Godzilla is one of the most popular fictitious monsters around the world. The character appeared for the first time as the main villain of the film “Gojira” in 1954. Irisho Honda created the movie in Japan, and Haruo Nakajima played the role of the monster (Kern). Numerous appearance of the name “Godzilla” in a wide range of productions including, but not limited to films, comics books, novels, video games, corporate advertisements, scientific nomenclatures, songs and cartoons depicts the monster’s extensive global popularity (Orbaugh 320). In 1956, Ishiro Honda collaborated with America’s Terry O. Morse to launch “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which is an American version of the original film (Direct Tv). In both films, Godzilla is a gigantic reptile-like creature from the ocean but invades the land to search for radioactive substances. Despite its enormous size, the people of Tokyo emerged victorious since they survive the destruction. Therefore, Godzilla serves is a reflection of the underrated capacity of human beings to improve the world regardless of the present challenges.
Godzilla’s origin depicts the post-war Japanese culture. Arguably, Japan experienced the most significant loss from the war. The Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings destroyed infrastructure leading to economic crises. America’s triumph over Japan undermined the Japanese leadership/political system. Millions of deaths broke family and community ties. Accordingly, the people of Japan faced one of the most challenging historical phases after the war. The launching date of the original “Godzilla” movie coincides with the post-war era. Godzilla appeared for the first time in 1954, nine years after World War II ended (Orbaugh 321). Therefore, a substantial number of Japanese alive when Honda released the film were firsthand victims of the war. Resultantly, the movie evoked Second World War nostalgia to the original audience. Godzilla, therefore, is an acknowledgment of the progress made by Japan in spite of the significant nationwide challenges.
As shown in the movie, Godzilla kills many innocent civilians including women and children. In one of the scenes, a sad woman finds comfort by believing that her children, murdered by the monster, will reunite with their deceased father (Kern). Therefore, the movie illuminates how Japanese coped with great losses. The scene shows an outstanding determination of the Japanese culture after the war. Lewis (12) submits that the Japanese economy became one of the strongest across the globe before 1980 with annual gross domestic productions greater than most of the non-Western countries. Its determination explains the fast economic rejuvenation amidst long-lasting adverse effects of nuclear pollution on health, capital and pool of human resource. Correspondingly, Godzilla symbolizes the overrated threat of socio-economic issues and reflects the potential of humankind to overcome the problems through unity and perseverance.
Depiction of post-war Japanese culture in “Godzilla” coincides with “The Monster’s Body is a Culture Body” concept of the monster theory. Cohen (4) asserts that states of societies inspire artists to create fictitious monsters aimed to boost positive mentalities and suppress negative attitudes. Therefore, the monsters represent times, feelings or places of conspicuous social unrest hence influencing the people to appreciate progress and the ability to prosper further. Although the Japanese feared more destruction from their enemies, tremendous economic and social advancements during the post-war era taught them that nothing is greater than a united nation. Similarly, Godzilla appears so big that the people preferred running away to fighting against it. Tokyo residents are uncertain of the future because additional monsters from the ocean may invade the city. However, the Godzilla finally returns to the sea, and the town thrives again. Godzilla, therefore, is an emblem of hope aimed to deter self-pity and hopelessness by portraying humans as highly resilient creatures.
Consistently, Godzilla in the 1956’s Americanized version reflects the capacity of humankind to solve problems caused by human-made activities. The monster appears bigger in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” than in the original version. Ergo, King of the Monsters depicts a greater plight than what Tokyo experienced in the 1954 film. However, Tokyo responds to Godzilla’s second coming using more effective defensive approaches. Japan Self-Defense Force modifies electrical towers along Tokyo’s coastline to limit Godzilla’s invasion into the City. The monster nearly dies in an attempt to cross the electrical fence. Although it manages to destroy part of the city by utilizing atomic heat breath, Godzilla returns to the ocean. The defensive mechanisms, thus, prevent further destructions for the rest of the night and the next few days. The improved defense measure demonstrates the ability of human beings to overcome the most dangerous disasters on earth.
