Monday, March 21, 2011

What we can Learn from Godzilla

As a film buff and someone who is currently teaching a course in Visual Anthropology, I thought that this article in the New York Times does a great job of demonstrating how intricately films are related to culture. Indeed, film is not only a cultural product, but it is also important to remember that for a film to resonate with its viewing public, it has to be attuned to its cultural context.

In light of the recent tragic events in Japan, the article discusses the Japanese disaster films of the 1950s and 60s and what they were really about.
This B-movie fare is widely mocked, often for good reason. But the early “Godzilla” films were earnest and hard-hitting. They were stridently anti-nuclear: the monster emerged after an atomic explosion. They were also anti-war in a country coming to grips with the consequences of World War II. As the great saurian beast emerges from Tokyo Bay to lay waste to the capital in 1954’s “Gojira” (“Godzilla”), the resulting explosions, dead bodies and flood of refugees evoked dire scenes from the final days of the war, images still seared in the memories of Japanese viewers. Far from the heavily edited and jingoistic, shoot’em-up, stomp’em-down flick that moviegoers saw in the United States, Japanese audiences reportedly watched “Gojira” in somber silence, broken by periodic weeping.

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