King Kong

King Kong ★★★★½

One of the great entertainments. Despite never having the fortune to see any form of this story until now, Kong has always struck me as an indispensable piece of Americana, the rare myth that is entirely home-grown, and even rarer in that he has remained recognizable to this day (who the fuck is Paul Bunyan?). I'm pretty sure if one looked up the definition of "problematic" in a dictionary they'd find a plot synopsis of this, but I still find myself getting swept up in the swashbuckling adventure narrative, though also paradoxically holding the film at a distance. As a cultural artifact, it's a richly unwholesome one; using a gigantic ape's rampage to allude to black people relocating to urban "civilized" environments is... yeah... and a horrified chuckle erupted from my lungs when the dashing lead outright declared his disdain for all women everywhere, they're all bad, every single one of them, men are the bestest. "Thorny" doesn't even begin to cover it. Thorns are its bread and butter. It's a fucking porcupine of a movie.

Though the film certainly has sympathy for Kong--that final sequence is a complete heartbreaker--it ultimately doesn't take a side, never painting the colonialists as outright bad. They take on the role of hubris incarnate, but even then the collateral damage falls upon the oppressed, the other, the "beast." It's certainly disagreeable, but not at all disingenuous. Not to say that this racial subtext is in any way purposefully progressive, but its unsophisticated content, one of gross caricatures and sausage fests, is entirely reflective of the time and place it came from. Perhaps Doing His Best to Stay Woke Me would've hated this had he seen it in 1933. Now, it strikes me as an unfortunate reflection of the anxieties and prejudices of the time, an incredibly accomplished spectacle that lays bare its bigotry. There isn't a single attempt at erasure; no punches are pulled. For that reason, it remains essential. A distinctly American legend in that its sins are ingrained into its very identity.

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