Posted on May 10, 2024

What ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Understands About White Womanhood

Candice Frederick, HuffPost, May 10, 2024

It’s been seven years since director Matt Reeves delivered the last installment in the decades-spanning, ever-political “Planet of the Apes” franchise. {snip}

But we’re only now getting to a film in the iconic sci-fi series that keys in on the selfish destruction and weaponized victimhood of white women. {snip}

Director Wes Ball’s thrilling new movie, “The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” is set between 2300 and 2400, when anthropomorphic apes have taken over the world from the formerly dominant humans {snip}

After fleeing his clan’s near-decimation, a young ape named Noa (a fantastic Owen Teague) embarks on a vengeful journey where he encounters an elder, Raka (an equally great Peter Macon), a lone survivor living largely away from the dangers within the species.

The older ape teaches Noa about their history and the nonviolent philosophy of Caesar, a name fans of the “Apes” franchise will recognize as the forgone leader of the apes from the more recent movies set in a past generation, and the pair become friends. One day, they spot a young white woman who’s revealed to be named Mae (Freya Allan) in distress: slovenly, clothes torn and starving.

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Try as it might, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” written by Josh Friedman, wants audiences to be just as trusting and benevolent of Mae as Raka is, though without giving us (or him, for that matter) any reason to be beyond the fact that she is in distress and, well, white. Oh, and that it was the Caesar way.

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It isn’t until about midway through “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” when Mae’s veneer should come into question. A sacrifice is made on her behalf that in 2024 (or any year, but especially now) feels so unearned and worthy of an eye roll that it’s actually quite breathtaking to witness. To boot, the camera then cuts to Mae, whose eyes are filled with tears.

They’re the same white woman tears we see throughout much of the rest of the film, which finds her increasingly deceitful, conniving and dangerous as the plot moves beyond a retaliatory excursion to inside the mouth of a terrifying war among apes.

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A victim she is not, but that is a common facade white women like her have mastered for self-serving purposes since time immemorial. Still, they’re often considered credible by default.

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“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is thoughtful and horrifyingly accurate about how many young, independent white women move through a world they think has done them wrong somehow. It also shows how one presumably powerless young white woman somehow still has the potential to help bring an entire planet of apes to its knees.

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On several occasions, and without much provocation, Mae is saved. It begs the question whether Raka and, ultimately, Caesar have responded to Mae’s initial duress, and other perilous predicaments she gets herself into, had she been a young Black or brown woman.

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