The Japanese know the monster as Gojira, in America we call the creature Godzilla but worldwide it is known as the King of the Monsters. This monster is gigantic, an overgrown lizard preying on the fish of the seas. It resembles a Galapagos marine lizard, with its ability to dive to deep trenches and travel across vast amounts of lands. Godzilla is a dinosaur that has been mutated by the fallout of an atomic bomb test. This mutation gave it the ability to breathe atomic breath and caused it to rapidly grow gigantic. The back of the monster has dorsal plate similar to that of a stegosaurus, along with puny arms and dark scaly skin that emits radiation. Reed Johnson of the LA Times believes, “The “Godzilla” movies were famously inspired by an actual event: the contamination of a Japanese fishing trawler and its 23 crew members by radioactive fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test explosion in the Marshall Islands,” a reflection of the Japanese fears. Ishiro Honda’s film “Gojira”, Gojira stood as a representation of the Japanese's fears of nuclear bombs then, five films later in 1964 the movie “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster”, Godzilla became a guardian of the earth and decades later and in Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version, a motherly misunderstood creature.
In Honda’s “Gojira”, the sight of Gojira is followed by crowds running and screaming because he brought nothing but destruction and radiation. CNN Entertainment calls Godzilla an “icon of world culture,” being created in a post-World War era after the only recorded use of nuclear weapons known till this day. The people fled from Gojira similar to the people that survived the atomic bomb named Little Boy, and the devastation it caused in Hiroshima. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey described the impact as; “A mass flight from the city took place as persons sought safety…” because Godzilla was what NY Times writer Terrence Rafferty calls an “obvious gigantic, unsubtle, grimly purposeful metaphor for the atomic bomb.” I think the “Gojira” movie was created with the sole purpose of giving insight on understanding how horrific the bombs were and how much of an impact it had on the community. The atomic bombing was of such a devastating nature that it developed into a creature, something straight out of a horror story.
In the movie “Gojira” following his rampage at night it shows a horrific seen of countless number of people damaged by radiation poisoning in hospital and a town torn to rubble. Godzilla is a fear of a repeat of the devastation, “nuclear anxiety” (Rafferty) and being left in the dark of fixing the destruction caused. When the video was released in America the theme of Godzilla standing for nuclear destruction was suppressed. The dubbed version had removed many of the references to the nuclear attack. The American Horror Encyclopedia: Asian Horror Culture in Literature, Manga and Folklore writer Laurence C. Bush criticizes a Horror critic named Twitchell of having a misinterpretation of Godzilla as “unsophisticated” and “stupid” because of the “unfortunate post-production”. It is not possible for Twitchell to understand the culture behind Godzilla. Twitchell viewed “Godzilla” only as a monster that destroyed things because he has no idea what had really happen and how horrific the bombs were. This was probably a result of the U.S. trying to suppress the aftermath of the atomic bombs. Godzilla in Japan was well known because it started to become a part of the tradition since the Japanese were all affected somehow by the effects of the bombing. Were as in America, the Americans were oblivious to the actual event only aware of the obvious. It was a fire burning in Japan started by the Americans; America only saw the smoke, while the Japanese experience the heat and destruction it brought. Honda’s “Godzilla” serves as a reminder to the Japanese of the damage brought about by the nuclear weapons and the Japanese best understand the true horror that the weapons bring, having experienced it first hand, along with how grimly the monster Godzilla is.
Over time Godzilla took on a friendlier children image as he became a guardian of earth beginning several films later in “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster”, as Godzilla teams up with other monsters to defend against an enemy trying to destroy the earth. This new Godzilla in 1964 is a huge turn away from what he once stood for. The destruction and nuclear power that once caused chaos in Japan but has been revolutionized to protect against a foreign invader. This Godzilla gives the audience more of a friendly feeling and the theme of nuclear power had been pushed aside and the monster became less frightening and more appealing.
In 1978 Hanna-Barbera created a television show called “The Godzilla Power Hour”, where the appearance of Godzilla was drastically changed to appear less bulky and more flexible. Along with a light green color body that leaned away from the previous darker colors. In Hanna-Barbera’s Godzilla also eliminated his atomic breath and replaced it with normal fire breathing. This new version of Godzilla had a nephew, a smaller version of Godzilla, whom was friends with a young boy. This relationship attracts a younger audience unlike Honda’s more frightening relationship where humans feared Godzilla and fled at his sight.
