After an absence of a few weeks, I have returned! Be sure to check out all the apologies and other exciting things I posted earlier today. To come back with a bang, here’s a short piece I wrote on the history, influence, and significance of Godzilla! Enjoy!
Godzilla, the giant lizard-monster famous for terrorizing Japan, has survived in media for over 50 years and continues to be an icon of Japanese culture. Since Godzilla’s not-so-humble beginning in the 1954 film “Gojira” (the Japanese name for Godzilla), the monster has been in movies set in several countries––each time used to allegorically showcase their fears. Today Godzilla (and other giant monsters that spawned from the original’s success such as Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah) is known worldwide, but the spirit of Godzilla and the monster genre it created remain purely Japanese.
The behemoth originally represented the threat of nuclear war in the wake of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States swiftly created a Godzilla film of its own, disregarding the original plot, but nonetheless Godzilla became popular in America. Godzilla’s American popularity continued as other monsters swept through Japanese cinema: Movies like “King Kong vs Godzilla,” “Mothra vs Godzilla,” and “Godzilla vs the Thing” introduced new monsters that turned Godzilla into somewhat of a hero. Instead of being a metaphor for Japanese fears, the monster itself began defending the nation from terrorists, pollution, invading aliens, and their giant monster representations. To the observer, the change of Godzilla’s role in the movies shows that it had been completely absorbed and became a true icon.
As much as Americans ate up the Godzilla franchise, the concept is completely Japanese. Japan produced something successful because everyone could relate to it. In 1954 the threat of nuclear war was very real for Japan, and other countries had fears of their own. Whether it’s demolishing the Tokyo Tower or crushing waves of U.S. troops, Godzilla is the embodiment of fear on a national level. Japan’s interpretation of that fear gave the nation massive amounts of soft power as Godzilla infiltrated the movie theaters around the world. The influence the monster had––its movies, action figures, collectables––was so immense that the original film spawned more than 20 sequels, companions, and spin-offs. Though Godzilla may have lost its original metaphor for nuclear war, it exists today as a slate to which any fear could be applied, and an international icon that preserves an important piece of Japanese history.