Friday, December 09, 2005

The Kong and I


Meandering post with no real point here. Normal posts will resume shortly.

King Kong is coming, the apparently-quite-similar-to-the-original Peter Jackson movie, and I have been looking forward to it more, perhaps, than is wise.

Why is this so?

At the core, it's a deeply silly movie. Giant apes, dinosaurs, forgotten islands shrouded in eternal mists. And the black men caper and the women scream while the white men sort things out, and, inevitably, triumph. It has, from that point of view, not much not to recommend it.

And yet...

It may well be that the original King Kong was not a great film, but merely a fairly commercially successful one. I'm not sure what makes a great film, but I reckon if you mean something to a lot of people, over a fair amount of time, that's one kind of great, and by those criteria, Kong was a great film. But nobody, not even in the sanctum sanctorum of some mysterious and secret nerdic society, mentions King Kong in the same breath as... I don't know, Schindler's List, or Some Like It Hot.

Again: and yet...

It doesn't make much sense. Even when you take into account that it's a film that's 'about more than its about', if you follow me, a film about race and sex and libido.

Kong the brutish black man taken from the jungle, exhibited as an entertainment, breaking free then being crushed by the forces of order.

Kong as the Depression.

Kong as the wilderness.

Kong as individual creative energy in the face of the machine age.

And if those symbolic meanings were too complex for all of the ten year old boys who saw teh original film again and again and again, I'm sure some other aspect of it all resonated with them. The idea of something dark and animal and untamed awakening inside them, something that sought to transgress in ways that they were sure were un-natural, impossible, wrong, something that was more comfortable fighting dinosaurs than watching a blonde haired girl with her new boyfriend - I'm sure that made a spooky amount of sense to a ten year old boy.

Kong, like Dracula, like Heathcliffe, like Mr Darcy, like Superman, is always more than what he is.

Anyway. But why am I looking forward to it so much?

I used to believe in wisdom. You know, something that people had, in the same way they had "tallness" or "size" or "baldness". Some people had wisdom and you could go to those people when you needed wisdom and those people would tell you something, reach into their inexhaustible inner stores of wisenessitude and pull something out and give it to you. And if you their wisdom didn't make you wise, at least you got good advice.

I don't know about that anymore. I've been struck by how much of what we say is "wise advice" is stuff that we want to hear. Some answers, some ideas, some images, speak to you at certain times, because there's this inner need. Other times, it just bounces off you.

Anyway, lately, certain images have been bobbing to the surface. One of them is Kong, staring through the bushes, virtually obscured. I don't know what it means, or why it is looming out of the dark at me, but I think it must mean something.

There's another image, which has been distracting me as well. This image actually comes to mind more frequently and strikes me with greater urgency. It's an image from an old comic I bought a few weeks back, when I was at the comic store looking for comics with giant apes, and robots with glowing brains in transparent skull-cases, and cats in super-costumes.

The first time I saw the picture was in an old comic about the Purple Claw, an occult-fighting super-hero of no remarkable merit. Anyway, he goes about battling the forces of evil, as is his wont, and at some stage he turns up in some kind of cave. This is, as far as I can tell, the Vault of Heroes, where the other superheroes of his world live.

And there is a bit of exposition and a plan of action is decided upon, and the heroes rise into the air. There they are: Catman. Jet-girl. The Green Lama, the Green Mask, the Eagle. Rising into the air, suspended aloft by the spectral powers of the Green Lama, poised for action, ready to descend where and when danger calls.

And they're still waiting. AC Comics didn't do well. It folded back in the forties. Its superheroes followed its air aces, its masked cowboys, its scantily clad women of the jungle into oblivion. And literal oblivion here - the word root is the same as that of oubliette, it means "to be forgotten".

Who remembers them now, Catman and Jetgirl, the Flame and Miss Victory? Not-particularly-good examples of a not-particularly-important genre, characters who flourished when the climate was right, but who went the way of most of the Miocene apes, most of the equids, most of the cartilaginous fishes - survived by a remnant population.

Anyway. This image has been floating to the surface more than I feel is necessaary. As if it's trying to tell me something. I don't know why or what. Something in the whole thing strikes me as almost inexpressibly melancholy.

Anyway. In a brief foray into actual news, I am looking at stopping work in the ED for a year to concentrate on my writing. More news as it comes to hand.


Anonymous Camilla said...

I am looking at stopping work in the ED for a year to concentrate on my writing


"Oh ny god I'm jearous", apparently. Spooky how those fit sometimes.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Champurrado said...


Although you may already have read it, I would suggest you look for and buy Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I'm convinced you'll appreciate it. I've finished my copy and, in a pinch, would gladly send it as a loan. You might also look into Jon Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, another book for that empty comic book place in your soul.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Chade said...

I have been pushing BJ to read this book for the last couple of weeks since a mutual friend, Tobias, gave it to me as a B'day present. Do not worry, BJ will read this book.
Glad to hear that the time will be taken off from the ED to pursue interests more akin to your passion. See you on Sat.

8:44 AM  

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