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The Origins of King Kong

The Origins of King Kong
This is based on an answer I wrote on Quora


The largest primate to have ever lived is the Gigantopithecus (“giant ape”), which lived in Asia as recently as 100,000 years ago, possibly dying out due to environmental changes or even falling prey to early hominins. Estimates for the creature’s size range from 3 m (9.8 ft) to between 1.8 and 2 m (5.9–6.6 ft), the latter being the modern day range for some gorillas. Of course it’s important to note that these estimates are extrapolated from a few jaw fragments and teeth. To my knowledge, no post cranial material has been discovered.

[Image: GYWdlM.jpg]

Merian C. Cooper, the director of King Kong (1933), is known to have been interested in gorillas since childhood, and he later stated as an adult that he dreamed of making a movie where a giant specimen battled dinosaur-sized Komodo dragons. But I think Cooper may have also been influenced by then current misconceptions about the ape. For instance, the idea of large, powerful primates kidnapping women goes back hundreds of years, appearing in Spanish records during the 16th-century and Chinese records as early as the late Han dynasty (3rd-century). The best piece of art depicting this trope is the gorgeous plaster statue “Gorilla carrying off a woman” by Emmanuel Frémiet, which won him the gold medal at the Paris Salon of 1887.

[Image: tZvm53.jpg]

Most importantly, newspapers often referred to gorillas as giants. The following is an example that I discovered while researching a power point in university:

[Image: YtYLCa.jpg]

The idea of a nine foot tall gorilla is preposterous. You’ll notice that the specimens are associated with British adventurers and prestigious museums. No doubt the size was embellished to not only entertain readers but also to draw foot traffic to said institutions. It’s important that this particular news story came out a mere eleven years prior to the official release of King Kong. Cooper could have read something like it and later (via Cryptomnesia) mistook it for an original idea, increasing the gorilla to an impossible size. The movie no doubt played a part in popularizing stories of mythic giant gorillas.
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