Kong: The Man in Me
There were plenty of warning signs beforehand, but alas, I still went to see Kong: Skull Island (2017). The movie’s pre-debut hype landed it solidly as an unnecessary reboot of the old King Kong movies. Additionally, the trailer had several cliché references to the Vietnam War in the form of Apocalypse Now (1979) allusions. But then I got stoned and thought, what the hell, how bad can it actually be? Turns out, people do not make good judgments under the influence of drugs.
After I got nice and cozy in my reclining chair, popcorn in my right hand and Twizzlers in the other, I began to reflect on watching the original King Kong (1933) when I was little. I realized that, regardless of the fact that this is a remake, any King Kong movie should represent acceptance, the proverbial book unjudged. Yet, my wishes for a movie featuring a statement of unquestioned acceptance and love in the face of species (racial) disparity melted away, like the butter on my popcorn, upon remembering that Kong is a gendered character. He is a massive male gorilla, and he is “King.” I thought, perhaps, that the omission of the word “king” from title could be a good move away from a gendered character that stands as a 45-foot epitome of aggression, dominance, and did I say masculinity? It wasn’t.
Although the movie’s special effects and the fight scenes floored me, I was disappointed by the way that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts still pitted the forced masculinity of the misunderstood Kong against the other male characters in the film. Both the giant gorilla and the men with guns that were trying to kill him perpetuated the trope that men are protectors by any means necessary. But what kind of example does this set for boys and men out there? Is whoever beats their chest hard enough the protector of the group?
As the movie ended, noticing the butter that had stained a solid portion of my sweatpants was not the only realization that I had made. I came to understand that I had lost yet another battle to idealized masculinity. I had this hopeless feeling that I too desired to be that aggressive, to dominate and protect, to be King. I left the movie feeling both energized and deflated, having just been torn between the thrill of aggression and the recognition of its unnecessariness. However, this was a learning experience for me as I had clearly not adhered to the warning signs before I saw the movie. I would like to offer some advice to others (and to my future self): check your aggression, know what fuels it (even the little things), and do not do drugs. –Marty
Kong: Skull Island
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly
Runtime: 1h 58m