Gojira (1954) Through the Eyes of an Ethnic Australian

Gojira (1954) is the film that kickstarted the never-ending production of narratives and reimaginings of Godzilla. In viewing the film in this week’s seminar with the aim of exploring not the film itself but the way in which I make sense of the film.

In viewing the film I was able to deduce that the narrative of the film in itself was a metaphor for the impact of nuclear warfare upon the Japanese people. I was able to interpret that through my knowledge of the events of WWII and the year the film was released, seemingly at a time when Japan was still immediately grappling with the immediate aftermath of the hydrogen bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the firebombing of Tokyo. Godzilla can be seen as the superpower of the United States. 

While as stated above I am able to understand the nature of the film through looking at the historical perspective and the Japanese zeitgeist at the time of production I more closely understand the film through my personal identity. As a second-generation Australian whom has often struggled to navigate mainstream Australian culture with a “strong” ethnic name and has constantly searched for something to belong to I found myself empathising with Godzilla character. Godzilla is portrayed as blindly destroying buildings and infrastructure, only becoming violent when agitated by gunfire and electric attacks, and if intercepted and integrated onto the mainland in a manner that suited both Godzilla and the Japanese people a much more peaceful outcome could have been reached. Throughout the film I felt that the Japanese officials did not spend enough time trying to understand the supposed monster; turning to violence far too soon, not giving any thought to the nonviolent means which could be used to resolve and de-escalate the situation. 

Upon reflection I feel that at the time of production and release, Japanese culture was in a state xenophobia, whether that was the case or not, as an ethnic Australian whom grew up at the time of and in close proximity to the Cronulla Race Riots I cannot interpret the film or Japanese culture in 1954 any other way. While I know that these postwar attitudes are not at all carried in 2017 Japan through personal interactions and consumption of Japanese media Gojira provides a snapshot of the attitudes of Japanese peoples in 1954.

2 comments

  1. I agree with you here, that although the central metaphor is relating to the devastation of the nuclear and conventional bombing of Japan, it’s the central parable about the need to understand Gojira scientifically that generates much of the empathy for the creature. It’s interesting that in later movies Godzilla is an integrated figure that defends Japan against even greater monsters and threats.

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