NPR’s Lakshmi Singh discusses King Kong racism with Robin Means Coleman
King Kong is a metaphor for black men who want to sleep with white women, proposed NPR liberal hosts, discussing the new film Kong: Skull Island.
During a segment on NPR, Robin Means Coleman, a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Michigan who specializes in studying King Kong, pontificated, “This is, again, a big, black man – right? – a big, black ape who is absolutely obsessed with whiteness and particularly white women. That has to be cut down.”
Lakshmi Singh, the host, opened the show by intoning,”King Kong has been around almost as long as Hollywood itself. The first ‘Kong’ movie was in 1933, and from its inception, it’s always been loaded with some ugly, racial subtext, ridiculous caricatures of natives, white men protecting a white woman from the savages and a giant, dangerous, black creature from the jungle.”
It’s unclear if the pair watched the film which did star white actors Tom Hiddleston, John C Reilly, and Brie Larson, protagonists who support/defend Kong and black actors, particularly Samuel L. Jackson, who ultimately wants to murder the beast.
In fact, unlike the earlier films, Larson doesn’t have a “romantic” connection with Kong and is never whisked away to a skyscaper with Kong fending off jets.
The Daily Wire notes that this ridiculous connection has been around a while. Canadian writer, Ross Langager, made Jim Crow connections with King Kong in popmatters.com in 2011:
The most prevalent metaphorical dynamic in the film is quite clearly the racial one. Kong is often conceived of as the monstrous embodiment of the African-American experience, a powerful “primitive” being forcibly taken from the tropical realm where his hegemony is absolute and displayed in bondage as a figure of exotic amusement (though not, curiously, as a beast of burden, as were the historical African slaves). He escapes and asserts not only his physical prowess but also, potentially, his sexual prowess by abducting Fay Wray’s Ann Darrow, the blond, virtuous personification of white American womanhood (Wray herself was naturally dark-haired and born in Canada, a nice double-shot of irony).
Clutching the object of his forbidden, impossible desire, Kong is chased to the pinnacle of the inescapably phallic Empire State Building (a freshly-built structure in 1933 whose appearance in an iconic piece of cinema helped allay scepticism about it from both potential tenants and from the wider public). There, his savage defiance of the democratic capitalist order (and of firmly-defended racial taboos) sees him executed summarily by biplanes. Gazing upon Kong’s corpse, director, adventurer, and showman Carl Denham, the man who wrought this terrible end, quips, “It was Beauty that killed the Beast”, but we know better.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see echoes of American’s fraught historical discourse on race in such a tale. It evokes colonialism, the slave trade, Reconstruction, minstrel shows, Jim Crow, white supremacy, Lost Cause mythologizing, miscegenation and urbanization, to say nothing of the contemporaneous rape hysteria in the South that fed into systematic lynchings and institutional segregation. That King Kong is “about” these sort of things is not really in dispute in the cinephile community . . .