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Is "Planet of the Apes" Anti-bonoboist?

In the Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen notes varying ideological complaints about the current Number One movie, including:

Not Natalie Angier’s kind of bonobo

Is ‘Planet of the Apes’ a left-wing apologia or a right-wing screed?

… 3. Defamation of bonobos.

It’s no secret that the bonobo is the favorite primate of the left. That’s because bonobos are non-aggressive, have sex all the time with just about anybody, and have a reputedly matriarchal society. Why can’t we humans be more like bonobos?

But as Susan Block, writing in Counterpunch, notes, the makers of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” seemed to have gone out of their way to:

“[D]efame the good name ‘bonobo’ by calling the most violent, vicious, murderous, warmongering—not to mention the ugliest and scariest-looking—ape in the film a ‘bonobo.’ ” “Excuse me? This is like calling the Dalai Lama a Nazi or a dolphin a shark. …

“But that’s just what ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ does with the character of ‘Koba,’ the brutal ‘bonobo’ (a CGI based on the motion-capture performance by Toby Kebell) who kills without remorse and bullies the other apes into forming a fighting force that almost destroys the human race with a maniacal grin on his face.”

P.S. In another century far-away, I wrote about the great bonobo controversy.

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30 Comments to "Is "Planet of the Apes" Anti-bonoboist?"

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  1. anony-mouse
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    Wasn’t ‘Koba’ Joseph Dzhugashvili’s other nickname?

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  2. Jefferson
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    Mr. Sailer what is your take on “The Purge Anarchy” ?

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  3. B&B
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    Original planet of the apes films were clearly sympathetic to the apes (=blacks) but over time the franchise implicitly touched on anti-white racism, as well as some sympathy to the working class humans (=whites) being disenfranchised by the use of cheap ape (=immigrant) labour. The franchise also included commentary on the Cold War and messages clearly questing the morality of both animal testing and abortion. TBH modern Hollywood wouldn’t dare make a film so politically charged nowadays and when mainstream movies touch upon controversial social themes, its either anvilling like Avatar else just playing with peoples fears about whatever. Not about stimulating peoples thoughts.

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  4. Skyislander
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    Actually, bonobo-ism makes for a good ‘right-wing’ argument.

    Though Portland is very Liberal, why is it such a nice livable peaceable orderly place? It has lots of whites and few blacks. So, for whites to feel safe and well(and paradoxically enjoy being ‘nice liberals’) , they must live apart from lots of blacks.

    So, bonobos are Portland apes who can afford to be mild and nice(or nicer) because they live apart from Detroit apes, the chimps and gorillas. If bonobos had to live in competition with chimps, they would either get slaughtered or would have to turn mean and nasty themselves in order to survive.

    Since bonobo-niceness depends on their geographic separation from chimpanzees, it’s actually a ‘xenophobic’ and ‘isolationist’ argument that is usually associated with the ‘right’.
    Also, the argument that bonobos are nicer than chimps for genetic reasons means that biology does matter, which is a ‘racist’ argument, and that is also associated with the ‘right’.

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  5. Skyislander
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    Long live Twilight.

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  6. Skyislander
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    “Is ‘Planet of the Apes’ a left-wing apologia or a right-wing screed?”

    It’s a capitalist enterprise that uses monkeys to rake in the moneys–and from all sides that think the movie support their own views. Making monkeys of all of us.

    There’s no business like monkey business.

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  7. bleach
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    I thought the writers were making a nurturist statement, since the bonobo was turned into a vicious killer because of the abuse he suffered abuse at the hands of humans in the research labs. What’s the matter Charlotte, don’t believe in the blank slate of bonobo psychology? Racist.

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  8. Skyislander
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    Still no gripe in the media about gibbons being left out again.

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  9. Retired
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    I’m talking about Catholicism being a spiritually influential part of Christianity, not merely a social and intellectual institution.

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  10. Lurker
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    It’s a capitalist enterprise that uses monkeys to rake in the moneys–and from all sides that think the movie support their own views. Making monkeys of all of us.

    Quite so.

