GOJIRA Revisited: the Impact of WWII and the changing role of Japanese Women

One of the main assumptions I made in relation to Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film, Gojira that I researched was in relation to the oxygen destroyer and Godzilla himself being metaphorical concepts related to nuclear warfare. As Umphrey (2009) highlights, “Gojira is a not just a monster laying waste to a city, but a commentary on environmental and nuclear politics.” This is an important concept considering that World War II had only just recently ended prior to the release of Gojira.

miniture work .jpg

Miniature sets were used in Gojira

Wilson (2013) outlines that in the 1950s, Second World War films were very popular. Such films often relied upon either original footage from US sources or specially built models and miniatures as was seen in Gojira. It is also interesting to note that Ishiro Honda directed other war related films prior to Gojira such as ‘Taiheiyo no washi’, which translates to Eagle of the Pacific and ‘Saraba Rabauru’ (Farewall Rabaul). Wilson further outlines that the popularity of war films in Japan were due to the nostalgia inflicted in viewers which provided great cash flow and commercial gain for the films. Interestingly though, war films during this time seemed to appeal to men more so than women (Wilson, 2013), so perhaps this explains Honda’s decision to incorporate a love triangle in Gojira in the hope to attract the female Japanese population.

godzilla and director

Ishiro Honda’s films around the 1950s were heavily influenced by the nuclear warfare issues of World War II

Godjira also represents the inconceivable destructiveness of the new atomic age (Brougher, 2013). Similarly also does the oxygen destroyer. Hence my assumption that Dr. Serizawa’s hesitation was due to the terrible implications that could have been far reaching if his creation was found to be in the hands of the wrong person. It was essentially a metaphor for power and nuclear war. Further to this, Gojira represents the destruction of Japan caused by the awakening of the American “monster’ of war and nuclear weapons during World War II. Hence the movie is trying to outline that nuclear war cannot be ended or solved by further experimental and atomic bomb material (the oxygen destroyer). However in the end Dr. Serizawa has to use the oxygen destroyer to help Japan, which ultimately results in his death to prevent the wrongful use of his creation.

love triangle.jpg

The Love Triangle

Lastly, as Shapiro (2002) highlights, Emiko struggles with the interest of two rival men chasing her. There was great emphasis during the 1950s on the importance of family, often with arranged marriages still taking place (Friedman, 1992). However the evolving role of women is most apparent in Emiko’s attitudes toward marriage and the family system. Multiple sources that I visited suggested that Emiko was actually engaged to Dr. Serizawa, until she broke off her engagement with him when she went to visit him at his lab, in order to be with Hideto Ogata. Research has allowed me to understand that the role of the Japanese woman was changing around the 1950s towards giving women a voice whereas previously they were perceived as the subservient gender.

Following my research, I have come to really appreciate the influence World War II had on the film as well as the depicted changing roles of women around that time. I now understand that the movie is an important part of Japanese history, rather than simply a confusing movie about a giant looking dinosaur and a highly emotional woman in a love triangle.

References:

  • Brougher, K 2013, ‘Art and Nuclear Culture’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 69, no. 6, pp. 11-18.
  • Friedman, S 1992, Women In Japanese Society: Their Changing Roles, viewed 19 August 2016 <http://www2.gol.com/users/friedman/writings/p1.html>.
  • Shapiro, J 2002, ‘1945 to 2001: Japan’s atomic bomb cinema’, in J Shapiro (ed.), Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film, Routledge, New York, pp. 283.
  • Wilson, S 2013, ‘Film and Solider: Japanese War Movies in the 1950s’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 537-555.
  • Umphrey, O 2009, ‘From Screen to Page: Japanese Film AS a Historic Document’, PhD thesis, Boise State University.
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3 comments

  1. Hey i really like the choice of Godzilla. I also decided to write about Godzilla and found it very rewarding. I completely agree with your assumption you made about is reminding you of Nuclear warfare. I also had the same thought process.
    When i went to Japan i found it really influential and after watching Godzilla it really made me think back to when i was in the Hiroshima Museum.
    This whole connection with the reading you your Autoethnographic view has help confirm my feeling toward this film and what Ethnography is.
    Good luck in your next post
    Thanks Tom

    Like

  2. It’s amazing how useful pop culture films are at commenting about what is going on within a society or what should be happening in the case of Gojira this is about the fear of new technology rising and what would happen if such tech ended up in the wrong hands (almost a clear link to WWII Japan). This theme recurs all around the world in different cultures (think Frankenstein, zombies e.g.) but I like how in-depth you’ve gone will looking at the key contextual markers that make Gorija what it is, and how it is a product of post-war Japan. I would have like to see a stronger connection to the changing role of females aspect you’ve talked about, as well as hearing about what your reaction to the film was and how you felt about the findings after. Nice post!

    Like

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