Monday, July 21, 2014

Going Ape: Our Fascination With Gorillas In Entertainment

As I'm writing this Dawn of The Planet of The Apes is the #1 movie in America, so it seems appropriate to finally talk about why we love these apes so much.  Now we as people have had a love for our hairy genetic second cousins for almost as long as there has been modern entertainment.  From King Kong, to the newly released Dawn of The Planet of The Apes.  We look at them and we see our darker more animalistic selves and can't help but be drawn to them.  Well I know I can't, I've seen every Kong movie, every Planet of The Apes movie and have a weird obsession with Gorilla Grodd.  It would seem though I'm not alone, so let's look at DC Comics and their sure fire way to raise the sales of a book during the Silver Age of Comics.

It's no surprise to people who grew up and read comics during the Silver Age, or people today who enjoy collecting the campier tales of our heroes, that there were a lot of cover and stories featuring gorillas.


That's because we seem to be obsessed with these apes and DC figured this out and totally exploited our compulsion.  Every time DC would have a cover featuring a gorilla the sales on that particular title would go up and with that kind of knowledge they could completely takeover the world.  But they'd have to be smart about it.  Not wanting to oversaturate the gorilla market, they decided to limit themselves to only having one gorilla cover a month and thus protecting us and themselves from becoming bored with the idea of ape antagonists.  This would lead to raising the sales of an individual title when it needed to have a boost and us enjoying a constant flow of apes we would love for the rest of our lives.

Let's just look at all the gorilla characters that we still see today and really never get tired of.  We've got the all popular Gorilla Grodd, Ultra Humanite, Monsieur Malla, The Gorilla Boss, Titano and lately Jackanapes.  That's a lot of gorillas just as villains for the DC Universe.  Then we have the popular?  Well we have the strange story JLApe, where Gorilla City decides that people pretty much suck and it would be better if those sucky people were just gorillas.  So after the world is turned into apes our heroes have to figure out how to save the world with their new physical alterations.  This came out in 1999 and being a teenager at the time I was surprised that a silly idea like JLApe could actually be printed.........  Yeah I still bought it, but that's what I'm getting at, we love gorillas and media knows it.  We'll see our heroes looking ridiculous in their new ape bodies and say to ourselves "That's just stupid, I wonder what that's about.".  At the same time we sat through that animatronics nightmare known as Congo, "Amy good gorilla?" "No Amy bad puppet!" and hell we even sat through a three hour long King Kong remake that was just awful and we'd probably do it again.

It's almost like the zombie craze in media that happened and people will argue with me that it's still happening.  We see these villains and the reason we're so obsessed with them is because we see ourselves in them.  It's like the line from the 90's remake of Night of The Living Dead, "We're them and they're us."  We see the humanity in these hulking beasts eyes and we see the connection that we share with them.  That's why they make the ultimate villains because of the humanity that they have without the logic and morality that we're so fond of saying we have.  Humanity - (logic + morality) = scary as hell.  Also gorillas = zombies if you can dig that.

Even now after writing this, I'm still a fan of Gorillas and can't wait to watch Dawn of The Planet of The Apes and any other Apes movies that might come afterwards.  I still go to midnight screenings of the original King Kong or Mighty Joe Young, I just want you all out there to understand your compulsions and make sure that when you do go out and buy toys, comics, and movies that it's out of your hands.  You're an addict and it's not your fault.  I still proudly display a over sized King Kong figure I got in the early 2000's and found myself the other week walking through Target just to pick up a couple of things, when I came across a Gorilla Grodd figure that's meant for ages 3-8.  Hell yeah I bought it and that's okay.

The moral of the story is to "Go Ape", but acknowledge when you're doing so.  See you for the next installment of "Say Anything".

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