    However what right-wing views can be wrung out of it by tipping your head on one side and scrunching your eyes half-closed are likely to be extremely subtle/very allegorical. Pretty much there only as Easter eggs for those on the right of the bell curve. And they will all be quite easily deniable in the very unlikely event the makers are ever called on it.

    The left-wing, anti-white, anti-western messages otoh will be right up there on the screen in all their CGI, 3D, Imax, Dolby, THX, Technicolor glory punching you in the face over and over – and no one watching will fail to absorb them at some level, no matter how double digit their IQ.

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  11. Skyislander
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    Here’s one of the big problems with telling the origins of how Planet of the Apes came about.

    Any story and explanation will simply be too preposterous.

    This is why the novel and first movie work best. There is no explanation as to HOW it happened or apened. Rather, we have to take it on faith that it’s an ape-ruled world, and then work on the allegorical meanings as to the story.
    Indeed, that’s why allegories are allegories. They don’t have to make scientific or literal sense.
    It’s like one would have to be a fool to actually work out a ‘scientific’ theory/story as to why the island of little people came about in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS. You just have to take it on faith.

    And such wink-wink humorousness was written into the original novel and movie. We were never supposed to ask how it really happened since any kind of ‘rational’, ‘scientific’, or ‘historical’ explanation would be preposterous and laughable. This is why the POTA series works well in ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES too since that film too offers no explanation as to how the apes would eventually come to take over the planet. We just have to believe that it will ‘somehow’ happen.

    Allegories and satires are really about our worlds(reflected through ‘other worlds’), and they don’t have to make literal sense, nor do we have to make sense of their origins. Indeed, doing so would be like Dustin Hoffman in RAIN MAN trying to make sense of ‘who’s on first’ joke. It only works as a joke within its own little universe of meanings.

    Indeed, even though the original POTA series produced five movies, the makers understood how allegory works, which is why they skipped entire chunks of the story to arrive at totally different scenarios WITHOUT DETAILED EXPLANATION.
    So, in CONQUEST, we don’t see apes taking over the world but only a city.
    And in the next film BATTLE, we suddenly find ourselves in a totally different setting, and we have to take it on faith that, well, things are just the way they are in this one.

    But the new POTA series seems to be painstakingly and ‘scientifically’ and ‘socially’ and ‘historically’ trying to explain how and why the ape takeover happened. But it’s turning allegory into a straight story, which is like trying to make literal sense of a joke.
    It’s not so much Planet of the Apes as Explanation of the Apes, making monkeys out of all of us.

    The original POTA series are loosely connected in plot, but each exists in its own closed off and thematically separate allegorical universes. They can be enjoyed independently of the others.
    In POTA, various apes represent different human social types, and they treat humans as humans treat animals. The ape-Taylor conflict in POTA would make pretty good propaganda material for PETA, i.e. how would we like it if we animals had the power and treated us like we treated them? In that sense, I think POTA’s main concerns seem more ecological than social.

    BENEATH is about militarist takeover and apocalyptic militarism in general, sort of like DR. STRANGELOVE of the apes. Ape militarists vs human nuker-worshipers.
    A Cold War ape movie. SEVEN GORILLAS IN MAY.
    ESCAPE could be seen as a Jewish emigre tale, persecution of intellectuals by men in power, the Rosenbergs or Oppenheimer thing, etc. It’s interesting that the threat posed by Zera and her hubby ape seem intellectual than physical. Indeed, one of the smart apes is killed by a caged gorilla.
    CONQUEST is clearly about black power and urban riots(and the ape threat is very physical and violent), though in a way, Caesar can be seen as a kind of Jewish-black mulatto leader of the urban rebels.
    BATTLE is clearly about the need for racial harmony and forgiveness: integration and all that.

    The original series doesn’t show how POTA turned into the world of BENEATH, how the apes in BENEATH managed to fly the spaceship into the human world in ESCAPE, how human society suddenly became so dependent on ape labor in CONQUEST, and how the nuclear holocaust happened that led to the world of BATTLE. We just have to take it on faith in each installment, which is why each can work as allegories.

    But allegorical emphases fly out the window in the new series that literally and painstakingly try to explain how such-and-such really and truly led to such-and-such. Thus, characters and things lose their allegorical meaning because everything is so grounded in reality and has to be taken literally.

