Sontag, Susan, 1933-. Against interpretation, and other essays / Susan Sontag. [0312280866 :] New York, N.Y. : Picador U.S.A. 2001
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN771 .S62 2001
Sontag's essay discusses the film genre of science fiction and its preoccupation with depicting scenes of destruction. She says that rather than with books that have to be interpreted by the imagination, science fiction within the medium of film allows the viewer to "participate" in the fantasy of living through utter destruction of ones own being, along with that of the entire human race. She attests to this by pointing out how unlike sci fi novels, science fiction films tend to not be scientifically accurate, and this attributes to the fact that all in all, science fiction films are not about science at all, but rather disaster, which has been the basis of various works of art for centuries. Destruction on a mass scale is usually not present in science fiction due to the fact that such grandiose displays of carnage would not be financially feasible for low budget filmmakers. however, monster films such as Gojira allow for this unabashed rampaging of cities to be filmed considering that scenes in which destruction takes place on a mass scale (such as the utter demolition of a city) are able to be reduced to a smaller size with the work of artists.
Along with the aesthetic for destruction, there is a satisfaction in projecting hatred, cruelty and "amoral" feelings onto a gruesome monster such as Godzilla, as a means of alleviating oneself from guilt. In addition, The science fiction film is quite morally sound, however it relates more to technology than the human being. This preoccupation with technology carries on to her next point, which emphasizes that the strict moral of the sci fi film is that technology must be implemented in a moralistic way, otherwise disasters such as depicted in the film, will occur.
this relates to Sontag's most important point (regarding the Godzilla films) which is that most specifically in Japan, a societal mass trauma exists over the use of nuclear weapons, and an inescapable anxiety for the entire world, of a future nuclear war. Godzilla is awakened by nuclear testing, and in Sontag's opinion, is a metaphor for the bomb. Many films depict radiation poisoning as the sole basis for transformations that kick start the plot of sci fi films. This, Sontag says "is the most ominous of all notions with which science fiction films deal"
However, Once the peril has been vanquished, the destruction and war has become "good". Sontag believes a good war ends with a happy ending, and a look towards the future.However, she also brings forth the idea that sci fi films project our individual psychological fears of total obliteration, which would be a result of incineration and extinction that the bomb can bring. She makes the claim that we as fear one of two equally terrifying destinies- a world of utter banality, or that of utter obliteration. Science Fiction films allow us to allay both fears, with a fantasy world that takes us to dangerous places, yet gives us a "happy" ending.
Shapiro, Jerome F.. Atomic bomb cinema : the apocalyptic imagination on film / Jerome F. Shapiro.  New York : Routledge, 2002.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.W3 S52 2002
The devastation of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Cold War may have passed, however they are embedded within the psyches of individuals around the globe. Jerome F. Shapiro's book analyses just how our horror and fear of a nuclear holocaust surface in many aspects of our culture, most specifically, within films from 1945 to the cold war.
Shapiro discusses the themes present in the film Godzilla, relating these themes to the genre of Japanese sci fi horror known as kaiju eiga of "mysterious creature film" the themes are quite moralistic and focus on tradition, nature, family and harmony (not to mention the theme of the dangers of technology and modernity, as present in many sci fi films. Shapiro states that the theme of balance and harmony is the most important. Relating to balance and harmony, Gojira focuses on Tokyo, which is a center of modernity for Japan. He points out that the first to see Gojira are young people on a boat dancing to western music.. The character Serizawa is a parallel to Godzilla in that he is also rebelling from society. When interviewed Honda, the director he explained how the loss of an eye would indicate war experience. Serizawa creates an oxygen destroyer, which he eventually uses to kill Godzilla and himself too.
Shapiro states that there are many ways to interpret Godzilla. one could consider it a rip off of earlier American monster films. However, judging by other scholars' attempts to rationalize the monster in American films by allowing it to represent the main character who by conquering the monster, conquers his own problems. However it is Serizawa who conquers the monster, yet he dies, learning nothing. Therefore, Godzilla as a typical cold war film is useless. Godzilla has a character that develops, unlike American monsters.
In addition, he rejects the theory that Godzilla is about the condemnation of nuclear weapons. Instead, Shapiro believes that Godzilla's sole purpose is to portray the theme of balance and harmony. the two main characters fight, creating a ma in Japanese aesthetics, which signifies a vacuum, or void - and Shapiro states that this concept can be found both in narrative and visual imagery. where as the central character Emiko is the key to restoring balance and harmony, by asserting herself.
