MARKY MARK IS REVOLTING!
Outside agitator defies the un-American apes
"Who are they?" asks Marky Mark in Planet of the Apes,
as primitive humans trickle over the hilltops into his renegade camp. "They
all want to see the human who defies the apes!" is the reply. Marky
is a visionary American who has brought a new concept to the Planet:
the concept of revolution. A major difference between this current remake
of Planet of the Apes (the publicists demand that it be called a
"re-imagining" but I don't care) and the original film which kicked
off the series back in the mid-sixties is the presence of talking humans
before the hero's arrival. This makes the structure of the slave/pet society
unclear; humans seem like they have a lazy scriptwriter rather than any
In the original, Charlton Heston finds a planet full of talking apes
and mute humans. Captured and prodded by the apes, he finally cries out
"Get your filthy hands off me, you damn dirty ape!" turning the
planet upside-down: the apes must destroy him as a threat to their supremacy.
In the third film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, two talking
apes (Cornelius and Zira) are transported back in time to the 70's. Now,
the story is reversed, and the talking apes pose a threat to humanity.
Conquest of... , (film #4, directed by the snappy J. Lee Thomson)
takes place in 1991(!) when humans have first begun training apes as pets
and slaves. Led by the talking offspring of Cornelius and Zira, apes overthrow
humanity and the stage is retroactively set for film #1.
Both the old and new films seem trapped in a reactionary definition of
popular resistance as something brought on by outside agitators. During
the Vietnam war, US authorities repeatedly accused "outside agitators,"
usually commie Russkies, of initiating anti-war sentiment and provoking
hippie protest. Today, this is still the standard reaction to anti-globalization
action the world round. A so-called cadre of "professional activists"
tour the planet in search of contented consumers whom they can rile with
crazy-talk about the Evils of Corporate Rule. Though the outside agitators
are heroes in both Apes series, the subtle spinning of reactionary theory
into popular consciousness remains effective.
A deviant talking ape or human was the crux of each of the original films.
In this new film, the other humans can talk, though they can't rap. Why,
then, do both apes and humans arch one eyebrow at Marky Mark and say, "This
one seems... different?" What is it that makes him a mystic revolutionary?
The answer comes from Marky Mark, when asked what tribe he's from: "US
Air Force!" So: his secret power is that he's an American.
Ah, America, that revolutionary dynamo. Born and raised in the USA,
fed corn from Iowa and guns from Texas, Marky Mark could never accept the
yoke of slavery. Nor could he stand idly by while this planet of non-Yanks
foolishly accept their backward state, like non-Yanks everywhere on our
America once had some justification for bragging about revolution. When
the French revolted in 1789, Yankee liberalism was a major influence, and
the gift of the Statue of Liberty is proof of lasting gratitude from some
French republicans at least. Throughout the 19th Century, Europe quaked
in fear of the Yankee example and its offspring. The 1837 revolts in Upper
and Lower Canada, widespread European upheaval in 1848, Nihilist anti-Tsarism
in late-century Russia, constant wobbling of France between Empire, Republic,
and Commune, and so on, shook the very sociopolitical foundation of the
But the American example did not necessarily feel the need to reiterate
itself too often. In fact, when in 1860 southern US states themselves decided
to throw off the yoke of faraway central government, Lincoln demonstrated
just what the USA really thought of revolution: he freed the slaves in the
rogue states as a punitive measure and crushed the fledgling nation in war.
Unfortunately, Planet's surprise ending seems to deliberately miss
the boat on a good Lincoln/ slavery insight in favour of the world's most
ham-handed and irrelevant sequel set-up.
By the 20th Century, America seemed to have firmly fixed on an anti-revolutionary
course: they currently defend the pre- revolutionary Chinese government
in exile on Taiwan; they sent troops in 1917 to fight for the Tsarist Whites
against the Reds in Russia; they have tried everything under the sun to
end Cuba's revolution; they steadfastly ignored Spain's revolution; and
let's not even talk about El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Why, then, is Hollywood so fixated on Yankee as rebel? Why don't they
update their rhetoric for the 21st century? Let's computer-animate James
Dean for Superpower without a Cause. Or get fatcat Marlon Brando
as a tank commander in The Tame One.
Unfortunately, the way things are going, the biggest film of the century
will be Planet of the Americans.