digitaljournal: Godzilla first made his debut in 1954 as a 50-meter tall metaphor for indiscriminate nuclear destruction. Sixty-five years later, Godzilla is back — along with a whole host of new nuclear anxieties.
In fact, Godzilla has evolved faster than other organisms on Earth, according to a team of scientists from Dartmouth College whose findings were published in Science Magazine on May 31, 2019.
In the first Godzilla movie in 1954, the monster was an impressive 50 meters (164 feet) tall, while in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it has grown to a towering height of 119.8 meters (393 feet), evolving 30 times faster than any living organism on Earth.
Just as the screen monster, Godzilla has grown larger and more fearsome, so have humanity’s collective fears and nightmares. Most people know the meaning behind the 1954 original Godzilla movie — a metaphor for humanity’s mistreatment of the earth, and specifically, the fears instilled in us by the utter devastation and death caused by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The Japanese people, using Godzilla, found a way to express their fear of radiation and the long-term effects of nuclear weapon testing. Not too many people know about a particularly tragic fishing-boat incident that shook the nation of Japan and was in part, the inspiration for the movie Godzilla.
The Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident
Suffering more than 220,000 casualties in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Empire of Japan announced its surrender, leading to the end of World War II. For several years after the war, the U.S., heavily censored all news coverage dealing with the aftermath of the atomic bombings.
This meant the rise in radiation-related illnesses, birth defects, and the long-term effects on the surrounding regions were effectively silenced to help the US maintain its authority. The censure ended in 1952, but it had been very effective, and all was forgotten until January 22, 1954.
The Lucky Dragon No. 5 was a small tuna-fishing boat with a crew of 23 men. On January 22, the boat departed the harbors of Yaizu — headed for fishing in the Midway Sea, near the Midway Atoll. The Luck Dragon No. 5 decided to alter its course, heading south toward the Marshall Islands to fish. Just 80 miles west of its destination lay the Bikini Atoll.
Bikini Atoll is well known as the testing site for America’s atomic and hydrogen bomb testing, including Castle Bravo, which is to this day the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States. As fate would have it, Lucky Dragon No. 5 arrived at the Marshall Islands March 1, 1954, the same day Castle Bravo was to be tested.
The U.S. government had already declared a 57,000-square-mile danger zone that could potentially be affected by the fallout, but they had no idea just how powerful Castle Bravo would turn out to be. It was so powerful that changing weather patterns created by the blast blew the radioactive fallout far outside the safety zone, right where the Lucky Dragon No. 5 was fishing.
Within a short time, the ship was covered in the fine ashes of radioactive fallout, or what the fishermen called shi no hai, the death ash. They immediately headed back to port, but it was already too late for the unlucky fishermen. All 23 had fallen ill to acute radiation syndrome, and their story quickly gripped the nation in fear and panic.
It was just eight months after the Lucky Dragon No, 5 incident that the movie “Gojira” arrived at the theaters. The name was later changed to Godzilla. The thing is, the movie was meant to be a horror movie and not a sci-fi monster show.
A simple rule in film making
The original Godzilla and all the 35 movies that followed in its footsteps have become iconic and influential monster franchises for our generation. There is a simple premise that is followed – They are based on our real fears. Remember the 1971 film “Godzilla vs Hedorah” (aka the Smog Monster)? While Godzilla may have defeated Hedorah in the movie, everyone was well aware that if we ignore pollution, it is at our own peril, writes Quartz.
Interestingly, in the trailer for the 2019 movie, the protagonist has this to say: “Our world is changing. The mass extinction we feared has already begun and we are the cause. We are the infection. But like all living organisms, the earth has unleashed a fever to fight this infection”.
And if Godzilla is the embodiment of our anxiety, the Dartmouth scientists argue that our collective anxiety appears to be spiking as it did during the nuclear age of the 1950s. Godzilla is our worst nightmare and a monster of our own creation.
Source: Published by digitaljournal