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Racism in Jackson's "Kong?"

 
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 12.27.2005 2:00 am    Post subject: Racism in Jackson's "Kong?" Reply with quote

This exchange appeared in the 12/25/05 edition of Answer Man



Quote:
Q. We have just returned from "King Kong" bewildered, disappointed and even angry that you gave it such a great review without mentioning its stunning racism. From the moment we saw the dark-skinned, aboriginal child in the movie, we knew it was going to be bad. It was worse than we expected.



The African- and indigenous-influenced dance, drumming and rituals, the elaborate face piercings, the bloodshot or rolling-back eyes, the skulls everywhere, and the sacrifice of the pure white blond beauty by the nappy-haired old woman combine to produce an image that was so offensive, it was nearly impossible for us to stay interested in the rest of the film.




Maria Rosales and Tiffany Holland, Greensboro, N.C.



A. I am not sure the islanders would agree with you that their face piercings and dancing are racist. I agree that the stereotyping of the local population has been negative in the Kong pictures, and wonder why Peter Jackson didn't simply show the island as having been abandoned by its human civilization after the erection of the wall failed to contain the creatures on the other side. How long could humans survive on Skull Island with all of those dinosaurs, snakes, giant insects, man-eating slugs, etc? [Roger Ebert]




Here?s the way I see it. It was Jackson?s attempt when making his film to hew as closely as possible to the original, which necessitates incorporating aggressive and hostile non-white islanders. While the natives in the original are indeed portrayed in accordance to the stereotypes of the time, their behavior is nonetheless pivotal to the plot, and I?m afraid the introduction of friendly Skull Islanders in the remake would have stopped the story dead in its tracks, or altered it into something unrecognizable. However it seems to me that Jackson does try to circumnavigate the original?s racist implications in several ways.



First, he makes the exact race of the islanders uncertain. They are covered in mud, and, significantly, not clearly black- or even dark-skinned. Second, judging by their facial features, the natives are obviously played by actors of various races (including Caucasian), which makes the race of the islanders unspecified and implies a sort of genealogical uniqueness. Third, the hostility of the islanders and their sacrificial rituals are not a practices of a degenerate race, but, rather, of a degenerated society, terrified into nearly barbarous insanity by the encroachment of the neighboring fauna?s insatiable appetite (which the crew--and audience--encounters first hand in the pursuit of Ann). Fourth, Jackson criticizes the portrayal of the natives in the 1933 film when he stages Denham?s show in New York as an obvious mockery of the original?s Skull Islanders.



With these steps, Jackson actively recognizes the racism of the original Kong (a decision much bolder and more mature than simply attempting to ignore it) while neatly sidestepping it himself as he retells the story. Ms. Rosales and Hollands?s complaint to Ebert strikes me as a knee-jerk reaction and sadly unimaginative.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.27.2005 2:33 am    Post subject: Re: Racism in Jackson's "Kong?" Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
With these steps, Jackson actively recognizes the racism of the original Kong (a decision much bolder and more mature than simply attempting to ignore it) while neatly sidestepping it himself as he retells the story. Ms. Rosales and Hollands?s complaint to Ebert strikes me as a knee-jerk reaction and sadly unimaginative.


I read that exchange, too. Although I haven't yet seen Kong for myself, I assumed that Jackson must confront the original's racism with some degree of intelligence and sensitivity. Your points all sound reasonable to me.
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juhsstin
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PostPosted: 12.28.2005 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

another example can be seen in the Lord of the Rings where Jackson shows the Haradrim or corrupted, dark-skinned Men of the South who fell under Sauron's influence (the guys on the elephants). This is taken straight from the book, and it could very well be argued that Tolkien exhibited some racist undercurrents by writing this. Furthermore, I think that these men in the movie were also not clearly black, they actually looked more arabic or something along those lines.
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xAndyx
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PostPosted: 12.30.2005 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

this is sad
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