Sometimes you don’t have to go looking for the dark stuff, though. Sometimes it’s just out in the open, and you don’t even realise. Donkey Kong games have been telling a demented tale for over thirty years now, but that’s all hidden behind a few things that we’ve just accepted about the Kong family and without ever really questioning them. Why do some characters wear pants and not others? Is it a dominance thing? Why are there so many roving armies and why are they always attacking DK? This is all stuff that addresses the loose ends left over by the limited storyline presented in the games, but I’m talking about the really weird stuff. Things such as…
To understand the ideas in this article, we have to go back to Donkey Kong’s roots, and I do mean the 1981 arcade game; it’s important because Cranky Kong is actually the titular character of that game. It establishes a fixed beginning point in the series to work from; Nintendo has said that Donkey Kong is Cranky’s grandson, which would make DK the son of Donkey Kong Jr. except we never see DK’s father. Cranky, however, says that DK is his son, which would make DK the protagonist from Donkey Kong Jr, but it was originally Diddy who was to be Donkey Kong Jr. That is until Nintendo made the choice about Diddy’s genealogy very clear for the developers.
“And if you think you have skeletons in your closets, who do you think put them there!?”
You could chalk all of this up to continuity errors on Nintendo’s part; the series is literally decades old, it’s an easy and understandable mistake. It’s just unsettling that the only time Cranky himself has spoken about the subject, it contradicts all other canonical story information created by Nintendo. Because with Cranky as the original Donkey Kong, the video games have been following the Kong family for what appears to be roughly three generations. There aren’t that many to keep track of, so why is Nintendo having such a hard time accurately plotting out the Kong family tree? Probably because of the one thing that’s totally out in the open, but no one really wants to acknowledge, and Nintendo intentionally keeps vague: That family tree’s branches curve inward.
The Kong’s practice the kind of incest that could make the Lannisters blush. Diddy dates Dixie, Donkey dates Candy, who knows if Wrinkly was even a “Kong” by marriage; everywhere you look it’s kissing cousins. Or kissing brothers and sisters. It’s unclear. There’s no reason to assume that they aren’t all family members either, since they all have the last name “Kong,” and we’re certainly encouraged to think of them as a family which is… a little gross. Ghastly King, the final boss of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, might be the only other named Gorilla outside of the Kong family, but he still has a name and it establishes at least one genealogical line outside of the Kongs.
If Cranky Kong is telling the truth, then nearly every game has tried to pull a massive white wash over what is likely the creepiest game series to ever exist. The entire Kong blood line changes from being a loving family of apes, having adventures and defending their island, to being a Disney retelling of the Manson family’s story. There have been ample opportunities to set the facts straight during any of the numerous games that have been released in the franchise, though I guess Nintendo aren’t big on doing that lately. Honestly, this is just the beginning, because this leads to questions about DK’s severe emotional problems.
This has to be understood about Donkey Kong: he is an incredibly damaged individual. Even the genetic deviancies that likely led to his birth aren’t enough to create the deranged, yet oddly charming, animal that we know and love. He clearly has massive anger issues, his capacity for sharing and temper tantrums is that of a spoiled child, and his idea of fun is simple when it isn’t thoughtlessly violent. Just about every single game centers around him beating (and possibly killing, because he’s a fully grown gorilla) anything that isn’t remotely a primate, or inspiring to others to do it in his stead.
Taking on board what we know of his genealogy, we can peg his age at being at least in the late 20’s and yet he’s still having the best 10th birthday party ever. His sense of maturity likely stopped developing during his pre-teen years, because, by Tropical Freeze, you can’t not play as DK. He has established himself so that he must always be present; he’s the fat, creepy kid from your childhood that you only befriended because he had the best games, he makes you uncomfortable but he has to be there before you even try to have fun. It’s even evidenced by the disturbingly Kirby-levels of intimidating anger directed towards the Snomads for interfering with his food.
It’s poetically appropriate this last display of child-like, frankly insane behavior that DK stops smiling and show his true character. At first everything is fine and the Kong’s are enjoying the party:
… and it ultimately loses him the island, because the overwhelmingly powerful urge to cave in someones face over cake was too much to resist. Even important questions, like “Why is it snowing on my tropical island?” or “Why are there thousands of penguins with helmets at my shores?”, struggle to be heard over the mental lamentations for lost cake.
