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gender representation on King Kong

I decided to see the new King Kong while i was in Hawaii and i have to say it was an unbelievable experience. First, there was something so utterly astounding to be in a theater with mostly Hawaiians Hawaiian residents while watching a film with an atrocious and offensive depiction of Islanders as a “savage” population incapable of hygiene with their eyes rolled back in their heads. Of course, the kids in the audience didn’t seem to mind – they happily talked their way through the entire film, more ecstatic at the action scenes than anything else.

Putting the problematic racial depiction aside, what really fascinated me was the representation of gender performances intertwined with the dichotomy between nature and technology. Kong is a stand-in for pure masculinity, pure nature while Jack (and crew) represent a technologically-aided masculinity. Ann on the other hand represents pure femininity in society, but her representation in the “wild” is a complicated mix of feminine beauty and stereotypically masculine strength and will. The masculine side of her tames the beast while the feminine side brings out his vulnerabilities and nurturing side. The crew’s masculinity comes out in trying to preserve the female while Kong’s masculinity is tamed by the female.

In the wild, neither Kong nor Ann represents a cleanly gendered split while their representations in human society are, by the very nature of that society, split into a clean binary (best represented by Kong and the fake Ann’s interaction on stage back in New York). Conversely, in society, Jack is a nice metrosexual but in the wild, he develops into a pure masculine energy, determined to heroically save the girl. The crew view Ann as a completely vulnerable individual who must be saved while Kong saves her for bringing out his vulnerabilities.

Juxtaposed against the monkey vs. robot narrative, the gendered aspect is intriguing. In the wild, there’s more flexibility for complicated gender performances but when technology evens the playing field, gender must be dichotomously maintained through performance.

What i found intriguing about Jackson’s representation of gender in King Kong was that it was so over the top caricatured that it was fascinating to watch unfold (while his racial representation was disturbing at best).

Anyhow… just some random thoughts. Mostly cuz i’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the representations in the film.