are the devil's playground? Damn Westerners!

Posted by: Desult at December 21, 2005 10:48 PM

Racist or not racist, I'm just going to say that this movie sucked ass. One of the worst I've seen in a long time, unfortunately. I know I'm one of the 3 people on this earth that didn't enjoy it, but I just couldn't get into it.

Posted by: Rick at December 23, 2005 08:47 AM
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