Other Films about “Monstrous Natures” (Jiyoung Yoon)
As a self-acclaimed fan of “cheesy B-movies,” I really enjoyed reading Stacy Alaimo’s “Discomforting Creatures: Monstrous Natures in Recent Films” since the article rendered a new perspective from which I could think about movies I’d watched in different ways. Despite not very “recent,” three films popped into my mind while I was reading Alaimo’s article: two science fiction movies, Them (1954) and The Planet of the Apes (1968), and the classic, King Kong (1933).
Them is a film about human’s encounter with a nest of giant ants. Worth noting is that the giant ants are created by nuclear weapon testing. Yes, they are not just giant; they are radiation-giganticized. Though the ants are created by human, the film projects “them” as monsters that demarcate the boundary between humans and non-human creatures and, thus, should be eradicated for “us.” This movie came out in the ‘50s as a sort of response to the cold war. (In his article “The Contested Earth: Science, Equity & The Environment,” Daniel J. Kevles also examines the close relation between the cold war era and “the second environmental movement; see p. 85.) It’s pretty obvious that the film used a body of insect to represent the threatening “other,” the Soviet Union, by transforming their physical appearance into a monstrous figure.
2. The Planet of the Apes
A trailer of The Planet of the Apes for thoes who didn’t watch the film to get a taste of it.
Here’s another film about the capitalization of the fear Americans used to have in the cold war era. This film’s a little bit tricky to follow in that the protagonist and the audience alike gradually approach what was really happened as well as what IS really happening in the movie. Let me just jump into the truth of the film for this short post’s sake. The human civilization blew up all humanity on the earth; the planet became bleak and several groups of apes (gorillas, orangutans, and chimps) came to be in charge of the earth as substitutional intellectual figures for humans. One of the reason why this film is so cool is that the hierarchized structure of humans and non-human creatures is reversed in The Planet of the Apes. The protagonist who is an astronaut returning back to the earth after a 2000-year voyage remains ignorant until the end of the movie (he does not even know he came back to the same planet, which is the earth; he thought he landed on another planet due to the presence of the apes), and the apes are knowledgeable. As one of the apes explains, humans are subservient and needed to be kept under their supervision since humans are dangerous. This reversed representation of humans, not as those who supervise but as those who are supervised by other creatures, refreshes our perspective towards the cultural construction of superior humans vs. inferior animals paradigm.
3. King Kong
This is so classic that I do not think I need to explain any general information about the film. (Just to be sure, I’ve only watched the original King Kong released in 1933, not other sequels, so what I’m going to say here might not match with the 2 other contemporary King Kongs.) Here’s a thing I’d like to talk about: the role of the female body of the “monster” movie. Alaimo in “Discomforting Creatures: Monstrous natures in Recent Films” points out “Women, it seems, must serve as the border zone between nature and culture, keeping nature safely at bay” (283), and I think we can also apply this critique to the role of Fay Wray in King Kong. I believe, everyone, if you’ve seen it, remembers the movie ends with King Kong’s tragic death. Does anybody remember with what specific dialogue the movie ends? A cop who was one of the crowd on the street watching the fight between King Kong and the military says, “the airplanes got him (King Kong).” And the film director who caught King Kong alive in some unknown “exotic” location and brought him to NYC in order to exploit the giant gorilla for his show replies, “Oh, no, it was not airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.” Therefore, throughout the film, the body of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) is presented very contradictorily insofar as she is both a necessary figure—the only human body King Kong feels attached to—in exterminating the “monster,” and a helpless, half-naked figure in the giant Kong’s hand who cannot help but wait for the military attack on King Kong.
Lastly, Does anybody have your own list of the films about “monstrous natures” which is not dealt with in Alaimo’s article? Then leave a comment; I would definitely like to enjoy your list too!