Did I mention that he probably doesn’t know how to love, or even what real love is? He’s dating Candy Kong, a character so indiscriminately sultry to those around her (like blowing love kisses to Diddy in DKC, Diddy who is heavily implied to be underage) she made no.2 onto a “Top Ten Disturbingly Sexual Game Characters” list. Not to mention that she’s the only other Kong on the island that’s within DK’s acceptable age range; so unless he wants to add to the growing list of crimes that the Kongs have committed against nature, Candy’s his only choice. How could he learn to love, when the only person he’s allowed to love has the cartoony sexual promiscuity usually reserved for time periods described as “they didn’t know any better”?.
That is a TALL order.
Keep in mind that DK is meant to be the leader of this island and he most likely doesn’t even understand one of the most fundamental aspects of human emotion. The lack of real human connection has left him so self-absorbed that the island they live on is called DK island, he isn’t even the first of his kind to live there. The size of his ego is just immense and by this point it’s entirely likely that he changed the name of the island, whatever that was, to his own. The question of why is still lingering, however: maybe evil just skips a couple of generations and DK happened to luck out by being born in what is essentially a family oriented tribe society. Or, maybe…
Remember when I said that Cranky Kong was the same Kong from the original 1981 game? Somewhere between that game and DKC he changed his name and passed “Donkey” along to DK. That makes Cranky the patriarch of the Kong family; it makes sense, he’s the eldest and he passes knowledge of the island, which is always reliable, down to DK and the others. However DK is the prominent character of the series, he’s the title character and usually playable. Clearly whoever is named “Donkey” is the most important, which makes “Donkey” sound more like a title than a name. A title for the leader of a fascist dictatorship that cruelly rules the island, oppressing the inhabitants to serve their own interests.
See it’s not just DK and his family living on DK island, the games clearly show that it’s host to all kinds of different animals. The animals are all also anthropomorphic in this world, they can all speak, think, and act with varying levels of intelligence like any advanced species. None of this poses any kind of moral dilemma to DK, however, since civilians and opposing forces are all the same to him. It would make sense that this is the way that the Kong’s run the island, since the locals hate them and have plenty of reasons to do so. He murders with gleeful abandon in pursuit of his own goals, which range from hoarding unnecessary amounts of bananas to encasing wild animals in wooden crates for… “just in case”?.
DK Island has had so many interlopers and invaders inside of it that it’s the Nintendo equivalent of France, military occupation has been an intermittent way of life for the animals of the island. They’ve not only adjusted to it, but have organised themselves to use every opportunity to overthrow the Kong tyranny. Aside from what look like some form of parasitic plant life in Tropical Freeze, I’ve never seen the animals of the island attack any of DK’s enemies. Even in DKC: Returns, when there weren’t many Tiki-Tak Tribe enemies to really cause much reason for alarm, but the animals still attacked DK and Diddy. It’s as though they sensed something was up and just decided to roll with it.
When you consider that DK, who was likely Donkey Kong Jr., was forced to rescue his kidnapping, homicidal father from the cage of an equally homicidal psychopath, things start to make a lot more sense about why DK is the way he is. Donkey Kong Snr. escaped with his son, and presumably who we now know as Wrinkly Kong, to a remote location after the events of Donkey Kong (1981), which is why “Donkey Kong Jr.” takes place in a tropical jungle setting. After being rescued by his son, Donkey Kong expels Mario from what we now know to be an island and takes over as Supreme ruler, renaming it to DK Island like any self respecting, self imposing empire should.
When his son came of age, Donkey Kong changed his name to Cranky Kong and passed the title down to DK. The Kong clan grew in power and influence, as did the popularity of the franchise, until they took over the entire island, only now with DK as the leading Kong. There’s no mightier warrior! No enemy he can’t beat, and no challenge he can’t overcome! He can defeat entire armies single-handedly! It’s always been that way, it’ll always be that way, because he’s the one true Donkey Kong! I’m not saying that Donkey Kong was deliberately written as an allegory for anything in particular, just that art sometimes imitates life and sometimes it acts as an inappropriate allegory in a children’s game.
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of satire, parody and fiction, at no point was it my intention to assert that the things written in this article are actually true, unless it turns out that they are true. In which case suck it, I was totally right. I don’t own the characters, or the concepts, and I’m sure I’m not the first to come to many of these conclusions, but stealing my words without asking would be kind of a dick thing to do. To the original owners of the discussed characters: please don’t sue me, I am not a rich man.