Understanding the ‘Enemy’ through Gojira

When I was eighteen years old I visited the Vietnamese war museum with my mother. We saw actual traps the Viet Cong had used to kill members of the ‘enemy’, including Australians. We heard stories, absolutely barbaric tales of what ‘American’ (which, in this context, was defined to be everyone fighting against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War) soldiers had done to Vietnamese forces. Inside the museum, graphic images of mutilated and dead children were displayed like art. We left the building after only fifteen minutes; it was too confronting to stay.

vietnamese

Brutal images such as this one were displayed at the Vietnamese War Museum. In my school education of the Vietnam War, I wasn’t given the opportunity to consider that the other side suffered too, and maybe soldiers fighting for us were brutal also (image: AWS).

 

The way in which we partake in any attempt at research on a group we are a part of holds a necessary bias known as reflexivity. This week in DIGC330: Digital Asia, we became familiar with this idea through making sense of the film Gojira (1954). This film is the original Godzilla. It’s Japanese, black and white, and extremely different in content and structure to the Hollywood blockbusters we see today.@Although I did not realise this at the commencement of the film, Gojira was heavily influenced by the events surrounding World War II. Prior to this realisation, I was pretty confused at the story of the film. This is probably more due to my trying to live-tweet the film as I viewed it; the attention economy is apparently one where I struggle to function. I wasn’t alone, much of the class seemed fairly light-hearted and the resulting Twitter conversation was rather humorous. It contained a variety of memes, puns and literary reference, some of which were clever and others downright cringy.

Once it became apparent that the film carried a darker message, conversations about the second World War and the artistic relevance of the film were established. What resonated with me was the power of human emotion, the brutality of war and how my school experience provided me with a very one-sided education on World War II. It’s also interesting to note that the Japanese school curriculum contains very little 20th century history, with a particular absence of Japan’s role in not only World War II, but other notable conflicts in Asia and beyond.

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Source: Twitter @c_lair_e_96

 

I always learned that Japan fought amongst the enemy and with brutal force. The Australian soldiers, I was told, fought bravely protect our country. Maybe this is true, but there’s so much more to the story. Viewing this film showed the passion, patriotism and agony of the War as part of the Japanese story. We forget that our side fought with brutality too; US forces dropped nuclear weapons on two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 129 000 people were killed. It is argued by some that without this action, the war may have ended with worse destruction, but we will never know. Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare again (thus far).

Scenes including the one where a woman clung to her small children, promising they would be reunited with their (presumably dead) father, were absolutely heartbreaking to watch. This was never an image I would have conjured in my mind when thinking about the Japanese WWII experience.

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Human suffering is universal. Why is this not represented in history books? (Image: Shenanitims)

I have ancestors who fought in wars such as these; this affects my attitude towards the conflict portrayed and my experience of watching the ‘enemy’ suffer. Viewing this film reinforced to me that, aside from political differences, the human experiences of love, pain, suffering and loyalty are very much coherent across different cultures. Even viewing this piece through poorly-translated subtitles, black and white film and almost comically inept special effects gave me this valuable insight, despite being some fifty years and 7902 kilometres away from the intended Japanese audience.

-Claire

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10 comments

  1. A great analysis of the Twitter feed with attention to the change in yours and the cohorts response to the movie as it progressed. Also starting to get into some interesting and reflexive analysis in the final paragraph.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s fascinating that this film has found an even deeper resonance for you due to the Australian connection to WWII. Like you mentioned, the Twitter feed quickly realised the film was a metaphor for war, but it’s intriguing to see that it resonated with you on a deeper level because you were being forced to empathise with a culture that we have been conditioned to believe were the “faceless enemy” in WWII.

    It’s a testament to the fact that Gojira (1954) holds a deeper global message for audiences, despite at first appearing to be a very Eastern-centric package.

    Great analysis of your personal connection to the film with reference to the Twitter feed, and as always fantastic writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tom 🙂 I agree that Gojira holds a strong relevance for Western audiences. How else would a group of 20-something Australian digital media students have had so much fun tweeting about it!
      -Claire 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a super interesting post because you not only talked about the obvious disconnect of the film being old and foreign, but also the way our experience as a class was shaped by the way we were watching the film together. Many people in the class barely allowed themselves to fully experience the film because they were distracted by twitter, but that in itself is another kind of experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, it was hard to live tweet for a number of different reasons; it was hard to watch two screens at once. The absence of english audio in particular made this difficult, but a good experience nonetheless
      -Claire 🙂

      Like

  4. The notion which infatuated me most about your post is the links to the universal suffering and pain of both sides during the war and the use of Godzilla as a metaphor.

    The way you mentioned your own cultural bias and prejudice in relation to the war was extremely interesting when related to the film and one which I don’t have. None of my relatives fought in the war so I don’t have a connection like yourself. I find it extremely interesting that you have pre-conceived ideas about the ‘enemy’ and values which you must have from your ancestors. Were these values past down through your family or ones that Australian culture and education imposed? This article highlights the idea that values come from our culture (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2002/dec/11/familyandrelationships.features102) and this culture is past down through our ancestors. This could be why you felt as though Japan had been ‘the enemy’ throughout the film.

    Another point I wanted to make was how human suffering is universal and the relevance of Godzilla in the modern day. This article highlights more so why Godzilla correlates to WWII and has interesting points on modern day interpretations of Godzilla (America as a superpower) as a friend/competitor and not as a foe (http://www.ourcuriousworld.com/Godzilla.htm). The idea that Godzilla is now a competitor of Japan and not a destructive force is quite interesting.

    Your post was brilliant as always, thanks for sharing,
    ~krisesandchrosses~

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating post! I really love that you take on the history angle, which people tend to forget. That makes me want to learn more about the role of Australia in WWII and what you were taught about WWII in school. It can be so different from what I was taught 😂 It is important to look at history from various viewpoints, because it’s not just about events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s absolutely insane how much bias occurs in history texts. I visited a Vietnamese war museum also and again, I was told a very different story to what was in my classroom.
      Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed how you incorporated what you previously knew about Japan’s history in the war with what you experienced throughout watching the film. I also enjoyed how you could acknowledge that other than what you already knew, this film was able to show you the ‘passion, patriotism and agony of the war’ from the view of the Japanese. I liked your involvement of your live tweeting too, and how you noted that once the class became aware of the true meaning of the film, the tweets became less of a joke, and more of a general realisation. Your personal connection also provided a lot of insight into the way you interpreted the meaning and how you viewed the Japanese as the ‘enemy’ and having to watch their suffering.
    All in all, very well written post!

    Liked by 1 person

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