Acknowledgements: I would like to thank “Auntie” Ken Roemer for his enthusiasm and interest in “the apes.” In the deserted summer halls of Carlisle, Ken was a welcome friend and interlocutor whose wit and conversation brightened some very long and solitary writing days.
1. Phillip Atiba Goff, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Melissa J. Williams, and Matthew Christian Jackson, “Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization, and Contemporary Consequences.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94:2, 2008; pp.292-306, 293. [return to page 1]
2. Eric Greene, Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race, Politics, and Popular Culture. Wesleyan Press, 1998. 25.
3. In Pierre Boulle’s original novel, La Planète des Singes (1963),the ape/human hierarchy does not function as an allegory for race relations; Boulle’s primary concern was to understand what separates human beings from animals and how human superiority could be asserted and maintained in the face of a challenge to it (Greene 33). Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, foregrounds some of these original themes, locating them within particular issues of concern to twenty-first century audiences. Issues relating to the ethics of bioengineering and big pharma, and the extent to which we should utilize animals as test subjects in human drug trials are opened for examination. To that end, the film also explores the question of species boundaries and what constitutes the difference between the human and the animal.
4. David Denby calls Rise, “shrewd, coherent, and fully felt,” and a “needling rebuke to human vanity.” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/09/05/noble-creatures; Roger Ebert sees Rise as a “traditional hero’s journey,” “surprisingly intimate and wrenching.” And Dawn as a “messy, often sad sequel” exploring the aftermath of revolution wherein the “tribe’s survival must be purchased at the cost of its soul.” https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-2014; The New York Times’ A.O. Scott suggests that while Dawn “paints a darker, scarier picture of the future,” it ultimately champions “tolerance and cooperation.” https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/movies/review-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-continues-the-saga.html. While most mainstream media critics see Rise and Dawn as transcending the racial politics of the earlier franchise, many bloggers have addressed the racial politics of the film, directly. For the range of these, see
5. Jar Jar Binks, reviled by many Star Wars fans, is the controversial character who appears in Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace. He is widely considered to be a racial caricature, resembling the stage persona of the lazy Stepin Fetchit, in addition to exhibiting traits associated with blackface minstrelsy.
6. In my book, Almost Human, But Not Quite: Hollywood, Race, and the Rise of Donald Trump, I explore these ideas as they relate to other films and television shows produced during the Obama Presidency. Manuscript in progress.
7. See Kellner and Ryan, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film. Indiana and Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1988; Kellner, Cinema Wars. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2010.
8. Isiah Lavender III, Race in American Science Fiction. Bloomington: Indian UP, 2011. 7.
12. Ralina L. Joseph, “Imagining Obama: Reading Overtly and Inferentially Racist Images of our 44th President, 2007-2008.” Communication Studies 62:4, 389-405.
13. “‘Ape in heels’: W.Va. mayor resigns amid controversy over racist comments about Michelle Obama.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/11/14/ape-in-heels-w-va-officials-under-fire-after-comments-about-michelle-obama/?utm_term=.08ee06ba4872
14. For a collective sampling of these images see, http://www.historyonthenet.com/authentichistory/diversity/african/3-coon/6-monkey/
15. Eric Greene, Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race, Politics, and Popular Culture. Wesleyan Press, 1998. 176.
17. I examine the film’s treatment of bioengineering and its exploration of species boundaries in my book, Almost Human, But Not Quite: Hollywood, Race, and the Rise of Donald Trump. In progress.
19. Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the Unites States. 3rd edition. New Yok: Routledge, 2014. 190. [return to page 2]
20. Doulgas Kellner, Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in the Bush-Cheney Era. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2010, 2.
22. The Watts “riots,” occurring from August 11 to 16, 1965 in the poor, largely African American Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, is considered to be the largest race-related conflict of the Civil Rights period. The fighting followed the arrest by a white police officer of a black motorist, Marquette Frye, for suspicion of drunk driving and resulted in a violent confrontation between onlookers and police, exacerbated by claims of police brutality. Thirty-four people were killed, hundreds arrested, and numerous businesses were looted or destroyed. The National Guard was mobilized to restore peace and order. Notably, the police chief of Los Angeles at that time, William Parker, compared the rioters to “monkeys in the zoo.” http://time.com/3974595/watts-riot-1965-history/
23. In Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), Caesar finds a recording of an interview with his father, Cornelius, from 1972. When asked how apes first acquired the power of speech, Cornelius responds: “They learned how to refuse. On a historic day, an ape spoke a word which had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He said ‘no!’”
24. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness. New York: The New Press, 2010, 2012, 7.
25. The killing of black 19-year-old Timothy Thomas by police on April 7, 2001 led to rioting in the city of Cincinnati and was the largest scale racial uprising since 1992.
26. Between “1965 and 1968 three hundred race-related disturbances and race-related violent confrontations, usually referred to as ‘riots,’ gripped the nation, involving an estimated half million African Americans, a number equivalent to the number of US soldiers serving at the time in Vietnam. The battles resulted in over eight thousand causalities” (Greene 79).
28. An investigation of the incident by the Department of Justice, published on March 4, 2015, supported Wilson’s version of events, based on DNA evidence, and found witness statements suggesting Brown was raising his hands to surrender were “inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence” and others were “materially inconsistent” with prior statements by the same witnesses. https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/doj_report_on_
29. Quoted in Michael Tesler, Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 231. See also, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/04/the-12-key-highlights-from-the-dojs-scathing-ferguson-report/?utm_term=.9226908bbb17
30. Tesler, Post-Racial, 192.
31. Howard Kurtz, “How a false media narrative made Ferguson worse.” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/26/how-false-media-narrative-made-ferguson-worse.html; Ron Christie, “How the Media and Obama made Ferguson worse.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-media-and-obama-made-ferguson-even-worse
36. http://www.salon.com/2017/04/27/trolling-for-a-race-war-neo-nazis-are-trying-to-bait-leftist-antifa-activists-into-violence-and-radicalize-white-people/; http://www.vocativ.com/338228/white-supremacists-dallas-police-shootings-police/
37. For more on Jacobs’ role in the film and the positioning of African American actors alongside the apes in Rise, see Ingram, Almost Human, But Not Quite: Hollywood, Race, and the Rise of Donald Trump, in progress. [return to page 3]
38. Tesler, 208. Fn.15, 16.
39. Until 2004, when the federal Departments of Justice and Education declared the practice “inconsistent with federal l aw,” many schools in the south crowned separate black and white homecoming officers. In addition to racially segregated proms, such practices were attempts by schools to challenge the spirit of integration. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/10/13/07ocr.h24.html?tkn=
40. Eric D. Knowles, Brian S. Lowery, Elizabeth Shulman, Rebecca L. Schaumberg. “Race, Ideology, and the Tea Party: A Longitudinal Study.” http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0067110
51. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2015/05/28/113436/8-facts-you-should-know-about-the-criminal-justice-system-and-people-of-color/; http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Uneven-Justice-State-Rates-of-Incarceration-by-Race-and-Ethnicity.pdf
[return to page 4]
53. See Omi and Winant; Tesler and O’Sears, Obama’s Race; Belcher, Black Man in the White House; Anderson, White Rage.
54. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/08/01/trump-is-the-first-republican-in-modern-times-to-win-the-partys-nomination-on-anti-minority-sentiments/?utm_term=.7d99495cbe16; https://www.vox.com/2016/9/19/12933072/far-right-white-riot-trump-brexit; http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-fearful-and-the-frustrated
55. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/08/01/trump-is-the-first-republican-in-modern-times-to-win-the-partys-nomination-on-anti-minority-sentiments/?utm_term=.7d99495cbe16; Belcher, Black Man in the White House; Tesler, Post-Racial or Most Racial
62. For a detailed account of the raid of Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, see http://www.cbsnews.com/news/seals-first-hand-account-of-bin-laden-killing/
64. In Planet of the Apes (1968), Nova is a mute human paired off for procreation with Taylor. He rescues her when he escapes captivity, although both soon learn that escape is impossible.
65. The comparisons of Caesar and Moses are many, both in the original franchise and in the reboot. In Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Caesar’s parents, like Moses’s parents, defied the order that all baby apes be killed by hiding him in a circus, where he was later adopted. In the current film, Caesar liberates the apes from slavery and leads them to the promised land.
66. Of course, we do well to question why such a savior needs to be white, and why whiteness is, at least in the case of Nova, tied to purity and innocence.