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Godzilla at 50

Godzilla has changed. At 50, he is no longer the hulking, pea-brained brute we thought.  Our writers contemplate his transition from bringer of Armageddon to bringer of agathon, a fierce and ironic comfort to children who sense that theirs is a dangerous world.

“In heaven,” wrote Nietzsche, “all the interesting people are missing.” Since his mammoth form lumbered from the depths 50 years ago, Godzilla, so intrinsically earthbound, still holds our interest. Given the chance, who wouldn’t invite him to the dinner table, as a hosting nation might invite an ageing, exiled, and fascinating tyrant. With armed guard standing by, of course. In this PopMatters Special Feature section 12 writers, armed only with savoir-faire and satirical wit, take on the beast in 14 essays.

Like the monster that roams our world at will, this topic is broad in scope. So we begin with a cluster of essays that, for the most part, tackle Godzilla in his grey-skinned mode; his thick hide the steely color of matter, burned and compacted, much like the 150,000 bodies, and the buildings that housed them, in Nagasaki. This is Godzilla as thanatos, in all the terror — apocalyptic and banal — that he embodies.

But as we all know, Godzilla has been through some changes over the years. “Godzilla was once, as conventional wisdom would have it, a stand-in for the unspeakable violence of the atom bomb and by extension humanity’s perennial, inscrutable drive toward self-destruction,” says PopMatters writer, Mike Ward, “But the history of Godzilla is also one of a gradual cultural transformation, whereby this self-destructive drive persists, but awareness of it is gradually lost — replaced by collective hubris . . .”

Our writers contemplate his transition from bringer of Armageddon to bringer of agathon, a fierce and ironic comfort to children who sense that theirs is a dangerous world. Godzilla understands. After all, he has offspring to protect, too, although what Godzilla mated with to produce his son, Minya, is one of the few mysteries left to us, as technology relentlessly pries secrets from nature’s clutch.

And we end up with Godzilla gone green, as green as the revenue he generates from video games, collectibles and . . . plush toys. Perhaps this is eros that makes us covet his image in cuddly form, and finds delight in this kind of play. Such is the irony of the human condition.

Yes, Godzilla as changed. At 50, he is no longer the hulking, pea-brained brute we thought. No longer reduced to stowaway in the bomb bay of the Enola Gay, he rides first class on international flights, carries a dozen passports, and he’s wired to cyber space. May as well have fun with him, as we do here, because in just a flash . . . well, what then?

Friday, May 7 2004

The Curse of Godzooky, or If I Should Fall From Grace With Godzilla

At a low point in his career, Godzilla debases himself. Meanwhile, Godzooky and other distant, so-called

Godzilla, Friend to the Children of the World

It was much easier to sleep at night knowing that Godzilla was out there patrolling the Pacific, dealing out serious beatings to any monster that dared disturb the world order.

A Kinder, Gentler Godzilla

Certainly, for me, Godzilla was a buddy . . . not unlike a favorite teddy bear.

godZ and Me

Me and godZ -- fraternal twins of different mothers -- we have tried to curtail the anger within and, despite all odds against us, we feel we have made a positive impact.

Sister Mary Mothra: A Speculative Biography of Nunzilla, Bride of Godzilla

The mighty beast moves in mysterious ways. Hayes finds the spirit of Godzilla in the body of a raging plastic nun.

Godzilla vs. Godzilla

We have become dazzled with the illusion and the high-tech gadgetry that makes the monster move. As we gaze at Godzilla, this splendid embodiment of our modern might, we forget who he really is -- and we forget what we are proven capable of becoming, ourselves.

Lizards and Mushroom Clouds: A Personal Account

A survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima tells us that after the bomb exploded, the damage could not be surveyed because people were blinded; calls for help could not be responded to as ears had gone deaf.

Of Mutations and Messages

Godzilla's transformation from an ordinary lizard into a hulking monster was an uncanny predecessor to the environmental disease that first manifested itself in the cats of Minamata Bay.

Run! I Hear Godzilla Coming!

To fend off the American, Godzilla-like threat, nations and private groups around the world scramble to acquire nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Imperial Monsters: A Political Analysis of Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Daikaiju Sogougeki

Whereas the original Gojira warned against militarism, this movie, Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Daikaiju Sogougeki, goes out of its way to celebrate it.

Sandy Frank: Behind the Monster

An aging, embittered Godzilla begrudgingly grants a rare interview. His rival, Gamera (and other monsters who have peopled his past), tell all.

A Giant Lizard’s Home Companion

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is in full farcical bloom to drown the entire Godzilla mythos in necessary lizard libel.

The Importance of Being Godzilla

Godzilla . . . is a mutable symbol, changing to suit the needs of the moment. He has become all things to all people.

Hey Godzilla, Why Are You Such a Giant Cultural Symbol?

Distilling the actions of Godzilla to their most basic, one finds only an overgrown playground bully. What drives our love for this thuggish brute that annihilates our cities?

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