November 16th 2018
A Mere Monster Facade
It is 1933 in the United States of America, the worst year of the Great Depression where unemployment is past twenty-five percent. You have just gotten off your low paying job of about twenty dollars a week which has horrible working conditions and long hard hours(What Happened). At home the stress level is through the roof with the economy being the worst its been and you have hardly had any time with your family. So, you decide to treat them and take a break from the nightmare of the real world and go see a movie that just came out called King Kong. You watch as the native people of a mysterious uncharted island kidnap the helpless movie star damsel and tie her to a sacrificial looking post facing the dark twilight zone woods. As you continue watching you hear load cracks of trees breaking and foliage moving from the forest and out emerging from the darkness, a giant black ape more than twenty times the size of a human being. This creatures eyes widen and a smile appears once he sees the women and grabs her as she lets out an ear piercing terrifying scream and whisks her away into the dark abyss of the jungle. In all of the tellings and retellings of the story of King Kong the viewpoint of whether he is a monster or a savior is the underlying question of the movie and is ultimately left to the judgement of the audience.
The first King Kong movie was show in 1933, the immediate first images of this creature was coming out of a dark and mysterious jungle. Then when he laid eyes on the women human like expressions illuminated his face that resembled excitement and infatuation. This combination of monster like features of being abnormally gigantic and emerging from a dark forest abyss and then expressing human like emotions on his face is, already challenges the audience and even the characters within the movie to decide whether his unusual outward appearance is enough for him to be branded a monster or if what lies underneath his exterior which resembles human emotion cancels out his monster like outward appearance. The next encounter people have with Kong is when the search party for the actress goes into the forest where they encounter dinosaurs, water monsters, and as they are running frantically into the woods Kong. All the men pile on a log and Kong spots them so he goes over and shakes all the men off but one each falling to their deaths. This scene of Kong killing these men can seen as a monster like thing to do because he was not provoked the men were just running away from monsters and were on a log. However, the next scene is Kong running to the rescue of the actress who was almost a tyrannosaurus-rex’s meal. He puts himself in harm’s way and protects the women and kills the Tyrannosaurus-Rex. Within the movie there are about two other scenes where King Kong is protecting the women from predators and is consistently putting her protection and safety above his own. These acts of bravery in order to protect the women shows the human emotion side of Kong. Later when he is captured and taken to New York city and channel down in a theater for people’s entertainment people begin taking pictures of Kong and the women together and he begins to get restless and starts breaking his chains and the filmmaker exclaims that they need to stop because he think that with their bright flashes they are attacking the women. The still goes to show how protective he is of the women and ultimately leads to his death by being shot down and killed(Cooper).
In the most recent movie King Kong: Skull Island the take on King Kong’s story is almost entirely different. In this rendition of King Kong a person who is trying to prove his point that monster exist puts together a search part to go to an uncharted island and search in hopes of finding a monster. This party immediately after arriving to the island starts deploying seismic bombs which was done in hopes of attracting the attention of the unknown monster that the man is looking for.Then suddenly out of nowhere what appears to be a tree hurdles at the helicopter and its falls to the ground. The image of Kong this time a thousand times bigger appears with the fiery red flames from the bombs behind him.The other helicopters then go and attack Kong and eventually just like the first helicopter each of them end up plummeting to the ground. Kong then retreats to the other side of the island. Everyone is all spread out and the remaining survivors are in two main groups. One mostly of army soldiers and the other with the people who put this mission together along with others. The leader of the army soldier group wants vengeance for his fallen men and is determined to kill King Kong and everything else in his path. Mean while the other group finds out the history of Skull Island and how Kong is the protector of the island and its people from the true monsters which they call skull crawlers who eat and kill everything. These monsters wiped out Kong’s family which made him the last of his kind. The people of the island later explain that the reason why Kong acted the way that he did was because the bombs awoke the skull crawler creatures that lie beneath the ground and he wanted to prevent waking up any more especially the main one. The group who knows the history of the island encounter Kong multiple times and each time he does not harm or hurt them and even in one instance aids the women in helping an animal. In the end the army group tries to kill Kong but the other group defends him and stops them. From all of the commotion and explosions used to try and kill Kong the main skull crawler is awoken and before it could kill the rest of the people Kong swoops in and protects them. Between Kong and the skull crawlers battle the people help Kong defeat the skull crawler in which a relationship is formed between Kong and the people(Vogt-Roberts).
