Dr. Zaius gets the coolest songs from The Simpsons. Caesar gets all of the respect. But, if you ask me who my favorite ape is in the Planet of the Apes series, there’s only one possible answer: Zira.
Zira — actually, that’s Dr. Zira — is a chimpanzee, a scientist, a pacifist, and half of the husband/wife team of Cornelius and Zira. Still, even though she’s closely associated with a partner, she’s her own ape, and she’ll let you know about it. Here are reasons to be Team Zira.
She’s Basically Right About Everything
In Planet of the Apes, she figures out everything pretty quickly: That Taylor is intelligent, that he can talk, and that he must prove that apes evolved from not-mute humans. She does this through the awesome power SCIENCE! (And, uh, human lobotomies.) A lot of talk is thrown around in that first movie about what makes someone intelligent, and Zira shows by example, taking in the evidence around her and drawing a conclusion that makes sense, even if it changes her worldview.
She’s Braver Than Cornelius
Or at least more outspoken. In Planet of the Apes, Cornelius is afraid to unearth his discoveries in the Forbidden Zone, fearing they’d be charged with heresy. She pushes him into it. In Escape From the Planet of the Apes, she also urges them reveal the truth about where they come from while Cornelius is being wishy-washy. She doesn’t just understand the truth, she advocates for it.
She Becomes a Feminist Icon
And wears a pantsuit. And gets drunk. Pretty much everything she says and does in Escape From the Planet of the Apes is amazing.
She’s Played by Kim Hunter
Aka Stella Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire. She’s an Oscar winner, y’all.
Where’s the Next Zira?
Like everyone else, I was extremely pleased with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, especially the way the climax of the movie seems to go on forever. If there’s one disappointment, it’s that there wasn’t a Zira equivalent. There were hardly any female apes at all, really — one, Cornelia, was pointed out, but didn’t get to do anything — let alone one as strong and confident as Zira. Cornelia is listed in the IMDb credits for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — played by Judy Greer, no less — so let’s hope she’s cast in the Zira mold.
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