Ahhhhhhhh, It’s Gojira!!!!!

Image result for gojira

Last Thursday must have been one of the more interesting opening tutorials I’ve experienced.  It was nostalgic.  I can vividly remember seeing Hollywood productions of the same black and white era being played around midday every weekend.  Watching a monster film instead of the usual “Hi, I’m blah-blah-blah and I like blah-blah-blah” was definitely a nice change.  While I knew about the Kaiju genre of Japanese films, I had never properly sat down to watch an original.

From the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Gojira’ is a movie without much substance.  People awaken monster, monster destroys stuff, people come together to destroy monster.  I had never given these films much thought either.  Perhaps that’s because so many of the Kaiju-esque films that Hollywood produces follow this same trope without much in the way of themes or worthwhile story.

But ‘Gojira’ needs to be viewed differently; understanding its context is important.  With ‘Gorjia’ releasing in 1954, it’s hard not to realise just how politically and culturally important the film is for Japan.  Godzilla represents nuclear holocaust, with his attacks being a reflection on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Reflecting on my own context and media consumption experience, it has always been the “communists” or in more recent times those from Middle Eastern origins who have been portrayed as the antagonists in films we see in the west.  It must also be said that they are far less subtly villainised on the that the US was in ‘Gojira’.

My consumption of Japanese media is usually limited to food or fashion, so being able to view the important cultural roots of Japanese cinema was excellent.

‘Gorjia’ has really given birth to global genre, and one of the more interesting offshoots is that of North Korea’s 1985 film ‘Pulgasari’.  Why is it interesting?  Well that’s because Kim Jong-il had the man hailed as “South Korea’s Spielberg” kidnapped in 1978 to help make North Korea a film making powerhouse. Sufficed to say the plan didn’t work very well, but it made for a cult hit in the western world.

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7 comments

  1. I can resonate with you on the similar black and white films being played around midday every weekend as a kid! You’ve made some interesting points about the film, especially making connections to the 1985 film Pulgasari. With multiple modern tropes spawned from this film, you can see why Godzilla holds such an importance in the global film genre.

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  2. It’s interesting how the very literal metaphor of a nuclear bomb just got out of control in terms of popularity in the pop culture simply due to fact that “big monsters are cool”. Really makes you wonder whats the criteria a material needs to meet in order to become mainstream

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  3. Lovely post highlighting your own experiences with the Kaiju form of films and your own ethnographic understanding of Japanese culture and their involvement in the war.

    What I found interesting is how you mentioned that understanding the context of the film is important to having a good viewing experience of the film. I believe you are correct in saying this. It can be proven from the twitter feed that without the proper knowledge of a texts context and cultural baggage, that viewers will resort to satire and ‘memes’ as content which they curate (myself included). This article (http://mediashift.org/2016/07/live-tweeting-news-risks-rewards/) goes through the idea of live tweeting as a form of understanding a franchise or text and the risks that come along with it. In our circumstances, we needed more then just live tweeting to understand this text.

    I also felt quite bad after creating tweets poking fun at the film when it was meant to be serious, horrific and terrifying for Japanese audiences. It will make me think twice about judging a film by its quality and age.

    This brings up the question of whether Japanese viewers in the modern day would resort to the same form of tweeting as the #digc330 class in Australia. Would they know the stigma or context of the film? Because it is such a powerful metaphor about their history, I would be surprised if they’re reactions towards the film were not different.

    Again great post, lovely insight into your own opinions and culture,
    ~krisesandchrosses~

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  4. I think it’s important to recognise how this film helped to outline cultural attitudes at the point in time and how society towards the perceived ‘enemy’. I think how you talk about the evolving idea of who is the ‘enemy’ is key and it most certainly not limited to western pop-culture. Nice blog

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  5. It’s interesting that watching ‘Gojira’, which is essentially a B-movie and is typically produced solely for entertainment , is so much rewarding when understanding its historical and cultural context. Although my approach to the film was much more related to the film-industry side, I do agree with your interpretation regarding the metaphor of the U.S. as the villain in ‘Gojira’. Great post!

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  6. One of the most interesting parts of viewing media from Japan is that it gives us as Westerners a perspective that we may have never considered before. How often in modern media are America’s armies and war efforts praised or portrayed as the heroes?
    However, it’s interesting to note that post-Hiroshima Japan doesn’t portray America as the “big baddies”; rather, it’s the bomb and the war itself that’s been turned into a monster. America is never openly stated to be the enemy in the film (to my recollection) – only heavily implied if you understand the context. It’s incredible how an understanding of its origins changes the film’s depth completely.
    Lovely writing! xx

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