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Godzilla: The Monster as Representation of Time and Place

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The Godzilla film franchise was created to demonstrate the devastation caused by human activity in nature. The film was made less than a decade after the United States attacked Japan with nuclear bombs during World War II, and it portrayed the human tragedy that resulted from the attack. When the film was first made in 1954, it was intended to raise the consciousness of the nuclear dangers that occurred after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The grim and dreary essence of Godzilla has, however, been transformed in the Godzilla franchise over time. The initial message of the movie has been reduced to mere entertainment and in some instances, the glorification of the very thing the first movie intended to prevent: the continual use of nuclear power to assert world dominance or resolve conflicts. The sequels of Godzilla included showdowns between the monster and other monsters like King Kong and SpaceGodzilla. Godzilla was glorified in the movies as he aimed to protect the world from other monsters who sought to destroy it thereby creating the illusion that nuclear power is essential for the protection of human beings against potential threats.

In this research paper, a critical analysis of Godzilla will be undertaken in order to elucidate the manner in which it offers a representation of the threats posed by nuclear power from World War II to the current day. An analysis of the manner in which Godzilla has transformed over the years and the representation in the transformation of time and place will also be discussed. The historical significance of Godzilla in light of current nuclear threats and use will also be analyzed. Godzilla was a representation of Japan after the World War II nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reality portrayed in Godzilla was aimed at sensitization of the public on the devastating effects and threats posed by nuclear warfare and negative human interference in nature; which lessons hold significance to date despite the change in the message put across by sequels of Godzilla.

Godzilla as a representation of the nuclear threats from World War II to the current day

Godzilla was created in order to portray the devastating and destructive aftermath of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Brothers, the movie was created to show the manner in which the people of Japan rebuilt their culture, lives and cities after the destruction meted on it in the World War II. The movie begins with the flash boom that awoke the dragon like monster, Godzilla, from a deep sleep. The death of some soldiers who saw the blast and a radio presenter who sends the message of the fatal event before his death mirrored real life events which occurred when the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki went off. Other analogies that prove that the first Godzilla movie was a depiction of the nuclear bombing of Japan in 1945 include: the monster’s reduction of Tokyo to rubble just as the atomic bombs did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two attacks by Godzilla just like the nuclear bombing of Japan and the burns on the bodies of the patients of the Godzilla attack which were similar to the radiation burns witnessed after the nuclear bombs went off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The author asserts that the film Godzilla and its sequels were not merely a representation of monsters but were insightful deductions on human nature. The rough edges of the images shown in the movie Godzilla were intended to be impactful to the souls of those who watched it in order to nudge at their conscience. Honda, which was involved in the production admitted to the moral messages which underlined the movie. Although many scenes were cut out of the final production in order to prevent distraction from the message on the basis of the horrifying images; the movie was able to be critically examined by adults who understood the negative effects of the use of nuclear power and the effects of human interference with nature.

Godzilla has transformed throughout the years through political moves aimed at creating a positive view of the use of nuclear power. Kealey posits that the first Godzilla was inspired by Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the United States nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in 1954 which resulted in the loss of lives. The meaning of the monster has been changed severally including: human actions resulting environmental disasters such as earthquakes; and in 2014, secret investigations unearthing a Godzilla that is hidden by Japan. The sequels to the film have been aimed at consistently stripping the movie of its initial meaning in order to draw attention away from the historical events which led to the aftermath of the nuclear bombing of Japan by the United States. The American versions of Godzilla differ from the Japanese original thus espousing different views that distort history. The fact is that the Japanese Godzilla was influenced by the disaster caused by the United States bombing of Japan. Although human actions which led to the event are relevant, the message against weapons of mass destruction holds relevance to this day.

The historical changes to Godzilla and what they represent

Godzilla has gone changes in its production which are aimed at promoting a positive view of the use of nuclear power. In an interview conducted by Martin, Godzilla speaks out on the manner in which the franchise has changed with time. The simple changes convey a different message which differs from the original intention of the movie. Godzilla no longer destroys Tokyo in Japan but rather, New York City. The move to have Godzilla destroy New York City may have been as a result of the terrorist bombings in New York. The subtle message thereafter portrayed by the movie is the importance of having nuclear power for the protection of the citizens of the United States. The moral message against the use of nuclear power is subtly changes to an emotional appeal for support of the use of nuclear energy especially in light of the attacks experienced through terrorism which led to the loss of many lives.

The support of the use of nuclear power for protection is enhanced by the different storylines espoused in the sequels of the movie. In the sequel whereby King Kong and Godzilla face each other, King Kong emerges the winner. In the interview, Godzilla admitted that the different storyline was because King Kong, an American hero, could not be seen to be defeated in his own country. The depiction of the United States as unbeatable lends credence for the justification of the use of nuclear power on the part of the United States in order to ward off threats against it. The difference between such subtle changes is the aim to change the perception of the United States as the aggressor that led to the suffering that was experienced in Japan after World War II and instead drum up support for the use of nuclear power by the United States.

The pro nuclear power stance in the United States which is eminent in sequels of Godzilla has significance when the global context is analyzed. Godzilla was continually adjusted in order to provide a favorable view of the United States’ use of nuclear power. According to Fisher, nuclear threats by countries such as North Korea increase public tension over the subject that does not exist in such magnitudes in reality. Threats such as North Korea and Russia have been continually used in the American Public domain in order to exacerbate tension which promotes the view that the United States’ government should do everything within its power to protect its citizens; whether or not measured taken include those of the use of nuclear power. The increased prominence of Godzilla is influenced by the continual threat of wars and the use of nuclear power. However, unlike the first Godzilla movie where the aim was to morally advocate for the abdication of the use of nuclear bombs which was injurious to the human race and nature; the subsequent Godzilla movies have been modified in order to support the use of any means of protection despite the lack of real threats which necessitate their use.

