The Human Predicament
In both the film and novel, Pierre Boulle and Franklin J. Schaffner ofer a compelling narrative of how humans interact in society and through a system of hierarchy. Although Boulle and Schaffner incorporate slightly different elements in both tales, the message is the same. The creators of both the film and novel effectively tell a chilling story about social class, authoritarian views, experimental science, sexism, and war. Texts relevant to Planet of the Apes, is Discipline & Punish, A Clock Work Orange, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451. The bigger implications perceived from of Planet of the Apes is what it reveals about the human race and how we interact with one another in society.
Much of what is talked about in Planet of the Apes and above texts exists in our world in some form or another.
One of the main themes in Planet of the Apes is the example of social hierarchy.
Social hierarchy is all around and is type of social function in life that will never go away. Near and far, populations of people experience the “utopia and “dystopia” of a hierarchy system. Whether is it be in non-western or not, people are divided by color, race, and economic status.
The clear and undeniable social hierarchy in Planet of the Apes is by all means representative of the wicked hierarchy that exsists today. Schaffner brings forth to audiences a dived simian race of Chimpanzees, Orangutans, and Gorilla’s. The Chimpanzees are the scientists, Orangutans are the elite, and the Gorilla’s are the labor workers. In our own society, the Chimpanzee’s are the middle class college educated beings, the Orangutans are the privileged, and the Gorillas are a class labor workers that either don’t contribute to society, or are considered police officers.
A more analytical observation of Schaffner’s meaningful insertion of a dived simian race is the message that society is not just divided, but unequal. Moreover, Schaffner’s message about humans is meaningful because one of the greatest and lingering problematic issues is the gap racial and economic gap between the rich and poor, colored and non-colored.
In Planet of the Apes and in society, people this message about society being unequal is the example that people think other people are more valuable over others. I think this insertion of the film definitely speaks to racism, in that whites, the more historically “valuable” race are the Orangutan’s in the movie. The Orangutan’s in the movie were did not consider themselves equal to other simian class divisions, along with the intruding “humans.”
Interestingly, the simian race was made up of different shades of black. Was Planet of the Apes saying something about African Americans? Or was the Planet of the Apes revealing how humans of different colors today dominate each other. For example, back in time and right now, lighter people are respected more. What is even more interesting is the elite Orangutan’s are the more intelligent and valuable Simian’s.
The next analytical observation about the movie is the time in which the movie came about. In 1968, when the movie came out, the African-American civil rights movement was fresh. Why did Schaffner make a movie about simians during this time? Did it have anything to do with African-American’s? Was the Simian race designed just for Sci-Fi, or to represent humans in a sneaky way? More than any of the three possible answers, I think Schaffner creatively wanted the Apes to represent humans. More interestingly, next interesting powerful message about the film is during the time
The Second main theme in the film is Authoritorianism. In the film, the elite orangutans that represent our own perhaps political elite are dogmatic and strictly control the simian race. Anyone who wishes to challenge the simian government is practically condemned. For example, in the popular tribunal scene where Zira challenges her superiors by giving them scientific facts that reveal humans once existed in their own society. Today, if anyone challenges the elite or government, then they may very well be entering into a “forbidden zone,” a zone that must not be questioned or confronted.
The most recent example in today’s society might be concerning former President Bush and his argument that weapons of mass destruction were found in the Middle East. In fact, when all hell broke loose and America want to War, he wanted the media, “journalists” to report anything other than what was considered fair, accurate, objective. The message sent to the media and to American’s was that the government, like the Orangutan’s were unreceptable and superiority. Our government is the command structure, just like it is in the Orangutan command structure.
In a more analytical observation, speaking to authoritianism, the tribunal scene and politics, I think Schaffner was providing an example to the audience in regards to how the politically elite interacts with the middle class in our own society and how our own government silences those who challenge doctrines of America.
The next observed main theme in Planet of the Apes is experimental science. In Planet of the Apes, the dark side of government science experimentation is brought forth. Of course, in both the film and novel, Taylor or Ulysse’s friend become lobotomized. Lobotomy is serious and because it was an experiment, I wondered what was message was being presented about society. The chilling conclusion and very fact is, science experiment is in some cases designed to exercise power and domination. In fact, the dark side of science experimentation implemented by society sometimes has to do with reprisal.
In Planet of the Apes, lobotomy was explored because the humans threatened the simian race. This was clearly an example of what tactics and strategies governments will use when threatened. The text best fitted for science experientation is Michael Foucault’s Discispline&Punish, George Orwell’s 1984, and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clock Work Orange. The powerful trio present shuddery examples of what happens when a people don’t conform to rules and expectations, no matter what they are. In the case of Discipline&Punish, the “panoptic” environment, the prison was designed to discipline and make an example of science and experimentation with the human chamber.
To add a bit of information, Planet of the Apes sequels is in Conquest’ is in perfect union with the idea of a dystopic theme and panoptic like environment in Focualt’s narrative on a surveillance like system known as “ Panopticism.” The environments in both Discipline & Punish and Conquest are a prison like.
Moreover, in 1984, Winston is stripped of his human rights and is ill fated for become the strong-minded and free thinking person in his dystopian society. Winston is condemned by this totalitarian government and suffers what I call a daily science experiment that is painful and irksome. Next, in Kubrick’s film, main character Alex is punished by the government for his unruly behavior and a science experiment is performed him in effort to rid him of his attitude of going against everything good. This is a perfect example of what the government will do to those who are not “considered” obedient.
