This year, the original King Kong celebrates its 75th anniversary, and thanks to Turner Classic Movies (the most watched channel here at Slant), I finally saw it last night. I spent half of the duration of the film amused (literally laughing out loud at Robert Armstrong’s over-the-top performance and ridiculous dialogue, Kong’s pearly-white grin, the T. rex’s wrestling finesse, and the agile, water-friendly, man-eating Brontosaurus) and, having never read a single piece of criticism about the film, I spent the other half horrified at its blatant racism. To be fair, the film’s special effects are an astounding achievement for 1933, but Old Hollywood’s racial sensitivity—not so much.
I arrive only slightly less belatedly to the controversy surrounding the latest cover of Vogue magazine, on which NBA star LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bündchen, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, pose as King Kong and Fay Wray. In case there’s any skepticism about whether it was intentional or not, here’s a side-by-side comparison that’s been circulating the Internets:
If there’s any sort of timely political commentary here, it’s clearly lost on Gisele.
In other racially sensitive news, Absolut Vodka is pulling a Mexican ad that depicts a map of North America circa 1847 in which Mexico’s border swallows up nearly half of the United States. Naturally, complaints and threats of a boycott from sensitive U.S. citizens ensued. Because, you know, we took their land fair and square and Mexicans should just shut the fuck up about it. They’re hurting our feelings. According to Reuters, one wounded blogger with nothing better to do and plenty of gas money to burn wrote: “I have poured the remainder of my Absolut bottles down the sink.” Somewhere, a hobo weeps.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.