This past weekend, I had the chance to see The King come home. No, not Elvis, but Kong, back home in NYC, in previews before the show opened on 11/8/18. What an opportunity; truly the 8th Wonder of the World, as he was billed way back in 1933. What a spectacle; for the effects alone, this show is not to be missed. As the build- up is touting, he does not sing or dance, and yet is he is the biggest Broadway star of the season. I heartily agree, especially since Lin Manuel Miranda is no longer performing just a few blocks south.
And as for the story itself? Well, a lot has changed since 1933. As one critic says “The new Ann Darrow is a heroine for our times.” I guess I agree with that as well. She is as far removed from legendary scream queen Fay Wray as it is possible to be. The Ann we saw is no clinging vine, no damsel in distress. The critic used the word empowered to describe her. I however, after watching for two and a half hours, would favor another…AMBITIOUS, almost to a fault. From the moment the curtain rises, she lets us know that her goal is to be “The Queen of New York” and she never once lets go of that goal. As I sat in that pitch black theater, what I felt was not sympathy for our leading lady as Kong carried her (gently) off, but rather a faint sense of disquieting déjà vu, as if I knew both Ann and Carl Denham (who is our filmmaker and Ann’s counterpart), this Queen of NY and her Director, from someplace long ago and far away. Yet, I could not quite place them, until our heroine lured Kong, who had just saved her life, straight into Carl’s waiting trap of chains and tear gas.
And then it hit me! I knew these two, hell bent on fame and fortune, on bright lights and big city, ready to take the world by storm and not really caring who they hurt. A ruthless couple, not truly in love with each other, but giddy with power and greed, and all they could attain by working together to climb to the top. Ladies and gentlemen, right in the middle of Skull Island, I found Lord and Lady Macbeth! And who was our Kong but poor, defenseless Duncan, lured to his doom by one he trusted.
To see Kong, first bound and chained and then strung up on display brought me to tears. To see the leads sing with glee over how best to exploit him made me mad. And then, to read critics praise a female portrayed in this light?! Calling her an “empowered woman of our time”?! That has me almost speechless. For would we call Lady Macbeth empowered?? I know that type of so called empowerment is NOT what we strive to teach daily.
To be empowered is not to step blindly over others. It is not to social climb by breaking others backs. IT is not to get ahead in this world by beating others down. To be truly empowered is not to gain strength from the sadness and exploitation of others. That is not even remotely the definition of a strong empowered woman, of our generation or of ANY generation. And although in the show Ann finally sees the error of her ways, it is far too late in the game to save the King she destroyed.
I offer my full praise for the show’s effects…it was like nothing I have seen in my life. I offer my empathy for a fallen “King”…he truly moved me to tears. However, to praise it as an example of a woman of our time? Oh no, that I cannot do. For I know in my heart that not one Saint Dominic Academy student or alumna would ever relate to the Ann Darrow I saw. Even my Abigail wept for Kong and called Ann mean. 140 years of women who have walked our halls know what it truly means to be an empowered woman of our time. Perhaps, this Miss Ann Darrow would benefit from a visit to Saint Dominic Academy.