An interesting effort along these lines is Gerald Peary’s “A Speculation: The Historicity of KING KONG” (JUMP CUT, 4), which interprets the giant ape Kong as a conservative RKO’s very skeptical symbolic assessment of the New Deal, with the adventurer-promoter character Denham representing FDR. I believe, however, that a historical appreciation of the film should be expanded to include some other themes, those of race, sex, and rebellion. I say “expand” because I don't believe it necessary to “refute” Peary’s interpretation in order to present this one. Symbols can be overdetermined, that is, represent more than one idea.
It doesn't require too great an exercise of the imagination to perceive the element of race in KING KONG. Racist conceptions of blacks often depict them as subhuman, ape or monkey-like. And consider the plot of the film: Kong is forcibly taken from his jungle home, brought in chains to the United States, where he is put on stage as a freak entertainment attraction. He breaks his chains and goes on a rampage in the metropolis, until finally he is felled by the forces of law and order.
The causative factor in his capture and his demise is his fatal attraction to blonde Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). As Denham says in the last words of the film, “Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.” If we look at KING KONG in terms of a racial metaphor, “Beauty” turns out to be “the white woman.” This kind of