Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Big Guy is comin...

Why Godzilla matters

While some may never be able to see past the image of those 1970s movies and cartoon show, Godzilla is in reality a literary  and societal metaphor of nearly unmatched relevancy and power in today's world. Others have written of Godzilla in literary or cultural terms, well before me.                                                                   But I think the symbol of Godzilla is an apt one for this particular era of history and its issues.

This is not so much about the new film coming out in a few weeks, although, if it proves a hit, that may get people talking about Godzilla, and the symbolic resonance of what he represents.

Hopefully, the film will trigger a lot of conversations beyond just the special effects and production values.

As an ideal emodiment of a particular and persistent human theme, Godzilla matters in today's world, far beyond just the action-movie excitement and box-office receipts.

Dragons appear frequently  in Japanese mythology as creatures of great power, although they were 

most commonly benevolent.

The Japanese established kaiju (giant monsters) as 
a film genre, but real-life
kaiju are part of the Japanese DNA. Puzzled? Go check out some actual kaiju on youtube---The 3-11 tsunami at Kessenuma, or Minamisanriku, or Sendai, as an unstoppable giant monster spread it's unimaginably powerful limbs across the land, tossing trucks, ships and buildings around like Cracker-Jack toys, making a mockery of puny human barriers built for the foolish illusion of security, and ultimately laying all to waste, as have Japan's many historic tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

But Godzilla, the king and biggest star of all the kaiju, is distinctly American-inspired, and so in essence,
a co-creation of Japan and America.

We gave Japan the nuclear connection tragically via Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and later, through Fukushima reactors #1,2,3 and 4---All built at near sea-level (against some Japanese objections at the time), as insisted upon by General Electric in the 1970s, in order to sell their reactor design without costly modification.
And this was after the recent tsunamis of 1946, 1960 and 1964!

Human folly provided the opening through which Fukushima was ripped-open, literally, by the earth's own kaiju.

America gave Japan the dark burden of radiation, and Japan fused their own ancient mythologies, their seismic heritage, and recent history together in a burst of inspiration, and gave the world Gojira (Godzilla)---The radioactive super-dragon that cannot be killed or stopped, and that humanity helped create.

The theme that Godzilla embodies, is deeply colored by the age-old issue
embodied in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein---Has humankind taken on too much power---More than our limited wisdom can handle?

This is a theme that haunts the human race more and more with each passing year, and will, perhaps, to our end.

Perhaps Godzilla is the new, and even more 

topically relevant,
Frankenstein, for our age.

Godzilla represents everything we fear, that we cannot control, and that can destroy us all. This includes phenomena of nature (tsunami, typhoons, earthquakes), as well as things we are partly responsible for (climate change? Pollution? Fukushima?).

The primary theme behind Godzilla as a metaphor is something many people simply avoid thinking about, but is the thing that all human beings, as citizens of Earth, need to be thinking about.

It is a question.

Actually, it is the question:

Will the human race survive?

Put that in your action-movie and smoke it. 

Be sure to inhale.

For many people choosing not to look, or think, too deeply, Godzilla will continue to be merely an action-flick phenomenon,
a social event, a punch line.

But for the more philosophical among us----Those not afraid to look at 

The Big Picture of human life on earth, even via 
a piece of popular mass-entertainment,
Godzilla matters.

No comments:

Post a Comment