We are introduced to the idea that the power of the feminine is able to restore harmony with nature and a balanced society. he goes on to relate this dynamic to following kaiju films, most specifically, mothra series.
Igarashi, Yoshikuni, 1960-. Bodies of memory : narratives of war in postwar Japanese culture, 1945-1970 / Yoshikuni Igarashi. [0691049114 (cloth : alk. paper)] Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2000.
Call#: Van Pelt Library DS822.5 .I33 2000
So very quickly after the Japanese had surrendered and the war had ended, the occupation of Japan began. Igarashi's book is a reflection on the period from the end of the war (1945) to the early seventies, a time of destruction and renewal in which Japanese postwar society struggled to understand its war loss and recover from the national trauma suffered after such an unfathomable blow.
This was quite difficult due to societal pressures to suppress these memories with the intention to forget. After all, the war was over, and America would continue to be a constant "friendly" presence for quite some time.
However to repress, or furthermore, forget would be impossible. Igarashi states that it is the body itself, which is capable of revealing thoughts and emotions that were repressed and thought to be concealed. Relating to this, it is the myriad of physical representations within Japan's popular culture that express deeply rooted memories and emotions relating to loss and devastation. And it is true that through such mediums as film, these feelings can be better expressed than through words. In addition, Igarashi states that it was also these representations that would serve to mold Japan's national image during the span of its recovery. This was a time of renewal of both social structure and national pride, and the day in which the Japanese no longer had to be subordinate to the Americans was something to strive for. Once again, prominent figures and popular characters in a way embodied these aspects of Japanese culture at the time.
Regarding the idea of expression within the body, we come to chapter 4 within the book, which puts Igarishi's theory to the test. Igarashi discusses a number of Japanese figures, most importantly, the monstrous body of Godzilla. The 1950s Godzilla, in Igarashi's opinion, can easily represent the repressed Japanese fears of the United States and it's nuclear bomb. Godzilla awakens as a nuclear bomb is being tested, then proceeds to rampage Tokyo to (near) defeat. In addition, Godzilla can reflect the post war difficulties of Japan, considering that after the way they were left defeated, lost, and scarred for generations. We only see the Japanese army struggle in vain to destroy the monster, but to no avail. Still, the mere idea that the Japanese have a strong military in the films could imply their desires to no longer be dependant on American military forces
Cultural expressions such as the film Godzilla are an outlet for memories and feelings that could in no way be communicated in the realm of the political.
Film Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 3. (Spring, 1981), pp. 16-25.
Carroll uses the platform of the nightmare as a basis for the existence of monstrous creatures such as ... She used examples from both horror and science fiction films, considering that filmed science fiction tends to be quantified with the horror genre anyway. In addition he agrees that Freudian psychology is quite prevalent within the genre, which correlates with his idea that
the nightmare is a culturally established framework for presenting and understanding the horror genre, which he finds to be more important than the idea that monsters arise from dreams in the first place. "This", he continues "makes psychoanalysis unavoidable "within nightmares, there is the conflict between attraction and repulsion, horror films possess the same trait, which makes them unique amidst various film genres. Carroll goes on to use various films as examples, including the Exorcist, and Dracula.
The monster itself is both loathsome, yet immortal, "helpless and powerful, worthless and godlike" (pg 21) The rejection of the monster leads to its rampage, what Carroll calls an "infantile orgies of rage and destruction" (pg 21). As for appearance, fusions of elements make the monster appear more unnatural and loathsome (such as man/machine or insect/human) or exaggerated animals/insects such as the ants in Them! or of course, Godzilla.
Hearkening back to Freud, Carroll continues the discussion onto giant insects, saying that the giant spider's similarity with the hands may relate to the "hairy hands of masturbation" (pg 22), much like within Tarratt's "Monsters From the Id". In regards to creatures like Godzilla who have been awakened by technological or chemical changes to the environment, Carroll states that the metaphor relates to these creatures to have been aroused or unleashed, much like the erotic impulses of individuals. In addition, these creatures are a fusion of nature with technological possibilities. Carroll goes on to discuss his theory of what he calls the "discovery plot" which basically summarizes the plot dynamic of every Godzilla film (monster is found, its existence denied, it goes rampaging and is confronted), which is said to relate to a child's growing awareness of its sexuality. The article ends with Carroll discussing the actual differences between dreams and horror films, however he reaffirms his idea that while not completely alike, horror film ideas do derive from nightmares, and may somehow relieve the tension that we go through with nightmares.
