Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Thinking about Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I caught Rise of the Planet of the Apes yesterday with a friend, and we both reached the same basic conclusions:

1 - On the whole, it was better than we expected. The revolution plot was well-constructed and Caesar (as an adult) looked shockingly real and made for a surprisingly compelling and sympathetic lead.
2 - But it was just as racist as we expected.

I don't know what it is about monkeys and apes, but corporate media doesn't seem capable of writing stories about them without stumbling into racist clichés, representations, and/or rhetoric.

In the new Apes film, the opening scene takes place in Africa, where poachers are capturing the apes for scientific research. The poachers, of course, are generic African mercenaries with rag-tag clothing and cleaver-like swords.

Now, it's not really clear why this is necessary - and the scene is so unnecessary that the Wikipedia summary of the movie omits it entirely. What I'm guessing is that it was meant to show how similar humans and apes are in the first place. As the apes run from the poachers, they hoot and scream - and so do the poachers who chase them. The only obvious inference is that we're supposed to note their similarity, or even note how difficult it is to tell them apart.

But this doesn't really resonate in the intended way, I think. Because if they thought they were saying something about how animalistic humanity is, they probably should have said it in a way that isn't quite so outrageously cliché and recognizably white supremacist. I mean, really - you can't make this point in a way that doesn't display a stunning lack of creativity and, worse, have centuries of racist symbolic weight attached to it?

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