This same relationship first appeared in “All Monsters Attack”, the tenth film released in 1969 when Godzilla’s apparent son helped a trouble child deal with a bullying problem. The introduction to a baby Godzilla in 1967, Jun Fukuda’s “Son of Godzilla” created a stir among critics on an online review website Rotten Tomatoes as they viewed the addition to be more appealing to a younger audience and away from what Godzilla once stood for originally. This shift was caused by the need for a new audience. The war and fear of nuclear weapons had been removed from the picture in 1963 by the Test Ban Treaty which according to the U.S. Department of State “prohibits nuclear weapons tests ‘or any other nuclear explosion’ in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.
While not banning tests underground, the Treaty does prohibit nuclear explosions in this environment if they cause ‘radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted’”. That idea of a having a friendship with such a powerful, “kinder, and gentler” (Greenberger) creature would attract an ordinary kid who wants to be a hero and a huge part of helping protect the world. Godzilla became the hero figure, an increasingly attractive to a younger audience as he pulled away from the more frightening image he once represented.
The newest Godzilla leaned away from guardian of the planet to a protector of its young. In Roland Emmerich’s 1998 “Godzilla” film, Godzilla had created its nest in New York City and laid thousands of eggs. This Godzilla took on a more slim shaped and agile body in order to get around in the city. Unlike Hanna-Barbera’s Godzilla this one had atomic breathe and was a dark color. Emmerich’s Godzilla had return to the original concept of being destructive as it gathered materials to build its nest to provide for its young. This Godzilla was misunderstood and was not being destructive but, instinctive as its maternal nature guided its actions. Godzilla no longer stood as a representation of the atomic bomb nor a guardian of the earth but as an overgrown lizard that was acting off of instinct. In America people had a subtle understanding of atomic bombs so there was no need for the nuclear metaphor he once stood for. Robert Greenberg writer of “Meet Godzilla” calls Emmerich’s film of Godzilla a “disaster” as do many other reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. This is probably because of the major change in appearance and habits. The newer Godzilla became more animal and instinctive rather than, a guardian of earth or a monster of destruction.
Godzilla has been introduced into a variety of places and was introduced as a movie and turned into an idol. In the Japanese culture he is known as a nuclear monster that stands for a metaphor of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and this is Honda’s original purpose for the monster. The purpose of this transformation was to give the Japanese an understatement of how brutal the bombings were. Over a decade the audience of the films shifted and the original horror it created was suppressed and there was an introduction to a guardian of earth along with a children friendly version that was protecting the earth. Hanna-Barbera and Jun Fukuda created a Godzilla that children wanted to be friends with by creating a smaller and friendlier version. This version came with the end of the nuclear warfare almost to forget about the horrible incidents that occurred years before. Emmerich created a motherly monster and showed a more animalistic version of Godzilla that was only trying to survive. Leaning even farther away from the destructive metaphor he stood for to suppress that metaphor. Throughout his transformation Godzilla remains the king of the monsters and many people will know Japan as being home to Mt. Fuji and Godzilla.
Laurence C. Bush. Asian Horror Encyclopedia: Asian Horror Culture in Literature, Manga and Folklore. 2001. Unknown. 64. Web. November 23 2012
Robert Greenberger. Meet Godzilla. 2005. Rosen Publishing Group. Web. November 23 2012.
Reed Johnson. Japan crisis evokes comparisons to its pop culture disaster narratives, historic events. March 28 2011, LA Times. Web. November 23 2012
Terrence Rafferty. The Monster That Morphed Into a Metaphor. May 2 2004, NY Times. Web. November 23 2012
Books Reviews The Official Godzilla Compendium. June 09 1998, CNN Entertainment. Web. November 23 2012
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water. U.S. Department of State BUREAU OF ARMS CONTROL, VERIFICATION AND COMPLIANCE. Web. November 23 2012
U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946. President's Secretary's File, Truman Papers. June 1946 Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. 11. Web. November 23 2012