Film genre reader III / edited by Barry Keith Grant. [0292701845 ] Austin, Tex. : University of Texas Press, 2003.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995 .F45793 2003
Within this book is an essay by Margaret Tarratt entitled, "monsters from the id" which argues that although science fiction films do reflect a society's anxiety regarding technological advancement in the way of destructive weapons, and are very much concerned with morality, they more importantly, are preoccupied with examining the inner, deeper nature of the human being. Tarratt establishes her opinions by discussing instances in films using Freudian psychoanalyses to interpret them. She believes that although science fictions films do in fact deal with society as a whole, they conclude their morals and social commentary through dramatizing, and thereby expelling, the individual persons own anxieties relating to their repressed sexual desires. These of course, do not comply with societies ideals and morality and therefore are as she puts it, "incompatible with civilized life" (pg 347) As Freud says in his Anxiety in Instinctual Life, "unconsummated excitation" is the cause of anxiety and neurosis. And of course, an unfulfilled libido leaves anxiety in the place of sexual aggression. All in all, relating to the science fiction genre, and more specifically to the film Godzilla, it is the monster which is the externalization of a civilized individuals conflict with his or her own basic instincts within the subconscious or Id. Tarratt discusses forbidden planet, in which the monster turns out to be a projection of one of the main characters subliminal feelings of protection towards his daughter. Although Godzilla itself is not discussed, and although the opinions of Tarratt can be questionable, one can relate her ideas to the monster within the film. Godzilla, even though asexual within the films, could be considered a type of phallic symbol. His/Her rampages of destruction could in all actually represent the expression of our own individual repressed sexual desires. Tarratt certainly gives an interesting interpretation.
Tsutsui, William. . Godzilla on my mind : fifty years of the king of monsters / William Tsutsui. [1403964742 ] New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.G63 T78 2004
This book is based on the author's own personal feelings towards not only the original film Gojira (1954) but the icon of Godzilla as a whole. Basically, the book is more like a tribute to the "King of Monsters". We learn of the writer's own personal love for kaiju/monster films, his ideas about Godzilla, and facts about the Godzilla franchise.
The book begins with a chapter on the "birth" of Godzilla, aptly entitled, "The Birth of Godzilla", which details the rise of the Godzilla franchise, starting with the premiere film, Gojira (1954) Tsutsui describes various facts about the film, from director Toho's account of how he had decided to make the film in the first place, to the dinosaur which Gojira's suit was modeled after. Tsutsui does however, make various interesting point regarding symbolism within the film Gojira. He says that Godzilla may symbolize the forces of nature, which would definitely make sense considering Japan's vulnerability to natural disaster due to it's geologic/geographical position. In addition, he makes the point that with the death of the scientist Serizawa, goes the secrets of the oxygen destroyer, which poses the idea that noble, Japanese science is never used for aggressive or self serving ends, while American science is bad and corrupts the "wonders of technology" (pg 36). Godzilla could also represent the souls of those who died in the Pacific Ocean during the war. Or rather, he could represent the guilt of repression and forgetfulness raging forward to disrupt their lives. This chapter ends with a discussion on the 1956 cut of Godzilla that was made for America (Godzilla, king of the Monsters), edited so as to cut down on obvious nuclear symbolism. The second chapter is all about the Godzilla franchise, detailing the pursuits and exploits of the monster king.
Within the third chapter, Understanding the Monster, Tsutsui does not try to propose his own ideas regarding the symbolism present within Godzilla films. Instead he gives the opinions of others, from the extremely academic -such as Sontag's the imagination of disaster- to the fan book -such as Ryfle's Japan's Favorite Mon Star)
Tsutsui doesn't discuss his on ideas on the symbolism within the Godzilla films, because he believes that Godzilla is far too complex to categorize him with one theory. In fact Tsutsui reasons that, this could such a universal audience (children to adults of various nationalities) is able to find him so appealing.
The fourth chapter, "The Making of an American Icon" documents Godzilla's rise to fame in America (right down to his Coca-Cola commercial appearances) and the fifth chapter "A Personal Godzilla" discusses the own author's childhood fantasy with Godzilla, along with theories as to why children can be so taken with him. And the final chapter, Godzilla's Spawn, compares the original to "rip-offs" within popular culture today.
