Godzilla Unearthed

Taking it back to my initial reaction to Godzilla; I’ve now done the research, compared my reactions to what was actually happening in the movie and have accepted that some things will remain a mystery to me while some scenes which I took at face value have a lot more meaning than I first realized. However, I feel like this is quite common even with Hollywood films since it is impossible to keep track of every detail of the movie on first watch and even just reading over the story line on Wikipedia can help reveal some answers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who went on a crazed Google expedition to find out all I could about a mind-fuck movie I just watched (Inception, Fight Club, and Eternal Sundhine of the Spotless Mind, I’m looking at you) and find out if I was even close to understanding the plot.

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But, back to Godzilla. In true autoethnographic style, it’s now time to analyze my experience with a little bit of background research to help understand my initial reactions. One of the first things I noticed during my viewing was a map of Japan that appeared sideways compared to modern maps, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find out exactly why this is so that will have to remain a mystery to me. It struck me that even though I viewed American and Japanese film as quite different from each other, there were a lot of tropes and themes that appeared in Godzilla which are common in Hollywood cinema as well; most noticeable was the love triangle plot line between Ogata, Serizawa, and Emiko. In America’s love triangle repertoire, there’s Sweet Home AlabamaTwilightMoulin Rouge, and Bridget Jones’s Diary just to name a few. Japan on the other hand has an almost infinite list of anime featuring love triangles; think Skip Beat!NanaHoney and Clover and School Rumble. Maybe we’re not so different after all.

Before watching Godzilla, I never knew of its intense focus on the dangers of nuclear weapons, but this metaphor made sense to me since the film was released in 1954, barely a decade after the horrible events of World War II. Even the last line of the entire film drove in a final reminder to learn from the horrors of the past when Yamane says, “but if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again“. Until researching the text however, I was unaware of the parallels Godzilla had to the events of the second world war. An article by Peter H. Brothers explains the extent at which the director of Godzilla, Ishiro Honda, went to re-create some of the brutal experiences from the war. As WWII was drawing to a close, Japan was forced to fight America alone as both Germany and Italy had surrendered and this can be seen through Godzilla when Japan once again must face the threat alone. Also, in the film Tokyo is reduced to a ‘sea of fire’ during the monsters rampage which can be likened to the real-life bombing of the capital on March 9, 1945, where over a million people lost their homes while 100 000 others lost their lives.

After delving deeper into the context of the film, it is clear to me that Godzilla is supposed to be a remorseful look at the past with an emphasis on the evil that should never have been used – the atomic bomb. Although I haven’t seen the US version of Godzilla, there are many articles stating the obliteration of the originals political message and this is understandable due to the tension between America and Japan; especially after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was only in 2004 when the original Godzilla  was released unedited without any American protagonists in sight. Comparing the two different versions would be an interesting study to take up especially since each country were on opposite sides of nuclear war, however, this has been enough Godzilla for one day.

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