According to Fisher, the threats between the United States and North Korea have been issued continuously for over fifteen years. Despite the threats, no war has ever culminated between the two countries. Although Iraq was invaded on the pretext of prevention of the development of weapons of mass destruction, no such weapons were found. Such examples in history present a significant deduction which was reflected in the first Godzilla movie. The initial Godzilla film represented an age where a dominant world power was had the capability of destroying humanity and the environment through the use of atomic weapons. The atomic era has been the continual focus of the Godzilla franchise albeit in a different manner which has the potential of creating another Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The altered message in Godzilla is an attempt to alter the historical significance of the aftermath of the United States nuclear bombing of Japan which should have led to an international treaty to prohibit any further development or use of nuclear power.

Godzilla as a representation of the disasters of the atomic age

Godzilla is a representation of the atomic age whereby the use of nuclear power is advocated for despite any injurious effects that have already been witnessed. Schiffman notes that nuclear disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl have had little impact on the public perception against the development of nuclear power in society. Godzilla, which was awakened by human actions, continues to be evident in the monstrosity of events that are created by human beings in the quest of power. Human lives have been lost and adversely affected through illnesses and deformities that are witnessed decades after nuclear disasters. However, nuclear power continues to be developed both secretly and openly by some countries. The United States, for example openly tests its nuclear weapons in public in a show of might which may be aimed at intimidating any future opponents. However, the effects that such tests have due to the radiation that persons and the environment in the vicinity of such places are exposed t are never quite expounded upon in public.

Just as in Godzilla, the false information fed to the public is aimed at creating favorable attitudes towards nuclear power. Schiffman elucidates on commentaries which are published in order to promote a view that radiation is not as deadly as the public views it. Radiation is thereafter contrasted with environmental pollution and the public informed that air pollution is more fatal than nuclear radiation. Godzilla was originally not only focused on the effects of nuclear energy but also the moral lessons on the manner in which human interference in nature affects the environment and human lives. Environmental pollution is another effect of human beings’ pervasive actions in nature. As such, such deeds do not excuse the development of nuclear power which has had effects such as increased instances of cancer in areas where nuclear radiation has been experienced.

The nuclear threats in the world continue to increase with the number of countries developing them growing by the day. Perry provides an analysis of the reasons why nuclear war and nuclear terrorism are the biggest threats to mankind at the moment. The countries which currently possess weapons of mass destruction include Russia, China, North Korea and Pakistan. Terrorist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are also feared to have the capability of acquiring such weapons. The aggressive nature of the players which possess nuclear power is exacerbated by the fear they create in the nationals of other states. Nuclear power is viewed in some instances as a bargaining chip and in other instances, a means of asserting dominance in the global front. However, just as the depiction in sequels of Godzilla, the threats posed by possession of nuclear power are portrayed in the article as being primarily aimed against the United States. The countries and terrorist groups cited in the article are elucidated as posing a threat to the future of the United States and the world in general. However, the possession of nuclear weapons by the United States is not viewed as a threat to mankind.

The possession or development of nuclear weapons is a threat to mankind despite the country which possesses them. The first Godzilla film showed the manner in which the United States, currently viewed as the saint and guardian of the world destroyed human lives and property through the use of atomic bombs. The article however acknowledges that its goal is to advocate for sensitization on the adverse effects of nuclear energy and the prevention of the realization of the dangers which the weapons of mass destruction present. All countries which possess nuclear weapons or continue to develop them all pose a threat to humanity. It should be noted that the only country to use nuclear weapons for warfare was the United States in Hiroshima and Nagasaki thereby leading to the creation of the first Godzilla film. As such, it beats logic to excuse the United States as being incapable of threatening humanity. Although there was a popular view in the United States that Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a consequence of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the stance can be negated by the fact that the United States used excessive force by dropping the second bomb that was unnecessary after the aftermath of the first one.


Godzilla represents the atomic age and the world politics surrounding power and influence. Although the original Godzilla was a simple portrayal of the aftermath of the United States nuclear attack of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the sequels presented different views aimed at sanitizing the historical event. The importance of the nuclear age where human beings create injurious objects which threaten their very own existence and that of nature is however important and worthy of analysis and critique. Godzilla should not be viewed as mere entertainment but the ideas behind each sequel should be assessed in order to determine the validity of the views espoused. The idea that the United States is under nuclear threat thereby necessitating its possession of nuclear weapons should be countered by an analysis of historical aggression amongst dominant world powers and the fact that apart from the United States, no other country has used weapons of mass destruction in war.

Works Cited

Brothers, Peter H. "Japan's Nuclear Nightmare: How the Bomb Became a Beast Called "Godzilla"." Cineaste 36.3 (2011): 36-40.

Fisher, Max. "Trump's Threat of Warwith North Korea May Sound Scarier than It Is." 9 August 2017. NYtimes.Com. 28 November 2017 .

Hongo, Jun. "Godzilla Returns." 12 January 2014. McClatchy-Tribune Business News. 28 November 2017 .

Kealey, Helena. "Transformation of Godzilla." 3 November 2014. The Telegraph. 28 November 2017 .

Martin, J. J. "The Thunder Lizar Speaks! An Interview With Godzilla." Cineaste 23.3 (1998): 24-25.

Schiffman, Richard. "Two Years On, America Hasn't Learned Lessons of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster." 12 March 2013. The Guardian. 28 November 2017 .

William, Perry J. "Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. ." 2017. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 28 November 2017 .

December 15, 2021


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