Godzilla (also known by the original Japanese name Gojira) is a monster featured in the 1954 film of the same name, directed by Ishirō Honda. Godzilla is a giant prehistoric lizard that is awakened and given powers by a nuclear explosion. It climbs out of the ocean and attacks Tokyo before eventually being destroyed, only to reappear in several sequels and spinoff films, of both American and Japanese origins. Because of its creation not long after the end of World War II, when anti-American sentiment and anxiety about nuclear radiation still had a prominent place in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla is viewed by many as a metaphor for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bomb. At the same time, Godzilla is also occasionally portrayed as a sympathetic creature. This question of what Godzilla stands for becomes even more complicated when the popularity of Godzilla films in America is considered.
The various roles played by Godzilla, as well as the different ways that it is viewed and the way that it has been adopted by non-Japanese audiences, speak to the universality of what Godzilla represents. Godzilla’s unnatural powers and the threat it poses to modern/urban civilization appeal to the human fascination with scientific advances, as well as our ambivalence and guilt over the dangers these advances create. With a new American film set to be released in 2014, it is clear that the fears Godzilla stands for show no signs of going away.
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