Let me be clear: I once loved monkeys.
The first stop I made at the zoo was to see whatever monkeys were there. (Yes, I'm aware that monkeys and apes are different. I didn't care then, I sure as hell don't care now.) The first toy my wife and I bought for our son was a stuffed monkey. Most mornings, like many monkeys around the world, I had a banana for breakfast. Even now, as I write this, sitting in a cage at the Franklin Park Zoo, my tattered boxer shorts are adorned with — you guessed it — tiny cartoon monkeys.
And I wasn't alone. The simian-Homo sapiens team was once celebrated in popular culture; mankind always needed clever, hairy sidekicks. Tarzan and Cheetah. Reagan and Bonzo. Clint and Clyde. BJ and the Bear. The list went on and on.
The partnership had real-world implications, as well. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine, modern anesthetics, and groundbreaking research into AIDS and HIV — these advances, and many more, were accomplished thanks to medical testing on monkeys. (We used to call it "taking one for the team.")
So how did things get so bad?
I'm referring, of course, to our current predicament: thanks to some gene therapy aimed at fighting Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases, we accidentally created a hyper-intelligent monkey named Caesar, who, after being mistreated by a handful of sadistic humans, took his revenge on all of mankind by sharing his chemical enhancement and leading a revolution. The "rise," if you will, of this Planet of the Apes.
Weren't we paying attention? Sure, at first, there might have been some logistical and biological challenges to the ascension of a simian super-race. (Is gene therapy passed on in DNA, or would the monkeys have to keep making this special intelligence-enhancing gas? If so, how would they get to the factories every day if their short little legs can't reach the gas pedal?) But when the shit went down, we somehow let a bunch of monkeys overwhelm the greatest military force in the world.
I realize it's a little late now — my banana-gathering work detail starts in a few minutes — but, on behalf of the scant humans left in this chest-beating hell, I have to ask: why didn't you just shoot the fucking monkeys? Yes, they're smart. Yes, they're fast. Yes, they're strong. But since when did all of that mean they're bulletproof? Chimpanzee throws a spear? Shoot him. Baboon smashes a police cruiser? Shoot him. Gorilla jumps into a helicopter? Shoot him — and the helicopter!
I blame James Franco. Mr. Look at me, the Renaissance Man!, Mr. Is he baked or just too cool for the Oscars?, is not the guy we should have had looking after super-smart apes. If you're going to prematurely move a species up the evolutionary ladder, you need to keep an eye on things, not shower them with attention and then leave them alone with a box of crayons and a delirious John Lithgow.
We should've known better. History has shown that, if you coddle any group of primates long enough — no matter how simple-minded their nature — and tell them how they special they are, how important they are to advancing society, they're bound to eventually start believing their dung doesn't stink and make a violent, thuggish power grab. Just ask the late John Boehner.
Sean Kerrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seankerrigan21.
Read the rest of the Monkey Issue at thephoenix.com/monkey.