    This also goes for the zombie movies. You just have to take it on faith that the dead began to work. Any scientific explanation will simply be too ridiculous.
    And zombie sequels simply place you in a new setting where zombies are taking over or took over the world. And again, we have to take in faith and just focus on the allegorical meaning of the new setting since it’d be ridiculous to ‘scientifically’ and literally demonstrate how such slow moving creatures in Romero’s movies could really take over the world–especially in nation where there are more guns than people.

    But some of today’s movies try to get so serious with stuff, indeed as if the stuff has to be explained and demonstrated as really and truly plausible according to some scientific-sounding principles or socially demonstrable events.

    Did we really need a serious dramatic three-part biography of Batman?
    Do we need something like SKYFALL that tries to present 007 as a realistic character with a hurt soul and bruised body suffering from the aging process?

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  12. Cookies
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    If I hadn’t read it here (and in reviews) I wouldn’t have known that Koba (Stalin?) was a bonobo. I think this is something that only media people could obsess about. Really stupid.

    Regarding bonobos, your 1999 article cautioning us not to jump to conclusions about their pacificness was perceptive. I do not believe that de Waal studied bonobos in the wild, therefore his observations are tainted.

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  13. syon
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    skyislander:”BENEATH is about militarist takeover and apocalyptic militarism in general, sort of like DR. STRANGELOVE of the apes. Ape militarists vs human nuker-worshipers.
    A Cold War ape movie. SEVEN GORILLAS IN MAY.
    ESCAPE could be seen as a Jewish emigre tale, persecution of intellectuals by men in power, the Rosenbergs or Oppenheimer thing, etc. It’s interesting that the threat posed by Zera and her hubby ape seem intellectual than physical. Indeed, one of the smart apes is killed by a caged gorilla.
    CONQUEST is clearly about black power and urban riots(and the ape threat is very physical and violent), though in a way, Caesar can be seen as a kind of Jewish-black mulatto leader of the urban rebels.
    BATTLE is clearly about the need for racial harmony and forgiveness: integration and all that.”

    RE: ESCAPE, you are overlooking the theme of demographic change. Hasslein’s* actions are meant to stop the apes from reproducing. Hence, the true threat in the film is biological, not ideational. However, only Hasslein has the foresight to think in terms of future generations:

    “That’s what I’m worried about, later. Later we’ll do something about pollution! Later we’ll do something about the population exploding! Later we’ll do something about the nuclear war! You act as if we have all the time in the world. How much time has the world got! Somebody has to begin to care.”

    The American political establishment, in contrast, can think only in terms of the next election (cf the President’s response to news of an ape ruled future:”I doubt that we shall still be in office by then.”).They lack Hasslein’s perception that society is a covenant between the present generation and those who are yet to come.

    *the key human scientist in the film, played by COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT’s Eric Braeden

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  14. syon
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    anony-mouse:”Wasn’t ‘Koba’ Joseph Dzhugashvili’s other nickname?”

    Yep.


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  15. Actually I think that a lot of info about pygmy chimps or bonobos is simply never reported to the benighted masses by various biologists, they were shocked by the revelations about chimps and other primates were so violent. I recall one saying words to the effect that bonobos were our last chance to present a pacifistic primate species to our fellow human beings.

    I remember seeing a book which consisted of articles intended for an academic audience which basically showed from field data that bonobos were very similar to their common chimpanzee cousins in most respects in the wild. Female chimps have sex 100 percent of the time during the female’s estrous cycle, bonobos do it at a 95 percent rate, seems like a pretty minor difference, they also don’t have sex any more often than regular chimps do in their natural environment. BTW, Frans de Waal was one the co-editors the collection, so he apparently knows these facts and yet he still cites a higher rate of sex between bonobos than chimps ( Based on data collected from bonobos in zoos, not the wild ) and still argues that a majority of bonobo’s sex is not for reproduction, like with humans, despite an article he supervised showing a 95 percent rate.

