A Movie Review in Two Parts, Part 2 - The Perfect Allegory of Our Time

As we left the theater, Christian was buzzing with excitement. He declared Kong: Skull Island is now his new favorite movie. Well, second favorite right behind Doctor Strange. The jump scares weren't too scary. The combat scenes kept him engaged. He loved seeing the bond built between Kong and the photographer Mason. Marlow's comedic relief made him laugh. He was stunned by the scenery from jungles to village to boneyard, to riverways. And the size of the monstrous King Kong filled him with awe, so much so that he started cheering for the beast before Marlow revealed Kong as the island's guardian.

image courtesy of Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

On the drive home, Christian had one question. "Why was Packard so determined to kill Kong?" He couldn't understand how Packard was unable to see what everyone else understood to be true - that Kong was a hero. He's a good monster. How could Packard be so blinded to hate that he ignored all of the advice given to him?

I gave him the simplest and truest answer I could provide.

Some people live in a world of black and white. For these people, everyone is classified as for us or against us. They divide their world into an us and them. We are the good guys and they are the enemies. Packard was one of these people. He was a career military man fresh from the battles of Vietnam. He thought of the war as a just cause and wanted to continue fighting. With US troops returning home, Packard saw the mission to Skull Island as a new battlefield. War was his purpose and he needed an enemy. As a well-trained soldier, Packard believed he was the good guy which automatically made Kong the villain. The deaths resulting from the initial firefight with the giant ape only served to confirm Packard's preconceived notions. Packard took the loss of life personally and he could only place the blame on Kong.

The beast was nothing more than an enemy to be defeated and no amount of reason could dissuade Packard.

As we talked, I began to explain more. The simple explanation really doesn't adequately answer Christian's question. How could one man's quest for revenge blind him to the goodness of his enemy? Because that's how hatred works in real life. We live in an era of identity politics where our world is divided between us and them. It is easier to scapegoat the other than to accept and remedy our own flaws. We're Americans and they are Mexican immigrants. We're Americans and they are Syrian refugees. We're the moral majority and they advocate gay rights. We're white America and they are black. It makes us afraid and people act stupid when they're scared.

We see this black and white world in our government. The Democrats view themselves as the good guys and the Republicans as treasonous foes. The Republicans think they're the patriots and the Democrats are enemies of the state hellbent on destroying the USA. Congress is eternally deadlocked refusing to come to the bargaining table, constantly seeing the other side as the party of bad ideas.

We see this black and white world in our churches. We want our houses of worship to remain safe for us. We separate into groups: we are saved, they are pagans. We isolate and ignore God's call to preach the gospel to all peoples. We struggle to build any meaningful connection with outside groups from the homeless population to the LGBT community. We are lost trying to help those with addiction or mental illness. We fail to live up to the biblical call to care for orphans, widows, and foreigners. We're us and they're them and it is easier to build a wall to separate us from them than it is to treat them with love like God.

We see this black and white world in armed conflicts on every continent of this planet. The enemy is always dehumanized to absolve soldiers from the emotional toll of warfare. Vietnamese soldiers were called Charlie. Combatants in the Middle East have been called ragheads. We're the good guys and they are the enemy.

There is a problem with such an outlook on life. No one thinks of themselves as the bad guy. No one looks at their actions and think "Yeah, we're totally evil. We're definitely going to hell for this." Even as Bashar al-Assad gasses his own people and drops bombs on schools and hospitals, he sees himself as a hero. The ISIS militants carrying out horrific acts of terror in Paris and London see themselves as holy and just. Vladimir Putin believes he is a good guy. El Chapo thinks he's decent man. Theresa May believes she is on the side of all that is right. President Trump thinks he's the best. Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway all think they speak truth. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan believe they want what is best for our nation. CNN and FOX news portray themselves as the most reliable source of news. Taco Bell claims to serve good food.

In Packard's hatred for Kong, he represents everyone who seeks to separate the world into us and them. He is the living embodiment of Trump's travel bans. He is Brexit. He is China's human rights violations. He is religious extremism. He is patriarchy, homophobia, and discrimination. He is the conflict between police officers and the African American community. He is everyone's racist uncle. He is YouTube's comment sections.

By refusing to listen to the advice of the tracker, photographer, and former WWII pilot, Packard represents everyone who is unwilling to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. He is the lack of empathy that plagues our world. He is the resistance against diversity. He represents those who automatically dismiss anyone who disagrees as wrong. He is everyone you know who will not listen to anyone with differing viewpoints.

From that perspective, Packard is a lot like the angry minority that has taken over our government. He reminds me of the ugliest segments of our culture. He shows us the worst parts of ourselves. Sure, Kong: Skull Island is not a perfect movie, but it is the perfect allegory of our time.

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