Damn You All To Hell opinion

There is something I need to get off my hairy man chest, in the form of a quick science lesson: Apes are not monkeys. And while we’re at it, humans are apes. And so humans are as monkey as chimps are.

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco’s character is corrected when he refers to a chimpanzee as a monkey. A super-brained science genius that doesn’t know the difference between an ape and a monkey?! Jesus! I wouldn’t let this guy near a pre-school chemistry set let alone entrust a potential cure for Alzheimer’s to his care.

Likewise, journalists shouldn’t be allowed near keyboards if they can’t tell the difference between apples and oranges. Must we perpetuate idiocy with pun-tastic headlines referring to the new film in terms of “monkey business”, “monkeying around”, or “monkey suits”? Apes are a group of primates categorically distinct from monkeys and a group to which we belong. I am all for flexibility in the English language and non-literal terms becoming norms but to claim “monkey” can refer to all simians that aren’t human is not modern English usage it is positively pre-Victorian English and based entirely on ignorance, perpetuating ill-educated misinformation.

A little more for you, if you’re still reading: There are two families of apes - the gibbons (where are they in the films?) and the great apes. Of the great apes there are four genera - orangutans (Pongo), gorillas (Gorilla), chimpanzees (Pan) and man (Homo). It is a scientifically undisputable fact that man is part of that family tree and we can not, if we are to group those other three genera together, exclude man from the apes. All great apes had a common ancestor before that ancestor branched off to become orangutans and the other great apes. Those other great apes next branched off to become gorillas and man+chimps and, most recently, they branched off in to, well, man and chimps. To break another common misconception; we did not evolve from chimpanzees; chimps and man evolved in parallel from a common ancestor.

On a related note, it has come to light in recent years that humans are so closely related to chimpanzees that some argue that if we were any other species and we weren’t so “special” it is likely chimpanzees would be re-classified to belong to our genus; that is, the two species of chimps would become Homo paniscus and Homo troglodytes instead of Pan paniscus and Pan troglodytes (the rules of nomenclature dictate that the scientific name that came first, historically, takes precedence so we wouldn’t become Pan sapiens).

So there you go. Taxonomy basics. Journalists, if you’re making “funny” monkey references in relation to films about apes you’re doing a disservice to a fundamental thread within the films not to mention making yourselves look a little bit stupid.

And now, the uncut version, copied here for posterity:

Dear film journalists, in regard to the recent Project Nim and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, THEY’RE NOT FUCKING MONKEYS.

What the fuck happened? Did some sort of B-movie Fog descend and hypnotise every otherwise intelligent person leaving them to make idiotic, literally idiotic, errors? Seriously, WHAT?! Are you able to make a distinction between cars and boats? Between Corn Flakes and muesli? Between courgettes and crack fucking cocaine? Jesus Christ, imbeciles, apes are not fucking monkeys. None of them. Not one. They never have been and I’m pretty damned sure they never bloody well will be. The definition of monkey is not “something wot looks a little bit human like but wot is funnier looking and has longer arms and a bit of a stoop and is, Robin Williams aside, quite a bit hairier.” Fuck! I tell you what, IT ISN’T. Just because so many people are making such stupid fucking basic mistakes doesn’t mean your mistake is any less stupid. Did you miss that day at school? Did a mass of film-journalists-to-be skive that day? That one where even the more mentally challenged stand-in teachers taught fundamental, fucking basic, fucking really bloody easy to grasp biology?

So there you go.

17th Aug 2011

TA Wittering


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