Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GODZILLA! and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves . . .

I saw the film Godzilla -- the original one, from 1954 -- last night at the Music Box Theater in Chicago.

I wanted to see the ur-Godzilla before going to see the new, American version that opens May 16.

The thing that struck me most about the 1954 Godzilla was the fidelity with which the filmmakers recreated the terror that the Japanese experienced during WWII, specifically during the fire bombings of their cities, and ultimately by the atomic bombings.

I was mystified that people who had been through such hell would seek to recreate it in art, and that the public would flock to see it.  How did this painful Godzilla narrative become a franchise that spawned dozens of sequels?

The spectre of cities on fire was a particularly Japanese reality in 1954.  What will a Godzilla produced in the U.S. in 2013 zero in on? Will the American Godzilla evoke a particularly American pain? To what end?

Of course, the original Godzilla was a morality play about the danger of knowledge that has gotten out of control -- scientific knowledge in general, and hydrogen bomb technology in general. "[I]f mankind continues to test nuclear weapons, another Godzilla may appear again one day." (Wikipedia, Godzilla (1954 film))

It was startling to see the 1954 Godzilla within days of returning from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Prepcom sessions in New York City.  I was struck during my time in New York to see person after person after person articulating the reasons nuclear weapons must be abolished and the U.S. must eliminate its stockpiles. This has been going on for decades. How many different ways can we send the message that nuclear weapons need to be stopped?  What will it take to finally bring about a successful mass movement against nuclear weapons?

Related posts

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

Eventually, in large part due to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the United States was converted from a country in which a small number of people thought slavery needed to be ended into a country determined to act to end slavery. This literary work took the movement wide, and it took it deep.

Why is a novel an important tool for creative resistance?

(See Creative Resistance 101: Uncle Tom's Cabin )

I often refer to how important the films of Iran have been in helping me open my mind to the possibilities of a peaceful relationship with that country.  I have been fortunate to be able to go see some of the best films from Iran every year at the wonderful Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. The will be another Festival of Films From Iran showing there in February, 2014.

(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)