Ape City Blues

Planet of the Apes is set in a society of hyper-intelligent apes who have since taken over centuries after the collapse of human civilization. This is very important in analyzing this film because humans’ new subservient status is the main source of their society’s dystopian elements from the human point of view. At some point after the collapse of civilization, humans lost their knowledge of language, which has led to the apes believing humans aren’t sentient. This fact is important because it is used as the main justification for how humans are treated throughout the movie.

Humans are regularly subjected to three of the five faces of oppression: violence, marginalization, and powerlessness. We explore these elements from the point of view of Taylor, an astronaut from the past who is accidentally transported to the future during a mission and captured by the apes after his crash landing. Humans are regularly hunted for sport and taxidermied by the apes who do so with a smile. They are generally marginalized as a species and treated like animals; the apes even plan to castrate Taylor to prevent him from reproducing. While we may see this as horrific and unacceptable, it is still easy to see how apes do this with a clear conscience as we treat animals the same way in the real world. We regularly neuter our pets to avoid the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy or make them more subservient.

While life for a human is bleak in Ape City, life for an ape isn’t perfect either. Ape society does have some dystopian elements from the point of view of an ape as well. First, the apes are divided by species, similar to how our society is divided by race. The chimps are treated as the weakest of the three main groups and are regularly mistreated by the orangutans and gorillas. What the three groups have in common is their collective powerlessness as they are all being misled and silenced by the ruling class. Ape City is a theocracy with religious tenants and mythos that no one is allowed to question or contradict. Anyone who doubts the creation myth on how apes came to be or breaks the religious tenants is declared a heretic and liable to face severe consequences.

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