These movies were made based off of the same fictitious animal however they take different approaches on how to tell his story. Nevertheless there are people who view Kong as a monster and those who view him as a creature of humanity. The group that sees Kong as a monster in the 1933 movie was the men who went to go rescue the women from King Kong and the some of the military men in the 2017 remake. The men in the 1933 movie saw Kong as a monster because on the island there were enormous fictitious man eating monsters that they have never seen in their life and what also lived there was Kong so they grouped him in with the other monsters because he did not look human he looked like one of the creatures that were trying to eat them. Also, when they were on the log after running away from the monsters Kong saw them and shook all but one of the men off which lead them to fall to their death. The act of Kong killing these men just because is a morales act which is inhuman and once someone does an act like this they are classified as monsters. Also, the director in this movie saw Kong as a mere monster spectacle that hundreds would want to come and see so he captured him and brought him to New York and chained him. In the 2017 remake the group who saw Kong as a monster was the manly those in the military because he killed their fellow army men, in their first opinions for no reason however later one of the men says “ this is him home we are just guests, you don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs unless your picking a fight “(Vogt-Roberts). The ones in the 2017 movie that saw Kong as a creature of humanity and not a monster were the ones who found out the history of the island and how Kong is the protector of the island from the skull crawlers. They saw scenes of Kong when he was not a defending his land and swatting down helicopters but when he was just cleaning his wounds and walking through the island and helping out the other animals in need of protection from the skull crawlers. In the 1933 movie the women still saw King Kong as a monster and ran away from him when he went looking for her in New York. However, his actions towards her were those of protection. He saved her countless times from tyrannosaurus-rex’s and pterodactyls along with anything helps that he thought would try and hurt her. These actions of protection towards the women were those of human like qualities and showed the audience his humanity side.
By using the monster thesis of Jeffrey Cohen I am able to gage how well the monster of King Kong was developed and created. The first thesis is that “the monster’s body is cultural body”, does somewhat apply to the creation of King Kong. During the time period at which King Kong was created the great depression was going on. However, the fear of going to an unknown island and discovering something more powerful than human defenses is timeless. The second is that “the monster always escapes”, in the 1933 movie King Kong dies however they did create remakes. In the 2017 movie of King Kong:Skull Island Kong Kong does remain alive on the island and in the end the camera pans into Kong’s eyes and in them are the helicopters coming to rescue the people on the island. The third is that “the monster is the harbinger of category crisis”, in the 1933 movie Kong does create disruption on the island when defending the women from the monsters that are trying to eat her and in New York he does cause much destruction throughout the city in search of the women. In the 2017 movie Kong does start the experience on the island as an unpleasant one and crashes all of the helicopters to the ground. He does participate in many battle scenes throughout the movie and battles the skull crawlers to protect his island and its inhabitants. The fourth thesis is that “the monster dwells at the gates of difference”, this is true in both movies because from the humans perspective he is a humongous ape and does not look like anything that they have seen before (Cohen). As a result Kong does meet most of the criteria of the monster thesis’s and in effect does make a great monster. Kongs abnormal outward appearance of being enormous causes people to classify him as a monster because he does not look like something we would see in our everyday life. However, throughout the both movies Kong shows human characteristics and displays emotions of that of humanity. Kong is a typical case of don’t judge a book by its cover because his outward appearance and abnormality may scream monster but his internal kindness and desire to protect those he cares about is an attribute that is desired and even people who we classify as humans lack.
- Cohen, Jeffrey. Monster Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
This article contains monster theories which according to Jeffrey Cohen all good monsters have. This article helped me compare and see if King Kong meets all of the criterias of a good monster according to Jeffrey Cohen’s monster theories.
- Cooper, Merian, director. King Kong. March 7th 1933. Produced by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack.
The original movie of King Kong depicts a large ape which s found on an uncharted island and is taken back to America to be a spectacle and ends up being killed. This movie helped me better understand how King Kong has evolved overtime.
- Vogt-Roberts, Jordan, director. King Kong: Skull Island. Feb.28th, 2017. Produced by Thomas Toll, Mary Parent, and Jon Jashni.
This movie depicts a group of people in search of monsters so they go to an uncharted island where they come in contact with King Kong and where in the end they team up to fight these monsters called the skull crawlers. This movie helped me understand how much the story of King Kong has evolved to the present day.
- “What Happened in 1933 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture.”The People History, http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1933.html.Accessed Nov. 10th 2018.
I used this article in order to better understand what the culture was like when this movie came out. This article contained information about what was happening during the year of 1933 and what was going on around the years of 1933.