Thursday, December 15, 2005

King Kong and Peter Jackson: Racist

Entertainment: You knew at least one person would write an article like this.

Big black and bad stereotyping By Kwame McKenzie Most black men I know will think twice about going to see King Kong. First because of the story, second because of Peter Jackson's other recent blockbuster movies. The story feeds into all the colonial hysteria about black hyper-sexuality. This imagery has a long history and is difficult to shift. ....The story also touches the raw nerve of the Darwin-based association between black men and apes. Though the monkey noises and the discussion about whether Africans are the missing link between apes and humans may be out of the classroom, it still has to be endured by black footballers when they travel to away games. Peter Jackson used the same hackneyed stereotypes for the Lord of the Rings triology. The most fearsome baddies were big black and just a bit too Maori looking, the good guys - well white. So when King Kong unfolded and the 1930s New York crowd scenes were almost devoid of black faces, rather than the 15 per cent you would have expected, and when the first black actors had small non-speaking parts - dancers and the only major black character was the strong caring second officer to the ship's captain - the good and dutiful slave stereotype - I was squirming in my seat. If I had not been at a premier with my transfixed son I would have been out of the door soon after the wide eyed, homicidal, half dressed, blacker than black natives of Skull Island started cavorting one hour in. I was lucky that my paternal instinct to stay and explain this to my son at the end got the better of me, because the next two hours were fabulous. Though it was always impossible for the film not to endorse the black male stereotype, and one has to ask why Jackson so wanted to make King Kong as opposed to anything else, his attempt to shelve the lust angle and portray the relationship between Kong and Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) as owner and favourite pet - in that order - worked. The cinematography was excellent and my worst fears were not realised. But I could not help but feel that if Jackson had put as much thought into the rest of the racial imagery as he did into the relationship between Kong and Darrow this could have gone down as a much less offensive film. As it is it leaves a bitter sweet taste in my mouth and a complex discussion on negative stereotypes that I have had to have with my son. It left me thinking, that if censors look at violence, sex, and sexual violence when giving a certificate why do they not look at negative racial stereotypes?
The first problem is "Darwin-based association between black men and apes" is wrong since Darwin said it was apes and humans, not just black people. Why the orcs in LOTR Maori-looking? The actors who played them for the most part were Maori. Why did Peter Jackson pick to remake King Kong because he like many people loved the movie as a kid and now has the power to do so. Why did 1930's New York crowd scenes look devoid of 15% black faces, because it didn't open in Harlem. Peter Jackson is doing a remake, not a "reimagining" like the awful 1976 King Kong that really played up the sexual tension between Kong and Jessica Lange to absurd levels. I still can't get the scene of Kong blowing to dry her off as he gets more excited while she strikes a pose in his hand. The wild tribal scenes are always going to cause the politically correct types problems because in their minds, other groups will see it and just automatically think, thats all black people right there. More harm will be done to the image of Black people from watching music videos on BET and rap culture than a couple of scenes in Kong. The tribal scenes is an important part of the movie, if it was taken out, I guarantee people would still be howling racism. Its a movie, it won't set black people back decades. The other bad result of this article is now I can't get Guerillas in tha mist by Da Lench Mob out of my head.

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