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Popular Culture Race and Ethnicity in the King Kong - Movie Review Example

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Few channels have the power to influence attitudes and determine the direction of racial relationships as does cinema. Writing from the perspective of a sociologist who specializes in the study of racial relationships, Hall (2001) insists that racial stereotypes are popularized through film, just as prejudices are cemented by this media of pop culture communication…
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Popular Culture Race and Ethnicity in the Movie King Kong
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Download file to see previous pages Accordingly, the representation of blacks and minorities, or indigenous populations in film, has become an issue of social concern. The objection which several critics expressed towards King Kong (2005) and their denouncement of it as a racist film needs to be understood within the context of the larger social issues at stake and should not be dismissed as exaggerated reactions to innocent entertainment, as some have done. Indeed, King Kong is founded upon racial stereotypes and cements racial prejudices in its portrayal of indigenous populations as savages, its suggestion that blacks are wild beasts, such as is King Kong, who can only be tamed by the civilised Caucasian.
Critical reactions to King Kong (2005) have tended towards its denouncement as a racist film, on the one hand, to its defence as innocent entertainment, on the other. Espousing the former view, McCarthy (2006) maintains that the storyline and plot revolve around three of the oldest and most persistent of the known anti-black stereotypes. These are that all non-Caucasians are savages and that members of the black race are hardly distinguishable from wild beasts (McCarthy, 2006). In this film, the non-Caucasians are represented in the hardly human, unmistakably savage and completely unwashed figure of the Skull island natives and blacks in the form of the gigantic and uncontrollable savage figure of the ape. The third stereotype upon which this film is founded and which its storyline propagates and legitimizes is that of the civilized Caucasians who, by the very nature of their appearance and the culture and civility which they symbolize, are able to tame, control and potentially even civilize the savage and the wild. King Kong (2005) promotes these stereotypes and should, accordingly, be classified as a racist film.
For multicultural societies which are struggling to create a culture of racial tolerance and acceptance to replace the culture of racism, films such as this can have a potentially detrimental effect. Pon (2000) highlights this potential consequence by arguing that racist messages legitimize an audience's possibly racist sentiments and justifies their perception of minority races and groups as inferior. When these messages are conveyed in a multicultural society, they immediately conflict with multiculturalism's message and, accordingly, can contribute to racial tensions (Pon, 2000).
In direct reference to Canadian society, popularly regarded as a successful experiment in multiculturalism, the message conveyed by King Kong (2005) does not simply conflict with official messages regarding racial tolerance and understanding but it touches upon the underlying racial tensions which exist beyond the surface. Studies have indicated that increasing numbers of racial minority groups and indigenous populations feel marginalized and discriminated against. The number of blacks and natives feeling out of place in society is on the rise. In 2002, 35% of blacks and 20% of natives in Canada reported unfair discriminatory treatment 'sometimes' or 'often' (Statcan, 2002). Therefore, films which wrongfully portray the true nature of blacks and native/indigenous populations, have the potential to enhance the mentioned feelings of marginalization and to deepen the racism which many Canadian minority groups feel they are subjected to.
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