The best Planet of the Apes example of science and experimentation is the lobotomy insertion is the recently banned by Obama and taboo science experiment of Waterboarding. Our military should have never performed such a cruel act of the alleged Al-Qaeda suspects. In my opinion, waterboarding was an example of the government exercising power and dominance.
Another example of science and experimentation is Hussain’s Anthrax scar in America. To be short and simple, Anthrax is really another example of science and experimentation created for American’s out of fear and cruelty.
Yet another example in today’s society is the British Broadcasting Company’s documentary of the Expirement. The true and chilling account of Stanford’s prison expereiment which is an undeniable example of science and experimentation. This psychologhy experiment included mixing a bunch of young adults together to see what would happen after a period of time. The intellectuals adults were to be the guards and the less intellictual or weak minded were regular prisoners. The purpose of the Experiment was to see how people act when put in certain situations. Unfortunatley, the Stanford scientists successded and received what they considered good results. Of course, the “guards” and “prisoners” ended up nearly killing each other.
In analytical observation, I believe what science and experimentation reveals about our own society is when humans are threatened and afraid of being dominated in displaced in society, all hell breaks loose and the evil among human beings is unleashed.
What this kind of behavior does is create war for society.
The next biggest implication made in Planet of the Apes is humans war with the reason for our own existence. In the movie and film, Taylor or Ulysses, questions. This observation is meaningful because this is definitely saying something about how humans are never satisfied and will do anything to find the anweres. Human’s will find the answer even if it means going to war. For instance, Taylor and his crew “leave” planet Earth to discover something beyond their existence. The crew ends up on the “simian” planet and the simian race makes war with man and man makes war with the simians. Inerestingly, they both consider each other intruders.
This example is a compelling one because today, humans go to war all the time to find something more valuable. I think Shaffner and Boulle are telling audiences near and far, that if we humans don’t stop this kind of behavior by creating small and big wars, we are going to destroy each other as a human race and destroy the world.
In addition, I wonder if this is why one the most memorable scenes in the film was toward the end when only the head portion of Statue of Liberty is visible and Taylor kneels down in agony because he believes his race destroyed the world. Were Schaffner and Boulle speaking to the wars we make with each other, being that the Simian race is supposed to represent humans and how we interact with each other?
Another chilling seen in Planet of the Apes, is the Conquest sequel regarding war is revolution. Cornelius demonstrates a compelling and powerful speech in the end about revolution. His speech speaks to our race and the wicked revolutions of our time. It is the very message that although sometimes humans who suffer only have the option of initiating revolution in order to win an issue concerning human rights or whatever, we as humans should not treat each other this way. I think the bigger implication is Schaffner wants audiences to see that although revolutions are necessary, it does not make them right. All it does is sometimes create more evil and reprisal. During the start of the revolution in Conquest, all lot of bled shed takes place. I would say that being a fan of Planet of the Apes sequels, Conquest is one of the most violent ones.
The best example of revolution in Planet of the Apes sequel Conquest, in today’s society, is countless. I think Schaffner wants his audience to think about revolution and what it brings forth, but really wants his audience to think outside the box. Therefore, I would say the next revolution would be the Middle East or World War III.
The next important and bigger implication in Planet of the Apes is our human predicament and endless issue with Sexism. In the film, men play a bigger role and are considered more prominent. Nova could hardly communicate in the original film and definitely did not have a strong and meaningful character. She didn’t even have a language. In the film, Nova is dressed in very revealing way and is made to be kind of a sex symbol. In the novel, Nova is even more so considered a sex symbol because the language written for Taylor in regards to Nova, is a bit on the steamy side. For example, “She replied to this gesture, by rubbing her nose against mine and then passing her tounge over my cheek,” (54). Also, in regards to Nova, another example of sexism and use of Taylor’s language states, “Have you ever watch a timid puppy on the beach, while his master is swimming,” (31).
Next, although Zira was a bit more valuable due to the fact that she was a simian, even she didn’t have that much power. Zira was hushed a lot and her power seemed to be a bit more limited that her husband Cornilieus in the film. To add, in Conquest Planet of the Apes, the only female Ape was super timid and could not talk. Instead, she was also used as a sex symbol in some ways.
Shaffner and Boulle definitely were speaking to womens rights in society the womens predicament with dealing with sexism. Again, there is a correlation between the release of the film and womens rights. Sadly but true, event today women are fighting for equality with their role in the work field and their role as mothers, and their role as educated human beings. Sexism is yet another strong and relevant human being predicament.
Over all, I believe that Schaffner sent out the undeniable and forceful apocalyptic vision and insertion, that if humans don’t take action of the bigger implication of life itself, then we will only continue to dehumanize each other through the social predicaments of taboo science experiments, social class, authoritarian views, sexism, and war. Planet of the Apes is a harrowing reality of our own struggles.
Planet of the Apes and Focualts piece is a great example and representation that reveal the stories about one persons dsytopia and another’s “utopia” in life and how it can destroy civilizations. For example, in the simian culture, the world was perfect until the humans came. The most unsettling truth and bigger implications made in the movie is about humans. With all our human issues and predicaments that we have not fully overcome, we might as well not consider ourselves beautiful people. Schaffner and Boulle take the ugly and dark side of humans and display it to the world. Planet of the Apes is a great adventure, but should really be considered a dark adventure. All in all, I still love the movie.
Boulle, Pierre. The Planet of the Apes. New York: Del Ray, 1963.
Focault, Michel. Discipline & Punish. New York: Vintage books, 1995.
Maslach, Christina The Stanford Experiment. 1996. 11 Dec. 2009.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Signet Classics: London, England, 1950., Ty and Thom Young. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Signet Classics: London, England, 1950. Templeton, Ty and Thom Young.