VeganMoFo, Day 31+: King Kong, Vegan Junk Food & Reflections on VeganMoFo

November 6th, 2008 9:56 pm by Kelly Garbato

Spoiler alert! – Namely, for Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005). Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

OK, so perhaps this post is six days late, but I’ve been busy enjoying the last throes of warm, sunny weather here in the Midwest. Plus, there was this minor matter called the presidential elections on Tuesday…maybe you’ve heard of it?

As I mentioned previously, Shane & I have a longstanding (three years now?…maybe four?) Halloween tradition: namely, we spend the day watching horror movies and scarfing junk food. This H-day was no exception, although we didn’t get though as many scary movies as we usually do; we watched three flicks, compared to the normal five or six. Probably because the first film, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, ran three and a half hours! Also on the roster were Identity and Untraceable.

Aside from some dreadful “primitive tribal heathen” stereotyping early on, King Kong is an incredible film. There’s definitely a strong (albeit most likely unintentional) animal welfare message underlying Kong’s story, and it’s handled beautifully by director Peter Jackson and actor Naomi Watts. Jackson’s Kong is the last of his (her?) kind, living a life of solitude and loneliness on Skull Island – that is, until Carl Denham (Jack Black) and crew arrive in order to film a movie. Leading lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is kidnapped from her ship by the island’s natives and sacrificed to Kong (cue awful stereotypes), presumably to keep the “beast” happy, content, and out of their camp. Kong, instead of devouring Darrow, initially keeps her as a sort of “pet.” (Kong is taken with her comedic vaudeville stylings, it seems.) Darrow soon escapes, but finds herself lost on a prehistoric island filled with rampaging dinosaurs and giant bugs. Kong, distraught at his only companion’s disappearance, tracks Darrow down, just in time to save her from two raptor-like dinos. Once Darrow is safe, Kong skulks off, injured both physically (from the battle) and emotionally (at Darrow’s desertion). Whether from fear or compassion (or, most likely, a combination of both), Darrow rejoins Kong.

Meanwhile, in the face of stampeding brontos and an angry Kong, Denham’s crew has abandoned their search for Darrow. Instead, they leave Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) to continue the search for Darrow (with whom he’s fallen in love), while the crew heads back to the ship in order to set a trap (unbeknown to Driscoll) for Kong, who’s sure to pursue the pair. Driscoll manages to find Kong’s den, which is littered with the bones of Kong’s long-dead relatives. Darrow is asleep in Kong’s palm; the two, who have formed a reciprocal, interspecies bond, watched the sun set and then nodded off together. Driscoll wakes Darrow, and the two attempt to sneak away without rousing Kong. Kong awakes in time to see the two creeping away together, and in the ensuing scuffle, a hoard of bats stir from their cliffside perch and attack the trio. Driscoll and Darrow manage to hitch a ride on one of the bats’ backs, and Kong runs after them in frenzied pursuit.

Naturally, this is where the story becomes a tearjerker. Kong is tranquilized, captured and caged during his attempt to retake a regretful Darrow. Back in NYC, Kong becomes part of a grotesque monster display, wherein Darrow’s sacrifice to the beast is reenacted for the entertainment of “horrified” audience. Darrow, who during her time with Kong had come to recognize his humanity, intelligence and sentience, wants nothing to do with the circus act, so director/showman Denham hires a Darrow lookalike to play the part. Kong begins the show partially sedated; as he comes to, he initially starts at the blond actress: I know her! Kong reaches out to Ann – only to become enraged when he realizes that it’s an impostor. Now furious, he rips free of his shackles and storms New York in search of his Ann. On the streets, he scoops up any and every thin blond he can find, only to toss the women aside when he realizes they aren’t the ones he wants.

Performing in a small, low-budget vaudeville hall, Darrow hears the commotion and runs towards Kong while throngs of flee in the other direction. Once Kong is reunited with his Jane Goodall, the two enjoy a few brief moments of reconnection. Kong, who hails from a tropical island, has never before seen ice or snow, and he delights in skidded across a pond in Central Park with Darrow perched safely in his hand. This playful scene is interrupted by a hail of gunfire; Kong, though he hasn’t intentionally harmed anyone (and is in fact a captive slave in the city, there against his will), must be destroyed! You probably know the rest: Kong is pursued by the police and military to the top of the Empire State Building, from which he is eventually gunned down.

Kong dies for our stupidity, greed, selfishness and speciesism.

