Gojira – The original slizzard lizard from the East.

I have never been an avid consumer of films from the 50’s but I am aware that they comprise of a particular recipe. Where does this awareness come from?! Well, luckily for me my dad is obsessed with 50’s films, so whenever I am swaggering through the lounge room I find myself quickly observing the world of 1950’s Hollywood cinema.

When I found out we would be watching Gojira, 1954, I was pretty excited, mainly because I have never seen a Japanese film from the 50’s and was interested to see if it would be any different from the one’s my dad is constantly ogling at.

While watching Gojira, I was really trying to pick up on distinct elements of Asian culture, but I just could not get past the uncanny similarities between it and the American films of that time. This was particularly obvious with regard to the composure of males and females. YES I was not really focused on the giant, mutated amphibian that was defacing the city of Tokyo and its people. I was too busy studying the actions of the characters.

The lead female character, Emiko, depicts the archetypal female of that time. This becomes pretty obvious through her conservative ‘housewife’ clothing and overall, consistent ‘damsel in distress’ demeanour e.g.

Emiko

Clinging to/being held by male figure.

emiko1

‘I can be your hero baby’ – Enrique Iglesias perfectly depicting Dr. Serizawa’s thoughts.

These kind of gender roles are mirrored in famous western movies of the 50’s era:

Kiss Me Deadly, 1955 – ‘Ugh, get off me peasant.’

Pickup on South Street, 1953 – Female figure swooning in male figures arms.

Vertigo, 1958 – Female figure demonstrates downturned, submissive eye. Male figure appears domineering and assertive through gaze and physical contact.

I also found that the sheer amount of violence made it hard for any elements of Asian culture to come through e.g. most scenes are dark and ominous to reflect the sense of doom and loss of hope that Gojira’s presence brings, however, this makes it hard to see the surrounding landscape.

Upon further discussion, I did not realise that Gojira may have been used as a tool to subconsciously instill fear into viewers regarding nuclear energy and its destructive potential. Coming out of WW2, the battle between Gojira and the military power must have been a symbol of how useless and minuscule this power is in the face of something as huge as nuclear energy. Thus the movie carries a powerful, underlying anti-war message:

“…if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.”

Kyohei Yamane-hakase, Gojira, 1954.

Ultimately, this helped me to recognise the global success of the film. I can also see why the West adopted it and made their own version because it plays upon the basic, universal human emotions and actions that come about in times of crisis e.g. fear, violence, sadness and distress.

I guess my current knowledge of Asian culture caused me to predict how this film from the 50’s would have been. However, in the modern line of production, Asian culture has clearly developed a more distinct sense of style and identity e.g. Anime, Cosplay, fashion etc.

Overall, pretty cool movie;

9/10 slizzard lizards.

Alex 🙂

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12 comments

  1. The focus on your blog about romance tropes from the 1950’s was really interesting to see being explored this week. I think most people (myself included) didn’t really spend too much time on it, as it got overshadowed by the more dominant themes. It would have been excellent if you did go more in depth with your exploration though – how do you see those romance tropes, do you think they’ve changed much across time and across cultures?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for you comment! Yeah I agree, on second review I think I could have related it more to my own personal framework and cultural background as well as touch on the continuity/discontinuity of these old age stereotypes.

      Like

  2. Your comparison between Gojira and other Western films in relation to the portrayal of masculinity and femininity is really quite interesting. I enjoyed your exploration of this notion through character analysis, photos and accompanying captions and I think the range of Western examples showcases well your exposure to the 50s romantic subgenre.

    Your historicisation of the film in relation to nuclear warface in Japan is interesting since they were arguably the most affected country following Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you’re interested in exploring the film with regards to the height of anxiety in the Cold War, check out these links:

    https://thedissolve.com/features/movie-of-the-week/547-godzilla-and-the-age-of-atomic-anxiety/

    http://www.international.ucla.edu/asia/article/24850

    I would have loved to have read a bit more on your own cultural and personal contextualising, but nevertheless, great work (and fantastic title!)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I really like the connection you have made between Japanese and western film, especially because it’s what resonates with your cultural background and being exposed to films created in the 50’s within your home. You have hit the nail on the head with the autoethnographic study, by providing relevant information to the film. Your use of images as evidence to portray this connection is very well done, as it provides proof for people who may not have seen any 50’s film, not even Hollywood ones. Killed it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the way that you have explored the 1950s romance genre and gender tropes and connected them to Gojira. I think that these had been overshadowed by dominant themes, and it was interesting to see this view on the film. I think you’ve done an awesome job on the auto ethnographic study and provided relevant information about the film. I like that you’ve included how your dad is interested in 1950s films, and you have an understanding of the era and overall are able to compare the Japanese and hollywood based films.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed reading your discussion of how Gojira and other Western films explore gender. The housewife, damsel in distress is mired across cultures and I enjoyed the graphic portrayal of this correlation. I do agree that the violence made it hard for some elements of Asian culture to come through, but taking into consideration the historical context post WW2, it is understandable. It was also cool to read about how your Dad is interested in 1950s films. I also grep up with lots of black and white movies and loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really liked your account. Whenever I watch a film, I find that I am drawn to the female character, mostly because we often share similar attributes. As you said, many themes are universal and unfortunately the ‘female archetype’ is commonly placed as a ‘love interest’. The comparisons you made through use of photos made this an engaging read. It would be awesome to know your dad’s observations of the film!

    Liked by 1 person

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