KING KONG - The most racist movie ever made.
Before diving into this rather controversial topic, let’s first look at blacks in film and the negative stereotype the film industry depicts with their presence on screen.
Black people are usually inserted as a discrimination tool in earlier Hollywood films and to make the main hero – usually a white male protagonist, look more dominant and authentic. In other words, the white protagonist is the yin and he needs the yang (insert a black featured role or antagonist) in order function.
Black actors in early Hollywood films are sometimes required to put on extra makeup to darken their skins, and early film stocks and lighting techniques were intentionally engineered and designed to highlight white skins to the greatest advantage in order to increase the contrast between the blacks/whites. Which implies the notion of master/slaves, good/evil, powerful/powerless.
In King Kong, the monster was not just dark. He was a gigantic black figure. He was also “monstrous”, “violent”, “strong but mindless”, “primitive”, and “ape-like” – which are all stereotyped and negative characteristics given to black people by their white counterparts. In addition, a monster in Hollywood films is a symbolic metaphor for the oppressed - a safe outlet for which sexual desires, political and racial oppression are vented through.
King Kong is obviously a stereotypical monster movie where “blackness” goes out of control, and where the sexual and negative racial connotations of “blackness” are released spatially, temporally, and metaphorically.
Let’s take a look at some of the examples from the film itself to further illustrate this point.
King Kong is a movie about a group of civilized European white males venturing into the wilderness (lower civilization) to capture a savaged monster lurking in the wild to bring back to civilization for profits by a ship. This is obviously a metaphor for the slave trade, where white people undertake a journey into Africa to exploit and bring back blacks to become slaves.
In various scenes of the film, King Kong was displayed as being violently abused for the amusement of the upper class white males. First, they capture him via chains, kept him captive in a (slave) ship, and then brought him back to New York for display and profitable entertainment without any concerns for his physical and psychological well-being.
After Kong escaped, he displayed violent and criminal behaviors as he broke into the white dominated, civilized world of New York City. He climbed on top of the Empire State building for his last stance after abducting a white female until the NYPD shot him down in cold blood to free her. This is similar to the way a white cop would savagely beat a black intruder without full knowledge of his intentions.
Ann Darrow, the only white female in the movie is written in to complete the typical love plot of the beauty and the beast. Again, the dichotic notion of yin and yang, white and black, good and evil are emphasized.
Kong and Ann Darrow eventually became emotionally and even romantically involved with each other. But of course, the interracial relationship is prohibited and ended in despair, as the handsome white protagonist, – Jack Driscal reunited with Ann to re-establish the happy ending of a white male-female bond. All the while leaving the black monster who encroached upon their relationship sprawled on the floor with his primate blood splattered all over the glamorous streets of New York City.
King Kong is not only a racist movie, but a sexist one as well.
Ann Dorrow is objectified in the film, much like the way Kong was. She was an erotica object for both the male characters in the film and male audience to stare at and fancy. Which is a notion coined by Freudians as scopophilia – the predominantly male gaze of Hollywood cinema, which enjoys objectifying women into mere objects to be looked at.
Like blacks, women were looked down upon and discriminated against. Ann’s role satisfies the male viewers actively and erotically, as she allows them to engage in voyeurism in a dark theater, watching and becoming sexually aroused in silence as the she gets physically battered as a ‘sex bait’ by the black-ape, screaming in a sexually violated notion while wearing a rather revealing white dress.
King Kong is a movie which displays the racism and sexism that exists even to this day. The stark contrasts and implied metaphors presented in the movie subconsciously attract the audience to what is so familiar to them in modern society. The sexual, political, and racial taboos it implies should be not overlooked if utopia can ever be achieved.