My good friend Rusty continues to wonder: “Richard, how is it that you and James Lafond are friends?”
He wonders because of my love of the British Empire’s military exploits (we all joke that I can’t have a conversation without mentioning the British Empire or Vietnam!), and James Lafond’s love of the Native American Indian “barbarism”.
The truth is, though James Lafond and I might be a little different, we approach the questions of history and life as two sides of the same coin. And just as a coin is useless without a front face and a back face, so too is life!
And it’s this very truth that leads us to this question, inspired by James Lafond in his excellent article posted on www.jameslafond.com, entitled “Primal Hero: Was King Kong The Last Mythic Western Hero?”
WHERE TO BEGIN?
James Lafond and I have both studied the idea of the Confrontational and Predatory Warrior Culture. I’ve discussed that before on this site as a cornerstone idea key to understanding the wonder and willpower that is the genre of Pulp Fiction.
In fact, James Lafond and I had been discussing this concept for a year before the idea of Pulp Fiction Renaissance.org even came into the world!
But in “Primal Hero: Was King Kong The Last Mythic Western Hero?”, James Lafond lays out the origins and global scope of Confrontational Warrior Culture in an easy, accessible, and scholarly way like he’s never done before!
“That’s all well and good,” you might say. “But if it’s so great, how come you disagree with its ultimate conclusions?”
Read on to find out!
ONE TALE, TWO TELLINGS
At its root, James Lafond interprets the tale of King Kong as the last of a Noble Confrontational Warrior living in barbaric splendor, captured and brought down by the industrial, Predatory Merchant class seeking his kind’s exploitation and destruction.
I, on the other hand, see it as the high noon of a lost epoch, in which Western Indo-European Confrontational Warriors take out a Predatory Third World Dictator ruling his tyrannical domain with an iron fist!
In James Lafond’s telling, the Sailors and Soldiers and Airmen are the dragons, their machine guns and fighter planes spewing streams of flame.
Meanwhile, King Kong is the heroic Knight of Beowulfian legend, fighting for the honor of the maiden Ann Darrow against the Merchant Sorcerers pulling the dragon’s strings!
But my telling?
Well, it’s a little bit different!
THE SLAVISH SHAKEDOWN!
In my version of events, the hero Jack Driscoll and the Sailors are Beowulf…they are propelled by some burning desire inside to go forth and conquer on an adventure far away from home to new and distant lands!
This burning impulse, Faustian in composition, leads them to Skull Island, where they find a horror beyond imagination that awaits them!
Here, we find Natives beat down and enslaved under King Kong’s predatory regime. James Lafond sees an “honor-based agreement” between Kong and the natives “to take a bride every so often”.
On the other hand, I see a predatory shakedown by an all-powerful dictator, lasciviously demanding human sacrifices from puny people he lords over! He doesn’t wipe out his prey, the Natives, because they are useful to him as a source of humiliating human taxation!
This system that has gone on for decades has created an appeasement mentality amongst the beat-down and enslaved natives, and so when they capture Ann Darrow, they think it will appease the dictator for longer…giving them time for Kong to leave them alone!
THE RESCUE REVENGE!
But Jack Driscoll and the Sailors, they’ve got a different mentality. They’re Confrontational Warriors of the Western Indo-European mold. They’re nobody’s slaves!
They’re not gonna get bossed around, they’re not gonna get told what to do, and they sure as heck aren’t gonna engage in some pay-to-play shakedown at the whims of some Predatory dictator…not with their women!
So they go and fight Kong, and in the best tradition of the Confrontational Warrior, they take the fight to the enemy!
But in true Third World Predatory fashion, Kong retreats deeper into the jungles…refusing to seek a decisive engagement, but retreating to his spider hole…his turf, where mankind doesn’t have the advantage.
And so, the Confrontational Warriors are beset with a dilemma that comes up for all of their kind since the dawn of time: how to negate the Predatory advantage?
Of course, the answer comes from deep within, as Jack Driscol “out-Gs-the-G” and sneaks deeper into Kong’s predatory jungle domain to rescue his princess Ann Darrow! With no advantage other than a knife and a whole lotta guts, Jack Darrow gets the job done!
