A continuation of guest poster Chris Arnold’s series on King Kong and American intellectual history.
And the Prophet said:
” And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty.
And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day,
It was as one dead”
With these faux ancient words Merian C. Cooper gave life to the powerful 20th century American version of Beauty and the Beast archetype that is the myth of King Kong, As Richard Slotkin posits
“Myth expresses ideology in a narrative… myths are formulated as ways of explaining problems that arise in the course of historical experience. The most important and longest lived of these formulations persist over long periods of time.”[i]
The King Kong myth has had at least 6 major iterations in just over eighty years. What accounts for this vitality? Did the Kong myth offer successful solutions to cultural problems impacting Twentieth Century America? Which problems were these? A fruitful approach to answering these questions begins with an examination of the myth’s initial creator.