In any story there are only three types of conflict, man versus nature, man versus man, man versus himself. In the case of the 1933 pre-Code Hollywood film King Kong however, it seems that all three were used. A quick synopsis of the film can be described within the two of the most memorable lines of the film itself:
- When the character Carl Denham (portrayed by Robert Armstrong) speaks to the character Jack Driscoll (portrayed by Bruce Cabot) about the latter’s growing infatuation with the heroine Ann Darrow (portrayed by Fay Wray):
“The Beast was a tough guy too. He could lick the world, but when he saw Beauty, she got him. He went soft. He forgot his wisdom and the little fellas licked him.”
- The last lines of the film uttered by Carl Denham and a police lieutenant after the death of King Kong:
Police Lieutenant: Well Denham, the airplanes got him.
Carl Denham: Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes it was Beauty killed the Beast.
The film itself is more than about the ability of a woman to change the ways of a man, as stated above, the film encompasses all three forms of conflict but these two lines do highlight one of the social dynamics that ran the film: love; but more on that later.
The film also showed man dealing with nature when it showcased just how hard the sailors of the Venture tried to survive the creatures living on Kong Island. In the simplest manner, the film showed the conflict between man and another group of men when the natives of the island kidnapped Ann to offer her as a tribute to Kong. Finally the film also portrayed the conflict of man against himself when it highlighted the different characteristics of its cast most especially when Carl Denham kept the information about the island to himself until they were virtually there, Ann’s desperation to the point that she would take on a very dangerous job as she had nothing to lose and when the three leads finally captured Kong and Denham proclaimed that they were going to be millionaires after because of what they had done.
These traits showed not only how different these characters were from each other, but also how much these traits are common in all mankind. To the main analysis at hand, the movie was mostly an exhibit about how society understands love. Even with the film at eighty years old, the way society proclaims its love for one another, specifically erotic love, has stayed almost the same with only very minor changes. The determination of Jack to save Ann, the sense of protection that Kong showed towards Ann when he rescues her numerous times from different forms of danger on Kong island and even when he thought that the photographers were attacking Ann with their camera, the reason why Carl hired Ann, and even the scene where Kong undresses Ann and then smells his fingers.
It was in these acts, especially in Kong’s protectiveness of Ann, that the film showed how possessive erotic love can be. To the point where one would go so far as to keep the person they love practically chained with them to decrease the risk of them getting hurt and in Ann’s reaction we can see just how well a person would react to such a situation. Possessiveness over a person needs no confirmation from the other over whether or not they are yours, you simply feel that they belong to you and you would try to keep them safe like any other property you own.
In a case such as this, we see that the person being protected will more likely try to leave you and the harder you try to bind them to you, the harder they will try to pull away like a magnet with the same poles facing each other. Such was the case of Ann’s reaction. The harder Kong tried to keep her, the harder she tried to get away. Of course, this reaction is understandable especially if the person who is trying to keep you is a giant gorilla, but applying that in a social context, we can safely assume that Kong is merely a representation of a person in a one-sided love relationship and with each inch of the leash he pulls towards him, the harder his partner tries to get away; thus making the final line of the film inconveniently true: beauty did kill the beast.
Kong himself is a good representation of how society will view you when you are “different”. While things may have changed drastically since the first time the film was screened, the world still remains the same in many aspects. Kong was a king on his island, the apex of a predator and on his island, he was feared. In New York, he was merely an oddity; a “freak of nature” existing solely for the profit of his capturers and to amuse a mob of people who cannot see anything beyond their two eyes.
Society has become more accepting since the 1930’s but we cannot doubt that hatred over something we do not understand still exist today, a lesson that must be taught to every generation that comes. Racism, fascism, sexism and many other forms of discrimination is now frowned up but nevertheless still practiced today. Society will never be free of this either as any form of discrimination is inherent in our fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, the unknown is personal in nature and cannot be understood until the individual confronts it themselves.
Also, the death of Kong when he went on a rampage can be considered as unavoidable as it is only natural for society to react violently towards something that threatens it, even if it was society that provoked it in the first place. In a symbolic sense however, Kong’s death can be seen as how an individual reacts to change forced upon them. As stated earlier, Kong was a king in his natural habitat, no one was above him and he grabbed anything he wanted without question. In New York these meant nothing while he as bounded by chains.
The same is true for a person. Change that the person is told he or she must simply accept without question goes up against their sense of freedom. Even in a dictatorial society, a person’s ability to choose is not truly lost; merely hindered. As such, they still have the ability to rebel if they see fit as history will show. Change is a process that takes time to sink in. there are even numerous techniques nowadays that a person can apply to implement a vision that they think is fit, but one thing that these change implementation techniques have in common is the saying that to force the vision you see upon those who are not ready or willing to see it yet, will lead to the progress of no one, most especially the vision itself.
In this final statement of analyzing the movie through its possible social context, it can be said that while the film’s main attraction is its adventure/monster theme, an intellectual review of it will lead to the possible revelation in the person that to quell our fear of the unknown and the discrimination it brings in all aspects of our lives, be it in business, school, social interactions and even in love, we must first try to understand the other side of the story, not just our own.