Autoethnographic ‘Godzilla’ Experience

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Firstly, I would just like to mention that this is my first experience in the world of ‘Digital Asian’ study. And starting off our first class with a film, was definitely a shock, considering I am not familiar with any form of Asian culture. To say I was skeptical, is an understatement. However, I decided to go in with an objective mindset and I was pleasantly surprised.

The 1954 cult classic ‘Godzilla‘ (or formally known as ‘Gojira‘) wasn’t what I pictured as an introduction to Digital Asia, if anything, it was the last thing I expected. Not having seen any adaptation of Godzilla before (crazy, I know), the only thing I was sure about was a gigantic, unrealistic, t-rex look-a-like, smashing little Japanese towns. As the film started and went on, the first thing I said to myself was “Where is Godzilla?”. Naturally, I had presumed that the monster would be the focal point of the film, clearly this was a Western rookie mistake, and it turned out to be a reflection of the nuclear devastations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during the time. Given this, there was a heavy presence of male dominated characters, whose sole responsibility was to take down Godzilla, along with a depiction of the female protagonist, Emiko, as a weak, co-dependant nurse, whom collapses into her boyfriends arms whenever things start to get too out of hand. This served as a reminder of the typical 1950’s stereotypes and demonstrated both the political, social and environmental attributes of that decade.

From the gate, the black-and-white cinematic experience isn’t a personal favourite of mine (perhaps its a generation thing) and I’m not going to lie, there were times where I found myself blatantly staring at the screen, not even engaging. This was probably the result of the differences between cultures, and the types of cinema experiences I am used to, as a young woman in the 21st century. However, during parts of the film, there were times where I was very attentive and I wanted to burst out laughing, given some of the dramatic and over-acting sequences (particularly in the case of Emiko’s shrieking and Godzilla popping its head up over the hills).

Looking back at the special effects and the appearance of Godzilla, I would definitely say that the cinematography was ahead of its time. The film was made with such polish, and possessed great depth, considering the tools available in 1954. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the Japanese culture and values, and how Godzilla plays an integral part in response to the history of World War II.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and I gained great perspective into my developing understanding of Japanese cinematics and culture.


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