Tuesday, 6 October 2015

SPACE ODDITIES: King Kong (1933)

Fig.1 King Kong Poster
"Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes', it was beauty killed the beast". The last famous lines from one of films most prominent and influential  blockbusters. Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's 'King Kong' (1933), a stand out film with a story full of adventure and stuffed full of social context. Expressing views on gender,  race, ethnicity with a dash of sexual connotations, all of which are buried beneath the action packed and special effects fuelled storyline.

Ann Darow, King Kong's scream queen. Played by Fay Wray, Miss Darrow is captured by the beast and taken through the jungle, seen as a helpless onlooker as Kong battles fiendish beasts, and simultaneously fending off Darrow's fellow human companions. 

'Kong cares for his captive human female, protects her, attacks only when provoked, and would be perfectly happy to be left alone on his pacific island' (Ebert, 2002)

A looming metaphor of man, Kong is a brute. A brute that is mesmerised by the beauty of a woman. 
Instantly Kong claims Miss Darrow as his own. He protects and cares for her. This is seen within his bouts of rage and battles with a T-Rex and an oversized serpent, each provoking him, testing his 'masculinity' finding out who is the bigger man. 

Throughout the film Kong stands tall as the king of his own land. A figure with an almighty sense of power. This is until he is captured and shipped off to the city of New York. Chained to a crucifix-esque stand, and showcased to thousands of innocent yet curious city dwellers, Kong is now the helpless one. A complete role reversal. 


'Racist conceptions of blacks often depict them as subhuman, ape or monkey-like. And considered the plot of the film: Kong is forcibly taken from his jungle home, brought in chains to the united states, where he is put on stage as a freak entertainment attraction. 
He breaks his chains and goes on a rampage in the metropolis, until finally he is felled by the forces of law and order' (Rosen, 2004)

Race was an issue within 1930's america. Despite a decrease of hatred groups like the Ku Klux Klan, race was still a concern. Racial undertones are hinted at within scenes in which Kong is held captive. Big, strong and out the jungle, Kong is seen as 'the black man'. Scared that he will steal the female and make him hers. 

'In the clutch of Kong's giant palm, Fay Wray becomes the first "Queen of Scream", a later female stock character of the horror flick. Her terrified facial expression, fainting and screaming express the white woman's fear of being raped by the black man' (Lewis, 2004)

The fears of interracial relations between a black male and a white woman were also something hat was still socially awkward and not seen as a natural occurrence in america. This issued somewhat fuelled the social aspects within, King Kong.

Upon escaping from the theatre, Kong once again captures his golden beauty, Miss Darrow, and is shown climbing to the top of the empire state building only to be struck down by the menacing planes in the films climax. This could be seen as a metaphor for the black male rising up, opposing social convention, to change the views of the people only to be thwarted by the american authorities. A tragic end to such an adventurous and imaginative tale.


Lewis, N (2004) Cooper's KING KONG At: http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/56037/cooper-s-king-kong-1933-black-masculinity-between-white-womanhood-and Accessed on: 06/10/2015

Ebert, R (2002) King Kong At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-king-kong-1933 Accessed on: 06/10/205

Rosen, D.R (2004) At: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC06folder/KingKong.html Accessed on: 06/10/2015


Figure 1. King Kong (1933) [Poster] At: http://www.cityonfire.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/king-kong.jpg Accessed on: 06/10/2015

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: http://150597036.r.cdn77.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/king-kong1.jpg Accessed on: 06/10/2015

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: http://fo4mw16y1z42edr6j2m4n6vt.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/king-kong-1933-granger.jpg Accessed on: 06/10/2015


  1. A very thorough review Thomas, with interesting discussions around race and gender.

    Be careful when transcribing the quotes - you have range of typos in them... 'ape of monkey-like', 'foes on a rampage ' and (my favourite!) 'Fay Wrat'. Easily-made slips of the typing finger, but they detract from your very well-written piece. Always proof read...

    Your Rosen quote seems to have centred itself ...again, always just check through before posting (or straight after) to pick up on any formatting errors.

  2. Thank you, Jackie. I will have a look through and sort out any errors :)