Godzilla’s Nuclear Narratives: The 1954 Japanese Original vs. the 21st Century American Trilogy

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Alan Marshall


Artistic interpretations of the nuclear age can critically reflect upon, and fight against, global nuclear pollution dangers. The question I address here is whether or not the films of Godzilla are engaged in such a fight. Through fan-based and film critic retellings, as well as via corporate-sponsored previews, the purported strong ‘anti-nuclear’ and/or ‘pro-environmental’ message of the original Godzilla movie has supposedly resurfaced into the 21st century American intertextual reboots of the movie. This paper explores how the Godzilla series’ supposed anti-nuclear message is confused, problematic and also grotesquely overstated, with specific reference to: (1) the way that the original Godzilla movie ties its anti-nuclearism to a) Japanese nationalism, b) Anti-Americanism, and c) a therapeutic retelling of World War II tragedies, and (2) the way the American Godzilla reboots try to a) naturalize the nuclear cycle and b) situate the nuclear age as beneficent, manageable, and unchangeable.

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