Perseus and St. George? They woulda been proud!
THE PREDATOR’S SOUL!
While Jack Driscol is en route, we see King Kong fighting Dinosaurs and Snakes…and here we symbolically realize why King Kong lives by a Predatory-Prey ethos that is his hallmark.
In his world, you’re either Predator or Prey, Master or Slave, Top or Bottom. And just because you’re on top, doesn’t mean you’ll be there for long. There are other monsters out there, who see King Kong as the fish in a barrel, the way Kong sees the Natives.
If King Kong is going to stay on top and keep his lascivious gig going, he’s got to “protect his interests” in his female captive Ann Darrow. And so, we find a survival motivation driving his battle with Dinosaurs and Snakes, and a window into the oft-obscured Predatory Soul.
THE MAGICAL SWORD AND SHIELD!
But of course, our Boy gets his Girl, and here is where things get really interesting. The Sailors and the Natives team up together, with the Sailors inspiring the beatdown Natives to throw off their chains through the Confrontational Warrior Spirit!
Force Multiplying their armies together, as so many times have occurred throughout history by Liberator and Liberated, they get King Kong with the help of special Magical Weapons, Machine Guns and Gas!
The Machine Guns and Gas? These are the 20th Century Confrontational Warrior’s Excalibur of Arthurian fame, his mirror shield of Perseus legend, his sword emblazoned with the Phoenix of Conan lore.
It puts them on equal footing against the inhuman, Predatory monsters of the world…mano-a-mano, true to the Confrontational mold.
May the best Man…or Monster!…win!
THE MONSTROUS MISTAKE!
Here James Lafond and I come to a point of convergence in our telling. The Merchant Class in the person of Carl Denham, which has been financing this Faustian adventure, wants to bring King Kong back to the Western World.
Just as the Confrontational Warrior makes Prey of Predators, so they desire Kong to live out a symbolic fate, all to line their pockets.
This decision…it’s a monstrous mistake!
The Merchants pulling the strings should have remembered the words of old John Wayne in True Grit (1971):
“You don’t read a rat its rights, baby sister,” the Duke said. “You either kill it, or you let it be.”
This is a truth both Merchant and Sea-Going Sailor Warrior alike would have to learn this lesson the hard way…for they bring King Kong back to America for exhibition, and in doing so, endanger not just Ann Darrow, but the entire City of New York!
TWO MISTAKES, ONE PRICE
Because the evil was not killed the first time, the Heroic Confrontational Warrior class would have to kill it the second time around.
And so, King Kong, kidnapping his shakedown interest yet again and clamoring upon the Empire State building in a clear bid for Predatory dominance over the human inhabitants of the United States.
In the Empire State Building, King Kong sees a chance to recreate his Predatory slave regime he once ruled on Skull Island. Once again, the humans will just be fish in a barrel to lord over his sick, sadistic will.
But in the same way that our Heroes didn’t learn their lesson the first time, Kong didn’t learn his, either.
Because the Confrontational Warriors sure as heck won’t be taking a tyrannical, Predatory shakedown lying down.
For if they wouldn’t take it on Skull Island, they sure as heck wouldn’t be taking it on their home turf.
THE SKYTOP SHOWDOWN!
And so, the Knights of the Sky arrive! Those heroic Confrontational Warriors riding upon their airborne chargers and armed with the magical swords spewing steel!
Again it is mano-a-mano, man against monster, a truly Confrontational Skytop Showdown!
King Kong, he gets a few of our boys, up close and personal.
But in the end?
We turn the sadistic, tyrannical Predator into helpless, lifeless Prey once and for all.
ONE TALE, TWO TELLINGS
In the end, King Kong can be interpreted in many different ways.
James Lafond and I, we use the same basic foundation, but each look at the tale through different lenses.
Both interpretations shed light on important, timely phenomena that have existed throughout history, and indeed, shape our very world today.
Which one best resonates with you? Why?
Dig down deep inside, for as always…
The Secret lies within!