Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Witsend Coalition Urges Boycott of “King Kong”

from Witsend Daily - A coalition calling themselves “Guerilla WarFair” has urged Witsendians to boycott the viewing of the nation’s number one box office movie, “King Kong,” decrying the film as exploitative and racist. The film began playing at the Witsend Mega-Complex two weeks ago with little fanfare, but has come under fire as of late when students in a Witsend University class, “Blaxploitation in American Film,” stoked the debate regarding the film’s racist overtones.

Guerilla WarFair is comprised of a myriad of local groups including the NAACP, SANS (Students Against Negative Stereotypes), PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) & PETG (People for the Ethical Treatment of Gorillas, a splinter group of PETA), the Witsend Human Rights Commission, and the Local Zookeepers & Pipe Fitters Union No.717.

The coalition is spearheaded by Dr. Jane Lee, a professor who teaches in the African-American Cultural Studies Department at Witsend University. Dr. Lee also teaches the class that helped fuel the controversy, and she first heard about the racist implications of “King Kong” when her graduate students broached the subject during the seminar. “I hadn’t even seen the movie," Lee said, "so all I could do was sit by and listen as the students presented their arguments. As an educator, I had no choice but to view the film that evening and they were right; the film is indeed racist.”

When asked to elaborate, Dr. Lee replied, “The film perpetuates a number of negative stereotypes that African Americans have been trying to shake since W.B. Griffith’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ hit the big screen. For starters, you have a white movie producer who wants to film the only unexploited territory in the world, “Skull Island,” and exploit this for his own fame and fortune in the film industry. The island’s aborigines are living caricatures of racist depictions in early American film. It’s as if they’re possessed by the white man’s devil; they dance and gyrate while their eyes roll in the backs of their heads. The entire Kong ritual scene, the sacrifice of the blond-haired and blue-eyed Aryan Princess to the black sexual savage, made me want to throw up.”

Dr. Lee further argues that the racial overtones spin into overdrive when the white movie producer helps convince the captain of the Venture to capture Kong and ship him back to the United States against his will, where he can be used to help replenish a scarcity of creativity in the film industry. “Sounds strikingly similar to the slavery movement to me. And the final scene is merely a rehashed incarnation of the white man’s fear of white women falling prey to a black sexual predator, only the white woman’s purity is saved when Kong is gunned down, in the back no less, by a squadron of planes and falls 101 floors to his death. The whole thing is disgusting.”

According to Jonathan Rand, another member of Guerilla WarFair and professor in the Art Department at Witsend University, “From an architectural point of view, the racism is pretty obvious, especially when considering the symbolism of the final scene. Here you have the Empire State Building, the tallest man-made building and phallic symbol in the world at the time, and you have Kong mounting the structure and climbing to the top with his sacrificial beauty clenched in his paw, only to fall to his tragic death while the white structure remains intact. To add insult to injury, the white damsel is reunited with the white writer atop the phallic structure, thus reasserting his white male dominance, albeit on the rebound. The real tragedy is that, thanks to institutionalized racism, Kong never had a chance.”

The filmmakers had no response to the racist implications, but the management at the Witsend Mega-Complex issued the following statement;“The movie, ‘King Kong,' is purely entertainment and nothing more. We stand behind the movie and will continue to show it in our theater.” Despite this attempt at atonement, the coalition has lined the sidewalk outside of the theater with protestors wielding signs such as “Racism Killed the Beast,” “Stop Gorillexploitation,” and other signs urging aboycott of the movie.

Guerilla WarFair has had some resistance in the Witsend community. People calling themselves Gorilla Love Godz and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “Once You’ve had Gorilla/There’s No More Thor-illa,” staged a counterprotest. The group’s founder, Reginald Jackson, said Gorilla Love Godz was formed to embrace Kong’s death: “We need to see this tragedy for what it is and revere King Kong for what he stands for, a tragic sexual hero and martyr for our community.” Armed with a bullhorn, Jackson’s calls of “Long Live Kong!” prompted the Guerilla WarFair to pump their signs up and down in a unified defense while Gorilla Love Godz beat their chests and chimed in with Jackson, responding, “Long Live Kong!”


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