Like Planet of the Apes (and even Transformers), I wouldn’t classify Jackson’s King Kong as an overtly animal rights movie; however, the underlying messages are quite animal friendly: imprisoning wild animals, keeping exotic pets, ignoring the unique needs and characteristics of animals other than ourselves, elevating human animals above all else, hubris and greed – these are unethical states of being with dire consequences.

Looking at Kong’s body lying dead in the street, a reporter remarks that he was “just a dumb animal.” Yet, it’s clear to everyone who looked into Kong’s understanding, intelligent eyes that he was anything but a stupid beast. The animals involved in Kong’s destruction – well, that’s another matter.

While searching for a movie poster to illustrate this post, I noticed a rather stark dichotomy between how the movie marketers portray Kong in the film’s adverts – versus the humanity and compassion with which Jackson paints him.

For example, Kong primarily appears as a roaring, animalistic menace:

King Kong (2005) - Movie Poster 02

King Kong (2005) - Movie Poster 01

Yet, he is quite gentle and loving towards Ms. Darrow, who (notably and singularly) takes the time to empathize with and relate to him as an individual. Their bond is honored in just one of the posters in the series (at least as far as I can tell):

King Kong (2005) - Movie Poster 03

Here you see Kong regarding Ann with curiosity, interest and affection – a far cry from the rabid beast depicted above.

My favorite images, by far, are stills of Kong and Ann taken from the movie:

King Kong (2005) - Kong & Darrow 03

King Kong (2005) - Kong & Darrow 02

Love, beauty and mutual understanding, shared across the species “barrier.” Is there anything more wondrous in all the world?

After watching Kong, I was basically reduced to a sniffly, blubbering mess. (This is why I never watch movies like Harry and the Hendersons, The Water Horse, or Cujo – they break, rather than entertain.) Even though it was a “monster movie” – and technically appropriate for our Halloween movie marathon – King Kong didn’t much scare me. So we moved on to two genuine horror/suspense movies.

Identity…well, it’s a good enough movie with a big twist at the end. And no women were objectified in its making! So two thumbs up and a hearty recommendation from this humorless feminist.

I was even more impressed with Untraceable, which passes The Bechdel test, namely, that a female friendly (read: not sexist) movie must have 1) at least two women, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something other than a man. I don’t want to drop a spoiler, so let me also just hint that the strong female lead doesn’t need a man to save her. She can escape just fine on her own, thankyouverymuch. And, no objectification of women here, either – even though you’d expect as much from a film about a serial killer. Mad props all around for Untraceable.

Now on to the Halloween feast!

Breakfast was a boring bowl of bran flakes (my usual), but for lunch I had some mouth-watering potato onion pierogies, while Shane downed vegan “egg” rolls. Later on, we made pizza for dinner: homemade sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives and Lightlife faux pepperoni for me; homegrown green peppers, mushrooms, black olives and Lightlife faux pepperoni for Shane.

As far as snacks go, we had Halloween Oreos*, of course, which are delish (though a bit disconcerting – the neon orange filling looks absolutely nucular:

2008-10-29 - Halloween Oreos

as well as some potato chips with onion dip (made with a dip mix and Tofutti Sour Cream) and home-dried fruit leather.

After dinner, I delighted in a shiny bowl of soy ice cream – Turtle Mountain Purely Decadent Cookie Dough with Coconut Milk:

2008-10-31 - Halloween Eats - 0013

I think Shane picked up the “Coconut Milk” line by accident last time he was at Whole Foods; the labeling doesn’t look all that much different from the “regular” Purely Decadent line. The flavors sweetened with coconut milk are just as yummy, but you can definitely detect a hint of coconut under the primary ingredients. It’s an expected undertone in the Coconut flavor; not so much with the Cookie Dough. Not bad, just…unexpected.

And…that’s Halloween. I snapped some shots of our main courses, but they came out awful, so there you go.

As for VeganMoFo reflections – I’ve got a few.

I was a bit apprehensive about meeting the post requirement when I signed up for the carnival, but in reality, I thought up more than enough post ideas. So many, in fact, that I’ve got a ton in the bank. Plus, the near-daily posts forced me to cook more (instead of forever gorging on leftovers) and try new recipes (instead of the familiar go-tos). As a result, I’ve discovered a number of new recipes that will become standards in the kitchen, no doubt. I even learned how to prepare such strange and unusual veggies as…spaghetti squash! (Oh my!) And I loved, loved, loved reading my fellow bloggers’ entries, and was wowed by the level of culinary artistry in the vegan community. (Wing It Vegan, I’m so looking at you!) I’ll have to step up my game for next year.

That’s a wrap, peoples! Let’s do it again next October, shall we?

(Crossposted to.)

* Update, 1/17/10: Or not.

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