Planet of the Apes: A Comically Liberal Experience

If Bernie Sanders hadn’t elected to run for president I might call Tim Burton’s 2001 film, Planet of the Apes, the ultimate liberal wet dream. From the blatant commentary on the ignorance of racism and xenophobia in a developed society, to the obvious attack on animal cruelty, fourteen years later I am still enraptured.

Captain Leo Davidson, depicted by the young and ever handsome Mark Wahlberg, self-reflexively judges his fellow humans, realizing throughout the film how truly awful they’ve become. When training chimpanzees to fly in space he fails to question the work they are doing. However, Davidson is wracked with guilt when his own chimp is all but sacrificed in the name of science. Although on some level Davidson has bought into the system, he is able to think for himself and thus to challenge the institution that is built around protecting his life in favor of another.

Davidson is brought into a land where he is stripped of his privilege and thus the audience is forced to identify with the oppressed minority. Humans are branded like livestock and sold as pets and slaves. While on some level Davidson is subconsciously aware of his objection to animal cruelty, it is only in this new world that he realizes that such treatment is analogous to that of so many underprivileged minorities.

Helena Bonham Carter, who will forever play herself in any given role, is human rights activist, Ari. In conversation Davidson brings up the the fact that his “apes couldn’t talk.” Ari counters, “Maybe they chose not to… given the way you treated them.” This poignant statement alludes to the idea that minorities are often unable to stand up for themselves because they are taught that their voices don’t matter. When the humans are locked in cages they don’t fight because they believe such action to be a fruitless lack of energy.

The criminals of the film, the apes, not monkeys because, “Monkeys are further down the evolutionary ladder, just above humans,” are extremist military leaders who call for martial law at the threat of just one rogue human. Violence has never been the answer, and yet it seems to be where society¬†turns. Take the recent news about the vast number of black men shot by the police, often several men against one. Or better yet, look at how Americans react to ISIS. A few bad men have led some to believe that we must rid the world of Muslims. This level of hate and oppression plagues “evolved” civilizations. As Captain Leo Davidson declares, “the smarter we get, the more dangerous we become.”



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