Furthermore, Tokyo advances from defensive to offensive measures. Dr. Serizawa invents a machine that destroys oxygen atoms in salt water hence killing all aquatic organisms. The oxygen destroyer kills Godzilla; saving Tokyo citizens from the monster’s fiery rage. It took only two individuals, Ogata and Dr. Serizawa to solve a problem that would otherwise plague the whole city. Death of King of the Monsters, whence, defies “The Monster Always Escapes” thesis of the monster theory. Nevertheless, Godzilla is a metaphor that challenges the human race to rise above social atrocities initially deemed inevitable. It magnifies peoples’ ability to live well and peaceful by portraying the monster as less potent than expected.
Godzilla’s low power to size ratio agrees with “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference” dimension of the monster theory. Cohen (7) infers that media monsters often represent “cultural, racial, economic and sexual” problems that societies could alleviate through attitude shifts. Similar to the biblical story found in Numbers 13, monstrous creatures divide communities into two main categories: the few courageous “Joshuas” and the timid followers who always see glasses as half empty. Accordingly, art changes the negative perception of the masses to a positive attitude by illustrating the strength of mere humans to combat monstrous creatures.
Tokyo’s survival under the first Godzilla attack escalates its aggressiveness against the second siege. Similarly, Japan’s economy thrived after World War II because survival gave the people a greater sense of self-power. Equally, the Rwandese genocide instilled peace and prosperity; IMF ranks Rwanda economy 33rd out of the 54 African countries most of which have more massive area coverage and population size than Rwanda. Today, Godzilla mirrors the capacity of humans to evade the catastrophic impacts of global warming.
Indeed, Godzilla serves as a reflection of the underrated capacity of human beings to improve the world regardless of the present challenges. Firstly, the monster is a metaphoric acknowledgment of the progress made by Japan in spite of the significant nationwide problems due to World War II bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Secondly, Godzilla changes the negative perception of the masses to a positive attitude by illustrating the strength of mere humans to combat monstrous creatures. Conclusively, Godzilla mirrors the capacity of humans to evade the catastrophic environmental problems such as global warming.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, ed. Monster theory [electronic resource]: reading culture. U of Minnesota Press, 1996.
Monster theory, created by Cohen in 1996. The author describes what features to monsters share, the reasons that people create monsters base on their society, what work do monsters do, and so on. I use this source to prove the relation between Japanese culture and Godzilla, to tell people why Godzilla was created and how does Godzilla affect people in a significant way.
Lewis, Brian. “‘Cool Japan and the Commodification of Cute: Selling Japanese National Identity and International Image.” (2015): 11-12.
‘Cool Japan’ and the Commodification of Cute: Selling Japanese National Identity and International Image is created by Brian Lewis. The part I choose describes the social problems that Japan had before 1980 and how the people had overcome the adverse effects of rapid economic development, and there is a strong connection with Godzilla.
Orbaugh, Sharalyn. “In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage.” Science Fiction Film and Television 3.2 (2010): 320-323.
This book contains a lot of essays that take into account the Godzilla films and how they shaped and influenced postwar Japanese culture and the globalization of Japanese pop culture icons. I choose the part which can help me prove that Godzilla as a monster has impacted people from all over the world in many aspects.
“Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” Direct Tv. 7 November 2018. 8. https://www.directv.com/movies/Godzilla-King-of-the-Monsters-VERiYi9uUmpQUUFINVBmSFUzT3R0QT09
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Is a 1956 Japanese-American film which is co-directed by Terry O. Morse and Ishirō Honda. This film is adapted from the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla. This is a film with a long history. I chose this movie because it was modified by an American company, which proves Godzilla was very popular worldwide at the time.
Kern, Adam. “Gojira.” Media Space, 2017. 7 November 2018. 8. https://mediaspace.wisc.edu/media/Gojira+%281954%29/0_77dat3bv
This Japanese movie directed by HONDA Ishirô, with English subtitles. This 64-year-old film describes a 50-meter-high dinosaur monster created in irradiated waters. It was the world’s first Godzilla film, and today Godzilla is still one of the most famous monsters. I choose this movie to prove its long history.