Washington State University
[Immediately after viewing the film,
composition students in English 101, knowing that they would eventually
have to write a formal interpretive analysis, were asked to offer some
initial, ideally valuable, commentary. Their comments appear below in
excerpted and italicized form. My own commentary on their commentary
kind of dumb because of the way
characters are acting
[A vague and worthless
observation, unless we ask and answer some questions: characters
acting dumb how? Their overdramatic, self-important chatter?:
"Yeah, that's a track alright!" "It's Kong alright!"
"Just listen to those birds -- it's dawn alright!" "Keep
quiet so he doesn't see us!" "Say, just look at the size of
that brute!" "Boy, one swipe of that!"
Dumb? Yes. But here was another way
of expressing it:]
If the men are tracking, shouldn't
they be quiet?
[Exactly! Why don't they?
Obviously the director wanted to increase the sense of chaos with such
noise; but consider further. Do all people in the film yammer endlessly
like this? The natives have exciting rituals, but also keep a reverent
silence when waiting for Kong. So look also at the result. In the world
of the film, the white explorers seem unable to stop themselves -- they
have to comment, usually about the size of everything they see, or
about the damage it could do. We can add to this.]
How did Kong end up with dinosaurs?
[On the surface, of course, this
is just the fantasy of the film -- big things that can kill you on an
uncharted island. But the question does point out how Kong is different,
and this is useful. How is he different from other monsters here? Other
observations offer examples:]
Kong is a mammal instead of a
He comes to the sound of the gong.
King Kong must protect his woman.
[In some ways, this goes beyond
animal instinct. Indeed, Kong seems more and more human as the film
proceeds, which raises some ethical questions:
The natives do kidnap Ann; but their
relationship with Kong is what? They consider him as what? Is there a
problem with this relationship? White society considers Kong what? How
do they justify this to themselves? We're on the verge.]
If Kong is a giant gorilla, why the
Why does a brontosaurus (a vegetarian
species) attack and eat humans?
[The easy cheese-out here is to
dismiss these as "dumb" mistakes, or as "totally
unrealistic" (what exactly is a "realistic" dinosaur
scene?). But the "errors" at least reflect (in the film) a way
of seeing the world. So these reflect what view of the natural order?
Once we're past the village wall, every living creature seems intent upon
eating the white humans (and note how the natives and Kong innately value
the white woman). So, on these grounds, what is the final perspective of
the film?! How aware does the film finally seem about this?]
QUESTIONS FOR PRE-WRITING
Why "King Kong" and
not just "Kong"?
Status and power? Bull; to
the natives he is a god.
King = white male power-politics
version of god, or god politicized so that we can manipulate it. [Cp.
What is the final moral of the
At the opening of the film we read
this proverb: "And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty and
from that time he stayed his hand from killing and was as one dead."
Aboard ship, Denham harps on this beauty/beast theme (in development for
movie, probably), regarding, as a joke first, Ann and the small monkey
chained up, and then concerning Jack losing his edge (going
"soft"). "I'm goin' right into a theme song here," he
admits, concerning the beast who "could lick the world," but
who "forgot his wisdom and the little fellahs licked 'im."
[Wisdom?] At the show, the press stumbles into his set-up: "Beauty
and the Beast, huh?" "That's it! Play up that angle! Beauty
and the Beast. . . . That's your story, boys." Finally, the last
words of the film are those of Denham saying, "It was Beauty killed
So what is the final perspective of
("Perhaps if you didn't see
it, you could scream.")
Despite all the heavyhanded and
sanctimonious moralizing inside the film (almost exclusively by the
reprehensible Carl Denham) which has more or less been accepted at face
value ever since the making of this film, King Kong is a movie
about P.R. The film depicts the white male's cultural blindness to all
else, even to "gods," which is what "King" Kong
represents to the reverent natives (who are no goofier than the white
explorers). Denham and the audience are blind to the crucifixion of this
god, symbolically represented by Kong manacled to a wooden structure--so
blind that the cheesy moral can pass unquestioned finally, which is the
true horror, the real monstrosity.