    Considering that field biologists who study this species are probably a lot fewer in number than those that study other apes, and the fact that some of them were drawn to study them for seemingly ideological reasons ( like the comment about bonobos being our last chance ) don’t hold your breath waiting for hard, unbiased field data about them getting out to the media. I just looked up the title on Amazon, it was first published in 2001, more than enough time for de Waal to correct any misunderstanding the general public might have about the topic and yet he hasn’t, to these people the lie must be protected.

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  16. Is “Planet of the Apes” anti-bonoboist? | Reaction Times
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    […] Source: Steve Sailer […]

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  17. Skyislander
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    “RE: ESCAPE, you are overlooking the theme of demographic change. Hasslein’s* actions are meant to stop the apes from reproducing. Hence, the true threat in the film is biological, not ideational.”

    True enough, but what he fears isn’t only quantity but quality. There being lots of dumb apes is no threat to the human race.
    The real problem is that Zera and Corny will give birth to SMART apes, indeed apes that might be even smarter than mankind. So, it’s not ideational but the threat is still intellectual as smart parents give birth to smart kids.
    So, there is a kind of a fear of the apekenazi genes.

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  18. Jefferson
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    The evil antagonist in “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” is that extremely ugly looking ape Koba. In the trailers though they edit it enough to make it seem that Gary Oldman is the antagonist.

    Koba was an ape version of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. For once the main evil antagonist in a Hollywood film was not a White guy, lol.

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  19. syon
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    skyislander:”True enough, but what he fears isn’t only quantity but quality. There being lots of dumb apes is no threat to the human race.
    The real problem is that Zera and Corny will give birth to SMART apes, indeed apes that might be even smarter than mankind. So, it’s not ideational but the threat is still intellectual as smart parents give birth to smart kids.
    So, there is a kind of a fear of the apekenazi genes.”

    Mulatto elite leading a revolution is certainly something that we have seen in the past.


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  20. B&B
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    Not all bonobos are sexy and not all of them are vegetarian or nonviolent. Like the human animal, the other apes have their cultural differences within species.

    Likewise gorillas might never have been the monsters of fiction but more sober African folklore about gorillas still suggests they used to be more variable, despatching and carrying off the duikers snared by human hunters or stamping the ground to scare small mammals out if their burrows. Both these behaviours are attested for other primates else for other large omnivorous mammals tending towards herbivory. Other prosaic African folklore about animals has been demonstrated true, so like Vernon Reynolds I have no problem assuming them probably true before human pressures created a cultural bottleneck.

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  21. I’ve always been fascinated by the bonobo enthusiasts’ assumption that non-aggressive people get more sex. I think it’s the other way around.

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  22. gu
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    “This is like calling the Dalai Lama a Nazi or a dolphin a shark. …”

    The ignorance hurts. A lot.

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  23. GTRman
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    Of course, in these situations, one should always ask: Qui Bonobo ?

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  24. Reggin
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    No, it’s anti-gibbonist.

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  25. Glaivester
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    “Like calling a dolphin a shark”

    I’m fairly certain that dolphins are very much more aggressive than a lot of members of the shark family.

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  26. Skyislander
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    Dolphins can be more aggressive than sharks but also much nicer. They are like us in that way.

    Sharks are always just sharks: brainless killers.

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  27. Reggin
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    Dolphins are large, aggressive predators that for some reason have no taste for humans. Or maybe they feel that humans are simply too big for them. Never mind most dolphins can cut an unarmed person to pieces if they really wanted. I really doubt that small fish think of dolphins as nice guys (as they are to humans at least some of the time.)

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  28. reiner Tor
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    Some sharks feed on plankton. Orcas are also dolphins, and they (or at least one of their species) feed mostly on whales.


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  29. Steve Austen
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    “[D]efame the good name ‘bonobo’ by calling the most violent, vicious, murderous, warmongering—not to mention the ugliest and scariest-looking—ape in the film a ‘bonobo.’ ”

    Paul Hewson finally gets to “Kill the Boer”?

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  30. Father Knows Best: Eclectic Late July Edition | Patriactionary
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    […] Sailer: A Better MacGuffin for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”; Is “Planet of the Apes” Anti-bonoboist?; Johnny Winter, RIP; A Little Over the Top, But Still …; What It’s Like to be a […]

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