What Have We Got Against Lizards?

Kong laying the smack down on a giant lizard thing. Source

My wife and a friend recently watched Kong: Skull Island.

Spoiler alert: the titular ape survives. Noticeably different than the original and Peter Jackson versions, which both end with Kong swan diving off the Empire State Building. They’re apparently keeping this Kong around for at least one sequel co-starring the Godzilla from the 2014 reboot.

Anyway, Kong unsurprisingly wrecks a lot of people in the movie, all without leaving Skull Island. Kong is initially presented as the antagonist, until you find out he’s actually the protector of the island. He keeps its native inhabitants (and John C. Reilly) safe from all the other crazy shit that lives there.

Crazy shit that includes these things (seen here chasing Brie Larson):


Two-legged, skull-faced lizards that apparently were partially inspired by the Pokemon Cubone. I can kinda see the resemblance.

Kong tears through dozens of these creatures pretty easily, overpowering them with his shear size and strength (plus, they’re maybe a quarter of his size). The climactic battle scene drops when our hero ape battles the mother of all lizard things, whose seemingly only wish is to kill all the humans on the island and make more lizard babies.

I overall liked the movie, but it did make one point stick out: when large mammalian creatures are the hero, why are reptilians usually the bad guy? This theme goes all the way back to the original King Kong, where he went to town on a t-rex-like dinosaur. Fast forward to Peter Jackson’s version, where he does the same thing but on a much larger scale:

Come at me, bro. Source

I suspect it has something to do with our basic instinct to relate to things that are most like us. Kong is instinctively way more of good guy to us than any giant reptilian creature ever could be. He’s got hair, opposable thumbs and generally human proportions. Reptiles on the other hand are scaly, crawling things that generally look ready to eat pink, hairless mammals at a moment’s notice.

I get this, but it doesn’t mean giant, two-legged lizard creatures don’t have families to feed, too. Skull Island includes the plot point that these lizard things killed all of Kong’s family, making him the last of his kind. But we’re only hearing one side of the story here. What about all the young lizard things Kong’s family must have killed?

Now, Godzilla is a lizard-like animal that is generally perceived as a “good guy,” protecting the Earth from all manner of vicious giant beasts. But, the fact that he walks on two legs like Kong probably helps his perception just a bit. I’ll be interested to see how the eventual reboot of Kong vs. Godzilla will play out. Who, I wonder, will the audience be steered into rooting for? Maybe this match-up will help us all take a serious look at our mammalian vs. reptilian prejudices.

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