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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Imprisoned By The Apes

Where Charlton Heston, and his fellow humans,
were once caged in Malibu Creek State Park.

In the original film version of "Planet of the Apes," as the astronauts flee with the primitive humans through the cornfield, the apes capture many in their nets, while shooting others.  One of the astronauts, Dodge dies from a bullet wound.  In Taylor’s case, a bullet damages his throat.  After their capture, the survivors are taken to Ape City, where they will be put to a variety of purposes.  Taylor ends up under the scrutiny of Zira, an animal psychologist.  He sometimes shares a cell with Nova, a primitive girl.

Not only do the apes keep the humans indoors, but they also bring them outside into a large cage, presumably so they can exercise.  When Zira visits Taylor there, his injured throat prevents him from speaking, so he tries to communicate with her by writing in the dirt.  Then the community leader, Dr. Zaius, arrives.  Taylor keeps hoping Zira will turn around to see what he’s written, as primitive humans have no language skills.  But by the time she turns around, Taylor realizes that Nova has brushed away his words.

The humans are led up these steps from Ape City
 to get their exercise in the cage.

It seems ironic that the concrete pad upon which the large cage was erected still stands, when no sign of the more impressive Ape City exists.  But perhaps this is fitting, as the mere idea of humans being imprisoned by apes must have seemed threatening to 1960s society.  How else can one explain that the image of the humans’ cage takes up the majority of one of the studio posters? 

The staircase leading to the humans' cage.

A chief concern of the film regards to what extent society should be protected from any knowledge that might harm it.  Living in the Information Age, such an idea may seem inconceivable at present, but in earlier eras, any ideas, thoughts, historic documents, or scientific observations that might weaken a given community’s stability were labeled heresy.  Now, facts and ideas ripple through society faster than anyone can control.  Questions as to what type of information might injure a given community have grown largely irrelevant.  The leadership of every group, organization, and nation therefore dedicates a large portion of its energies to limiting the damage such changes might cause. 

A cage with a view.

The point of the movie was never that the apes were needlessly cruel to the humans.  Zira rejoices when she learns that Taylor is as intelligent as herself.  When Dr. Zaius realizes the danger Taylor represents to his society, his first thought is to geld him (prevent him from reproducing), not to kill him.  In many ways, ape society seems more humane than our own.  After all, when they take their captives out for exercise, at least they give the humans a cage with a terrific view.

Dragon Dave

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