Monday, April 28, 2008

Monkey Business

Jill over at a blog called Feministe is arguing that the monster in the 1933 movie "King Kong," and, I guess, Peter Jackson's recent remake, is symbolic of white people's fears of black people's sexuality. She's wrong.

I think the interpretation is really labored and clearly the product of someone who goes in looking to support a presumption that there is rampant racism in popular culture.

If King Kong were about a symbolic black man who grabs a white woman and then climbs a giant penis, it would be a pretty poor movie.

The Ann Darrow character is not a white woman endangered by black sexuality. The monster (which does not symbolize a black man) is not sexualized at all. A sexual act between the two of them would be an obvious an obvious physiological impossibility, because King Kong is about 20 feet tall and probably weighs a couple of tons. Comparatively, the woman can sit on the palm of his hand.

Her role is an ironic twist on the endangered female character who was a cliched element of period adventure stories, because, while she is ostensibly menaced by the monster, it is ultimately the woman who brings the monster to ruin.

The Empire State Building and the airplanes are symbolic of man’s conquest of the natural world, and these technological terrors are directly contrasted with the denizens of Skull Island. The film’s structure is neatly divided into the Skull Island half and the New York half, and it shows us Kong battling the mionsters native to each locale.

On Skull Island, Kong rules over the most fearsome creatures nature has ever produced. He is enormous and triumphant. In New York, Kong is dwarfed by and ultimately torn to pieces by the creations of modern man. That’s the point of the movie. The structure and the narrative are designed to elicit that comparison from the audience.

It’s also worth noting that the film was made during the interwar period, long enough after the first World War for people to have realized the terrifying efficiencies of the military technologies deployed in that conflict, and close enough to the second World War for people to be aware that it was going to happen and that it would be even worse.

The Critical Race Theory premise that everything is viewed through the prism of identity simply misleads when applied to King Kong, and to many other things, because race isn’t the only problem, and it isn’t necessarily even the central problem of human or American history.

Kong isn’t a black threat triumpantly conquered by white intellect; he is a monster who is rendered obsolete by man’s own monstrous creation. The airplane was a relatively new development in 1933. It was an immature technology during World War 1, but it was clear that it would play a more central role in the next conflict.

“King Kong” presents a monster who is shown breaking a dinosaur with its bare hands and crushing a man in its jaws, and that monster is ultimately helpless against weapons that would be deployed against soldiers in a war audiences already feared was brewing. There were bigger things to fear in the 1930s than runaway black sexuality. You cannot gloss over the airplanes, and to turn “King Kong” into a racist text, you have to.

1 comment:

docweasel said...

re: the feministe Vogue bitching
If they were basketball fans, instead of women, they’d know that far from being a put up job by racist Vogue editors, LeBron probably made the face himself, naturally. Its one of his signature “grimaces” after he scores or makes a big play:
Lebron photo
that was on the first page of google images, I’ll wager there are 50 more where that came from. I’ve seen him do it dozens of times, and they don’t telecast Cavs games down here very often, I’m a transplanted Ohioan in Florida. He’s becoming such a big star, they might start, though, thankfully.

But still, if they want to make something out of nothing, or assign motives where they don’t exist, I’m sure this won’t stop them.