Gorilla Warfare

If I did something this week I wouldn’t ordinarily want to do, but it was entirely accidental, can it still count? My husband and I were trying to fit a date into our busy weekend, and the only non-Transformers late night movie was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. When I suggested it, my husband said, “I want to see it, but I don’t want to make you watch it.” I assured him that I could endure it. Several times, he asked, “Are you sure?” I thought it was because I don’t usually like action movies and CGI special effects make me feel like I’m watching a video game. But I thought of all the times I’ve dragged him to something I wanted to see and decided I should let him choose just this once.

Then the movie started. As soon as we got to the first ape scene, I gasped and said, “Oh! This is why you asked me if I could handle it!” I had somehow completely forgotten about that one time I was attacked by monkeys. (I’m not sure why – how could anyone forget something like that?) But I was brave – I stayed and watched the whole movie so I think I still deserve credit, even if it was an accident.

So, about that monkey attack… Two years ago, my husband and I traveled to Bali. While we were there, we visited the famous Monkey Forest in Ubud, a popular tourist attraction. This photo was taken before we went inside. Don’t I look happy? I have no idea what I’m in for.

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This wasn’t my husband’s first time visiting, so we didn’t stop to read the warning sign that was just inside the entrance of the forest. Although we didn’t notice the warnings, we did buy a bunch of bananas from one of the sellers situated right next to the sign.

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We went inside with all the other tourists and saw monkeys everywhere – hanging out on the sidewalk and people’s shoulders and accepting offerings of bananas (but not peanuts because healthy reason). My husband needed to use the restroom, so he handed me the bananas and left me alone with the monkeys. This little guy started hanging around, but for some reason would take the bananas I offered, look at them with disinterest and then just toss them on the ground. But he kept coming back for more, so I gave him some.

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Suddenly, the monkey stood and reached up to the messenger bag I was holding, grabbing at the canvas with its claws. It made me a little nervous, but my husband came out and chased it away, stomping his foot and yelling. When we walked away, it followed us, this time with a couple of friends.

Here’s something everyone needs to understand. Monkeys, at least the long-tailed macaques who live in the Ubud Monkey Forest, are not cute. They have claws and fangs and they bare those fangs and hiss at you when they’re angry. (I had to google these pictures, because at this point, I was too busy defending myself to take any photos.)

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Pretty soon there was a whole posse of hissing monkeys coming at me. I used my bag as a shield and pushed each monkey away as it attacked. My husband was stomping and waving them away, but they kept coming at me.

We managed to toss enough monkeys away so that we could run away from the crowd and we decided to go down a path that looked totally monkey-free (and eerily people-free). After we took a few steps in, we noticed that in a tree at the far end of the path, dozens of monkeys turned their heads in perfect unison and stared at us. We in turn did a swift 180 and walked away, my husband whispering, “Let’s get out of here. I’ve seen Tarzan.”

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So we had no choice but to go back to the main pathway, straight into the line of fire. At this point, I was racking my brain to figure out what they wanted from me. I didn’t think I had any food in my bag, but then I remembered that I hadn’t finished all of my Cadbury Chocos from the night before, and there were two little chocolates still in my bag.

We needed to get rid of the Chocos, but the problem with just throwing them away is that monkeys get very excited when they see people opening bags because they know that’s where the good stuff is hidden. They also freak out when they hear the rustling of plastic shopping bags. So here I was, trying to reach into a very large bag filled with with plastic shopping bags (we’d been buying souvenirs) to fish around for THE plastic shopping bag we needed. This attracted even more monkeys, so I was surrounded by at least twenty of those monsters who were clawing and hissing and baring their fangs at me. And that attracted the park rangers who did nothing to help but just yelled at me to stop reaching in my bag.

Finally, I found the chocolate, my husband threw it in the garbage, and the monkeys left me alone. We were then free to wander the rest of the forest and visit the monkey temple without attracting a horde, but I was too traumatized by the whole experience, so we decided to leave. As we walked out and saw people letting their toddlers play with the monkeys, I wondered how anyone could bring children to this horrible place. A few days later, my husband thought it would be funny to make a claw-fang-hiss face at me and it set me off crying. For weeks afterwards, I was still seeing fangs and claws coming at me as I drifted off to sleep.

And that is why my husband was surprised that I was willing to see a movie about monkeys. Just so you know, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is very accurate in its portrayal of the hissing and the fangs. Spot on. I was uncomfortable in the first few ape scenes, but once they started talking, I just imagined I was watching a sequel to my most favorite talking monkey movie: Babe, Pig in the City. (Seriously, click on the link. I couldn’t embed the video here, but you should totally watch it.)

There are so many similarities between the two films:

monkey birth scenes,

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family loyalty,

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accessorized chimpanzees,

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and educated orangutans.

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I had some trouble staying awake because, in an effort to really drive home the point that apes and humans aren’t so different, there were several moving (but slooow-moving) scenes emphasizing the whole home/family/future theme they had going on.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, even if it was a bit derivative.

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But I didn’t buy what they were selling about monkeys and humans becoming friends. I mean, maybe I could get along with some super-intelligent genetically altered chimps, as long as they’re not wielding machine guns, but I will never, ever see the long-tailed macaques as anything other than the enemy. Like, if an army of long-tailed macaques ever came into my simian flu quarantine camp, accusicating and making demandments, and had all climbed to the top of a tower and I had the chance, like Gary Oldman, to set off C-4 to destroy them all to save the human race, who knows what I might be capable of.

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