Wednesday, December 07, 2005

King Kongism


Out here on the fire escape, I'm a bit worried about Peter Jackson's upcoming release of King Kong. Dark-skinned savages kidnapping a beautiful blonde? A huge black foreign ape destroyed by his love for that same blonde? David Rosen's essay, "King Kong," written in 1975, seems uncannily apropos after watching a trailer of Jackson's 2005 remake:
Kong is forcibly taken from his jungle home, brought in chains to the United States, where he is put on stage as a freak entertainment attraction. He breaks his chains and goes on a rampage in the metropolis, until finally he is felled by the forces of law and order ... The white woman comes along on the safari not only to provide romantic interest. She is usually a focus of tension between the white males and the “natives,” furnishing an opportunity for some of the former to display their virile heroism against the savages ... (At the time of the original release), the movement for "100 per cent Americanism" was directed against all those “alien elements” which were seen to threaten “American civilization.” Seen in this light, the choice of location for the finale of KING KONG is especially appropriate. What better monument to this “civilization” was there in 1933 than the then only recently completed Empire State Building?
And what about the portrayal of women? As a woman of color, even one with old-fashioned values, the thought of time-traveling back to the thirties gives me the creeps.

3 comments:

Jean C-A said...

Hi Mitali,

I too felt a little queasy when I saw the trailer for the new King Kong, and I think you've put your finger on the reason why. I wonder what the effect will be when the film is released.

Kelly said...

Another person chiming in about the trailer. It was played before "Harry Potter" before millions of children and I found it to be one of the most overtly racist two minutes of film I've seen in the past ten years. Even if kids don't go see the movie, those images of the blond woman and the "natives" were very disturbing.

Mitali Perkins said...

Has there been discussion or reflection about this in any circles? I thought the "natives" in the trailer resembled the aboriginal peoples in Australia. Jackson, of course, is from New Zealand.

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