Koba socializing with humans

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

When I think about some of my favorite movies, they contain a sense of the dynamics of a family, whether it is by blood or by situation.  The Incredibles is a fantastic example of a family at the center of the story and how, when forced to confront his own mortality, at his core Mr. Incredible finds that family is the most important thing in his life.  Stalag 17 is about a family in a single room wooden cell in a POW camp and even though they argue and kid and get on each other’s nerves, they will risk their lives for each other.  The Philadelphia Story revolves around a family’s plan for a wedding one weekend on their estate.  Up is built on scrapbook glimpses of a life spent together as a family.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes contains what it means to have family and what a family is as one of its themes.  Humans as a family.  Apes as a family.  The family of Caesar and the family of the lead human Malcolm played by Jason Clarke.  Family by blood and new families after loved ones perish.

It is dealing with the idea of ape families that becomes problematic in my mind.  Scientifically, we know that chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have familial bonds.  We can see those attachments as we stare at them through windows in zoos as the elders have learned to turn their backs to our prying eyes.  There are blood families and communities as families.  Yet, we don’t really care much about what happens to them because they can’t tell us how separation from their family feels.  We hope they forget if they ever get sent to a new zoo or study facility.  We hope that any new introductions into a community will forget the families left behind in the wild or their previous place of captivity.  It would be different if our apes, the ones that we see, could scream at us like Caesar and tell us that we won’t threaten or separate their family.

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