One of the most intriguing and offensive parallels in the Madagascar series is the depiction of monkeys. There are two major character groups: the two monkeys from the New York zoo and the remaining hundreds of monkeys who live on the African reservation. If incorporated into the West versus Africa narrative, the monkeys are clearly the natives. The monkeys are generally illiterate, used for cheap labor, and come off as uneducated, uncivilized, and strange. They speak in an incoherent screech, much different from the fluid English of most of the other animals, and look up to the “Westernized” New York zoo monkeys for leadership.
This power dynamic between the Western animals, the Western monkeys, and the African monkeys is analogous to the social hierarchy between the Western world, the educated African elite, and the native Africans. When the two monkeys are in New York, they are depicted as almost barbaric — eating food out of the trash can, drinking leftover soda, etc. They are within the Western culture, but aren’t exactly a part of it. When the two monkeys land on the African reservation, they quickly take up the positions of power in the monkey society.They are depicted as more intelligent than their screeching doppelgangers, and even begin to dress as European aristocrats. They don a bow tie, tuxedo, top hat, and even a monocle. It is clear that they do not belong among their own kind anymore.
This power dynamic is very similar to the colonial-educated African elites. They did not fit into either society and made up a very small portion of the population. The social hierarchy depicted in Madagascar places the Westernized monkeys below “true westerners” but above the natives. This could have a subconscious effect on an unweary child causing them to accept and adopt this world view.