Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Intelligent Gorillas
There's something about intelligent gorilla characters. They fascinate me. Maybe it comes from watching Planet of the Apes with my dad when I was a kid. Or maybe it's Grape Ape or Tarzan movies. Maybe it was the pet monkey my kindergarten teacher had, who looked like a diminutive Asian man who didn't like us kids all that much.

More likely, it came from all those childhood trips to the Cincinnati zoo. In the 70s and 80s, the apes had the nicest part of the zoo. It was the only place that seemed to have shade, and you could cool down by standing near the waterfall feature in those days before misters were installed everywhere and air conditioning was used in the buildings. I loved visiting  the apes though. Plus, one of the apes was named Samantha like me.

I can remember watching the apes and being both fascinated and appalled at their captivity at the same time. They have such humanly expressive faces and obvious intelligence. They interacted like human families do. You could see that they were not happy with their lot, but, even as a child, I could see that the Cincinnati zoo gorillas had it good compared to a lot of animals in captivity.
I must not be the only child who ever gazed upon an ape and saw a kinship there because they're all over fiction and popular culture. From the Planet of the Apes (oldschool AND reboot) to Grape Ape, from Chuck Wendig's Professor Khan in Dinopocalypse Now to Winston in the upcoming Overwatch videogame. There's Grod on Justice League, too. Heck even King Kong had at least emotional intelligence.

Remember Koko? She was an ape famous for learning to communicate in sign language. I saw a show or two about her when I was a child. (My father and I liked to watch animal shows together). How heartbreaking and awe-inspiring when she kept signing "baby" after her baby was taken from her. If she had spoken aloud, cursing the damn, dirty humans who kept her caged like Charlton Heston cursed his hairy captors in the film, who would be cast as the villain in this piece?

I am drawn to these kind of characters, even in their cheesiest incarnations. There's something intriguing about the line we have drawn to delineate human from beast, and the ways that line is crossed in both directions.


  1. There is something intriguing about that! I never thought about it that way before, but it makes complete sense. I think we're overdue for a really good, original take on the apes vs. humans story.

  2. What's funny is that I watched Planet of the Apes yesterday. Those movies have always creeped me out. There's just something about talking apes that gives me the willies. lol

  3. I sometimes think they are more intelligent than us - they haven't spend their time destroying their own habitats and draining the land of everything they need for survival!
    Popping by on the A to Z Road Trip

    1. True. "Progress" isn't necessarily a sign of progress.