To Serve Black Man.
The Last King Of Scotland
Despite their yellow coloring, the Chinese do not taste like lemon. Caucasians aren't vanilla, and Red Indians are neither cinnamon flavored nor candy-apple. Black people, however, do taste like liquorish root, unless you're lucky enough to get a southerner flavored like bacon fat and fryer oil, which is why I hate eating them. Well, that, and I don't want to get AIDS. And if that kind of attitude offends you, then you just might enjoy the scathing commentary on Western arrogance found in The Last King Of Scotland, a film that takes place during Idi Amin’s cannibalistic reign over Uganda.
The film follows Nicholas Garrigan, a Scottish doctor fresh out of med school, yearning to live the jet-setting life of a family practitioner, speeding from old woman with rheumatoid arthritis to infant with colic. He begins his adventurous life by traveling to Uganda, sort of like a 19th century nobleman's Grand Tour, except instead of smoking opium in a Shanghai basement while a scabby prostitute teases his dope-sickened genitals, he's patching up some 10 year-old's spear wound. Once in Africa, he tries to sleep with Scully from The X-Files, apparently forgetting that her skepticism runs so deep she no longer believes in the myth of the female orgasm. However, a chance encounter with General Idi Amin, having just recently seized power, leads Garrigan to take a job as Amin's personal physician. The film revolves around the doctor, and his stubborn insistence on remaining oblivious to the atrocities and human rights abuses surrounding Amin's regime. Caught up in Amin's infectious affability, his own sense of power, and the separation of cultural tourism, Garrigan refuses to believe the whispers of mass murder and torture that invade his cocoon of detachment. Until, that is, Amin has his girlfriend's legs put where her arms should go. It's like modern art, only with dismemberment. Once the horrors have hit home, Garrigan trades in his white indifference for white guilt, taking on the requisite droopy-faced countenance, long wavy hair, and perpetual odor of last night’s hash familiar to all liberal arts students, and the movie proceeds from there.
The Last King of Scotland is a personal story, one that focuses on the doctor instead of the regime, which is interesting if you're looking for an affecting character study, disappointing if you're trying to grill up some coon steak and need tips on seasoning. Normally, I'd feel guilty about making such an off color remark, but that sort of attitude, be it explicit, as in everything I've ever written on this site, or implicit, as in anything any one British has ever written, anywhere, is what’s being engaged here. Africa has long been seen by the Western world as a land of savage children pretending to be adults, taking the occasional break to snort brown-brown and play cowboys and Indians with real guns and no cowboys. The Last King Of Scotland both criticizes and reinforces that paradigm, exploring the complexity of the situation through a microscopic character study. It's neither a condemnation of the attitude, nor an endorsement of it, merely an explanation of why it exists, and the harm that it does. So, despite the fact that it's yet another movie about Africa told through the eyes of a white person, the film does attempt to at least bring attention to the way in which Africa is viewed, if not change that view entirely. Not that that sort of change would be possible, anyway, because this is Africa were talking about here. If I were trying to show the Western world that I was a civilized continent capable of self-rule, I would probably try not to chop people up with machetes and eat them. But perhaps that's just my Western arrogance talking.