Call#: Van Pelt Library GR340 .K3713 1996
Kawai takes various Japanese fairy tales,myths and motifs, and analyses them in regards to their meanings. Each chapter forcuses on a new myth.The main focus of the book is to reveal the meanings behind these ancient stories by using Jungian analysis. There are many questions regarding these tales which gone unanswered for quite some time. Most importantly, these ancient stories have served as the basis for culture within Japan, and therefore have been an intergral part within filmic popular culture as well. One question that has always been on American minds regarding Japanese films, is why does there never exist a true "happy" ending, such as can be seen in American films? Godzilla lacks such an ending as well. We are able to see the monster dissapear, however there is always a somber quality to this. And when we finally see the words "the end" on screen, we are certainly able to question their significance. Kawai does try his best to explain this. Within Western culture, one tends to experience more of a "completeness", while within Japanese stories, one feels a sense of imcompleteness. Kawai explains that it is the feelings of the audience which are of importance, and not the story. When one tries to analyze a Japanese fairy tale as a piece of writing relating it to Western culture, one will have a very difficult time. Once again, one must appreciate the feelings evoked by the story, no matter how difficult to dechipher. The feeling of "aware" means softly despairing sorrow, and can be related to an ending in a film or book, where the main character just slowly dissapears. One can attribute this concept to the science fiction films of the 1950s in both America and Japan. While the monsters in American films may evoke slight regret within the main characters, there is always a feeling of completeness which is based on the main characters (which usually have solved their own personal problems by the end, or have fallen in love). This, to Westerners, indicates and ending because there is that sense of satisfation, or completeness. This is not true of the film Godzilla, because there is constant remorse for him. The characters in the film do not want to destroy him, and when in fact they reluctantly do it, it becomes quite a traumatic event. Kawai makes another interesting point which describes "urami" (it means "the beauty of rancor"). Basically, he states that if "aware" is to occur suddenly and it relates to someone dissapearing, then "urami" is born out of the desire to not dissapear, and aids in perpetuating that which has dissapeared. Considering the various sequels within the Godzilla series, this look into the Japanese psyche may give insight into the world of Godzilla (along with many other Japanese films, of course.)
Susan J. Napier
Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 1993) , pp. 327-351
Although Japanese cinema has been revered in recent years, there is an un-exported popular cinema, which has nearly always remained in Japan. Once marketed to Americans, some end up becoming cult hits, which began when the 1954 Gojira was brought over to America in 1956, as Godzilla: king of the monsters. This article serves to answer the question of why are only some Japanese films popular in America and not others? Could it be that they are too Japanese? Napier states that the very words, which define science fiction such as technological, social and cultural advancement-, also characterize modern capitalism ex, the "omnipresence of the machine". Napier refers to Sontag's essay, the imagination of disaster, which she will use to discuss films (such as Godzilla and Akira) as well as comic books, that center around a world in danger of disaster, "social, material, and sometimes spiritual collapse" (pg 329). She calls the entire 20th century, anti utopian, and makes the point that science fiction as a genre has the ability to reflect and comment upon our culture. And indeed Japanese culture and sentiment has changed over the years, which is reflected in what Napier defines as the "secure horror" films of the 50's to films such as Akira which is almost celebratory in it's theme of destruction.
Napier goes on to discuss Godzilla in detail, saying that the film is a warning about the misuse of scientific technology, with both good examples (the noble scientist Serizawa) and bad (American nuclear weapons) and that both Japanese and American audiences enjoy the film as a cathartic experience (considering atomic anxieties). She goes on to confirm that Godzilla is in fact part of the "secure horror" genre, which classifies sci fi movies with optimistic endings that involve human intervention. Napier goes on to describe another film Nippon Chinbotsu, as another secure horror, yet one that contrasts well with Godzilla, considering its failure to become popular in the states. Napier points out the in the latter film, the focus is on the beauty of that which is being destroyed, not the destruction itself. And so this (in addition to the tone of the film, which is one of deep loss) may give insight into its lack of popularity. Napier goes on to discuss Akira, and it's nearly opposite in structure and style to the "secure horror" films. Films like Akira, Napier defines as "panic sites, just for the fun of it" (pg 340)
Cinema Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Autumn, 1987) , pp. 63-77
This article begins by discussing the severe lack of critical works that analyze and interpret the Godzilla films. Godzilla is nearly synonymous with the word Japan, and this is of course true when you think just how many American would immediately think of Godzilla when asked to name a Japanese film. Noriega makes the claim that The Godzilla films are a means for Japan cope with its nuclear history. Noriega continues to analyze these films from a sociohistorical perspective, using what he calls, the "concept of Otherness", which is used to explain the dynamic of projecting what is repressed yet indestructible in the self onto an "other". Godzilla films give us "an opportunity to challenge our constructions of the self and the other" (pg 64). In Godzilla films the U.S. is the other. The birth of Godzilla takes place when the Japanese people are just beginning to face their repression of the bombings due to the Lucky Dragon incident. As the cold war began, American science fiction films lose their correlation to the Other, but Japanese films did not (pg 66) Names such as "The Thing", or "Them!" prove that American monsters are completely "other". Noriega also points out that American sci fi films, show the monster as a byproduct of nuclear testing which can only be killed by the same devices which spawned him. In addition, the monsters of American films are loathsome, and "deserve" to be destroyed. The Japanese sympathize with their monsters because they exist within the Japanese culture. The concept of "other" is different to them considering pronouns such as I, you or them have never had a consistent history, and so it would make projection of repression onto an "other", difficult. Therefore, Godzilla could be a means of "transference" of Japanese fears and anxieties. We find the question of what Godzilla "wants" -or rather his goals and reasons for destruction within the film -is just as fascinating as the scenes of destruction. Noriega explains that considering the Godzilla films do more than just utterly defeat their enemy, this implies "other-oriented, self-designation" and therefore his final conclusion is that Godzilla both represents the United States, as well as Japan.
