As one columnist has put it, King Kong is destined to be one of those movies that people generate endless psychobabble about because the nature of the movie allows people to populate its subcontexts with whatever worldview and/or neurosis they happen to be inhabiting at the time. (can we say The Matrix, boys and girls?) Not wanting to be left out, let me jump into the fray with one observation that struck me:
This movie is a presentation of four caricatures, four archetypes, of masculinity. Which is the most authentic man: door #1, door #2, door #3, or door #4? Or, to switch obscure television references, which eligible bachelor will the lovely Miss Ann Darrow choose?
Behind door #1 is Carl Denham. Ambitious, driven, and unethical, Carl is a human steamroller, not in a malevolent way, but merely because he inherently values projects above people. He is the man who has never truly looked into the mirror to see the face of his soul. When he tricks his friend Jack into the ill-fated ocean voyage, he isn’t being mean, he doesn’t even think of it as being disloyal, because his tunnel vision is only on his prize. When two of his coworkers horribly die, he even has to cast their deaths through the lens of obtaining his goal. When he solemnly pledges to finish the movie in honor of the men, at first you think he’s being shallow, or manipulative, or heartless—but really, he’s just being clueless.
Carl just doesn’t get it, anywhere throughout the story. And what a great description of many contemporary men—it’s not that they are deliberately evil toward their friends or their women, they just don’t get it—they don’t understand that life is about people, and about building Christ’s kingdom. Life isn’t about whatever private vision or goal or pinnacle a man sets up as an idol in his heart. As for the prize of Miss Darrow’s heart, Carl will never win a woman’s heart because it will never occur to him that a woman’s heart is worth winning.
Behind door #2 is Bruce Baxter. The most obvious caricature of the bunch, his idol is not any vision or goal, but himself. He, in a way, is the opposite of Carl—he is the man who is constantly and literally looking in the mirror at himself. He is unabashedly self-centered to the core and any thought of others or of self-sacrifice is alien to his soul. Unfortunately, a larger and larger group of men are being bred with exactly this persona, as many frustrated and despairing women can attest to.
What is particularly intriguing about Bruce is that he has a momentary lapse into selflessness to add a plot twist. However, he soon resumes his former self to reassure us that his heart really hasn’t changed its self-fixation. Many men, likewise, will have a momentary lapse into a romantic frenzy and win a woman’s heart, but will soon revert back to type into their original self-centered fugue. Bruce just might win an undiscerning or just plain unlucky woman, but he will never take his eyes off himself in order to care for and keep her heart.
Behind door #3 is Jack Driscoll, the kind of man that Adrien Brody was able to play to perfection. Jack has a noble soul, and his selflessness and love is recognized by all around him. But here’s the rub: although he has looked into the mirror of his soul, he isn’t confident in what he sees, and because he isn’t sure of who he is, his courage to express himself to his woman falters. He is able to risk all for his woman in a dangerous dinosaur infested jungle, but he struggles to be real, to be authentic, in the more dangerous jungle of a romantic relationship. Consequently, Ann ends up feeling just as uncertain and ambivalent about Jack as Jack feels about himself.
To quote from page 87 of Future Men by Douglas Wilson,
A masculine toughness is the only foundation upon which a masculine tenderness may be safely placed. Without a concrete foundation, thoughtfulness, consideration, and sensitivity in men is just simply gross.
…and just to make sure I’m politically incorrect I’ll quote from p. 31:
Women are created by God to be led by a strong man, but marriage is disastrous when a man is not strong enough, or his strength is not biblically informed.
Now isn’t that quote a great segue to door #4, Kong. Was it Kong’s toughness, his “macho”, that attracted the beauty? No, it terrified and repulsed her at first. Was it Jack’s tenderness that repelled Ann? No, she was attracted to it, but she sensed the uncertainty, the timidity, in his soul, and it confused her.
But when Ann starts to realize that this being of monstrous strength and ferocity actually has tenderness in his soul, and that she has both his tenderness and his strength, without even thinking her heart and her figure are compelled to follow him. She starts walking behind Kong, in awe and wonder of this creature who showed her both strength and tenderness in a way that no human male ever had. And the great genius of Jackson’s film-making talent is that we believe it, we see this bond between beauty and strength blossom and grow, with each giving something to the other that the other desperately needed.
Can this be true? Can Kong be a better man as an ape than his human costars? Ann’s heart tells her so. His tenderness is empowered through strength, his strength is guided by tenderness, and Ann and Kong’s world is for a brief moment as it should be, as our lives should be if we are acting like men created in the image of a strong and loving God.