Noriega continues on to discuss the reporter (within the Godzilla films) as psychoanalyst. The media with the Godzilla series represent an "institutionalized attempt to discover and expose social anxieties" (pg 67) This makes the elements of symbolic and investigative present within the films. However, the American version is edited for it's own audiences, in which an American reporter is spliced within the scenes. This greatly shifts the narrative to further sympathize with the American audience and its own feelings about the bomb, and their guilt towards what they did to the Japanese.
Moving on, Noriega discuss Mothra, and her hidden symbolism of Christianity, as well as the 1985 Godzilla, which Noriega believes is a criticism of American-Soviet dichotomy. He also believes that the first Godzilla symbolized nuclear fears, while the later Godzilla's are nuclear parable. Finally, Noriega sums up by saying that the Hollywood film industry's view of the films as schlocky is a kind of repression because it draws attention away from the true meaning of the film(s). Also, he believes that "The End" of the films always leaves a feeling that Godzilla may return at any moment, and so could of course, the threat of nuclear war.
Walker, J. Samuel. . Prompt and utter destruction : Truman and the use of atomic bombs against Japan / J. Samuel Walker. [0807823619 (cloth : alk. paper) ] Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1997.
Call#: Van Pelt Library Rosengarten Reserve D767.25.H6 W355 1997
The question that lies at the foundation of this book is, was it necessary to drop the atomic bomb on Japan? Walker's accounts of the events leading up to the bombings are concise and pay attention to detail. He never once allows his own opinion on the matter be known, rather he uses the book to clarify the details leading up to the fateful decision.
For instance, it is a common misconception that only two options were discussed concerning how to defeat Japan -either invasion or using the atomic bombs- but Walker responds to this idea by arguing that although a means of ending the war quickly was a major factor, Truman and his advisors posed the idea that perhaps the war would eventually end without utilizing either strategy, considering Japan had in fact been thoroughly weakened.
Although the text itself is not very long, Walker is able to present actual facts about the period before the bombings, and the factors that lead to the final decision. Truman of course, is discussed with great detail as well. Again, Walker is adept at giving us more than adequate information about President Truman and his personality without betraying his own personal opinions. We become aware of the pertinent issues faced by this wartime president, while at the same time unswayed by the authors own opinions. It is very true that Truman was seemingly unprepared to face such a monumental decision, yet he was fully capable of it, taking care to consult his advisors well. Walker does his best to clarify exactly what Truman knew, and when, and analyses this information in regards to his decisions. The main factors in Truman's decision come down to the possibility of many more American casualties, soviet relations, and the fear of just how long Japan could in fact hold out. Walker does however agree with some who find the decision to be questionable, that Truman did fully well understand the potential diplomatic advantages of the atomic bomb. Of course, the atomic bomb would not only impress the soviets, but make America an even more powerful figure.However, Walker does conclude that the threat of thousands of more American casualties, along with the desire to end the war as soon as possible, became the main factors in his decision. Walker's basic answer to the debate of whether the bomb was necessary is yes, and no. Yes, it ended the war as early as possible, however no because even though American soldier's lives were saved, the numbers of casualties were greatly exaggerated. This response definitely (and intentionally) leaves the entire subject open to debate for years to come.