continuing to solve Japan’s problems. . .
I am tying together giant lizards, Hiroshima, Freud, Film Criticism,and jackhammers. Pay attention, people.
Much has been written about the symbolism of Godzilla. Perhaps this anonymous reporter put it best, summing up decades worth of geek-film criticism:
"What is Godzilla?" wondered a CNN correspondent off-screen, as the cable news channel showed pictures of the giant monster pulverizing buildings and sending crowds fleeing. "Is he the embodiment of Japan’s nuclear post-war trauma or is he Japan’s national hope cleverly disguised as a fire-breathing monster?"
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this theory ? perhaps because of this “social life” thing I keep hearing about ? I will go into a bit more detail: The “giant monster” films began soon after the USA dropped The Bomb on Japan, levelling entire cities, and godzilla suddenly appears, doing what? Levelling entire cities. That film-geek theory begins to make sense, right?
But, let’s return to the CNN correspondent’s question: how can he be a symbol of BOTH post-war atomic fear AND national pride?
I think mainstream psychology can solve this contradiction: often a person who is traumatized is unable to recover from the trauma, and instead just re-creates it over and over again. This is a concept which goes all the way back to Sigmund Freud’s famous theories about Der Butt-hole Complex. . . namely, that a kid who was really harshly potty-trained will still be deeply scared of his parents’ poo-wrath and become an “anal retentive” adult, or, that they will still be really pissed-off at their parents and turn into “anal expulsive” adults who have totally messy rooms and cluttered desks. They just could not grow out of the anal phase. In Freud’s day this was a revolutionary idea but today, even average Joe Six-Packs talk about the importance of “moving on” after tragedy. So this idea has really sunk deep into our culture.For another exmple, consider the high school outcast who still lives his/her adult life in a permanent adolescent funk because he/she never “got over” high school. Or women who were battered by their parents, who, decades later, seem to find violent husbands and boyfriends without even meaning to. People in all walks of life tend to revisit the trauma, and live it over and over. Living in the past this way, although self-destructive, is a way of owning or feeling control over bad events that used to control you. Put another way, this behavior is a way of going from “this bad thing I was forced to endure” to “this slightly less bad thing which I am voluntairly doing and I am in control.”
I just summed up 100 years of psychology in one paragraph. Send flowers.
Anyway, to return to Giant Radioactive Monsters, this film genre.. . . is exactly the same thing as a traumatized person who can’t move on with his life. . . except instead of one person it is an entire culture. A culture which is trying to transform the fear of The Bomb into a symbol of national pride by re-enacting the trauma until it becomes familiar and harmless. From “America did this to us and we are helpless” to “We made Godzilla, and he is the most famous monster in the world. . . even if he eats Tokyo, he is still OUR monster so we love him!” and so psychology solves this apparent contradiction of the dual nature of Godzilla.
However, having articulated this theory better than most of its proponents, let me now say, I don’t believe in it. It’s hogwash!!
“So why bring it up then, smart guy?”
well, clearly Japan IS still suffering a collective trauma of being the only country to get a-bombed (besides the Bikini Atoll, and that was different ? we gave them like $20 bucks and some cheeseburgers before bombing them, so it wasn’t like we were at war, it was just the casual nuclear testing that often goes on between really good allies, one of which happens to be a dominant superpower). Clearly Japanese people ARE still kind of fucked-up by the bomb and, like the battered child who winds up marrying a violent husband, they a) can’t move on from the tragedy, b) have no conscious idea that they are fucked up.
However, the result is NOT Godzilla.
The REAL psychosis is THE FUCKING GOD-DAMMNED CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY.
Anyone who has been to japan knows, the cities are all constantly under construction. You never see houses over 20 years old in Tokyo?but WWII was like 60 years ago. ? the houses all get plowed under and rebuilt from scratch.
According to the wonderful book DOGS AND DEMONS, “planned spending on public works for the decade 1995-2005 will come to an astronomical ￥ 630,000,000,000, THREE TO FOUR TIMES more than what the entire USA . . .will spend on public construction in the same period.” And that is not even counting PRIVATE construction! The book goes on to say, “The construction industry here is so powerful that Japanese commentators of ten describe their country as DOKEN KOKKA, a “construction state.”
This book is so deadly accurate it is scary. But on one point, even the author is confused. He says, “the initial craving for the drug of construction money came from the profits made by politicans . . . but for a craving to develop into a full addiction, there needs to be a reason why the addict cannot stop himself at an early stage ? in other words, some weakness that prevents him from exercising self-control.” He goes on to say that weakness is beuracracy.
No, dude. The weakness is nuclear trauma!! England and germany got the shit bombed out of them in WWII also, but THEY never did anything like this. They could, as we say, MOVE ON. China lost more civilians in the Rape of Nanking than japan did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined?and yet China did not go nuts for construction until the ‘90s. And there is also beuracracy and corruption in those countries. What is the difference between the rest of ALL war-torn countries and japan?? Japan is the ONLY one that got A=BOMBED. And today, Japan is the ONLY country to systematically destroy its own cities. Think about it, fool!!!
Like godzilla movies , the DOKEN KOKKA constantly destroys Japanese cities, but in a “safe” way that revisits the trauma of Hiroshima, but makes it “under control.” Like Godzilla, this self-damaging repetitive behavior, is viewed as a Symbol Of National Pride. I swear, in my neighborhood, fully 30% of the buildings are being razed/rebuilt. It is like fucking Winchester House up in here, where “the hammers must never stop”. . . aside from the expense, the unrelenting insanity-producing noise, dirt, and inconvinience of it, it is also TOTALLY NOT NECESSARY!! There is no explanation but a collective insanity. This whole country needs to
- admit they have a problem,
- start actually learning WWII history for real, not that bullshit they teach in their schools about “we were just minding our own business when america bombed us and our suffering is unique and worse than anyone else, certainly worse than korea or china, where maybe like 5 of our guys might have stolen a few sandwitches during lunch-break, big woop.”
- Collectively seek treatment ? and here I am picturing every last japanese person lying on a giant, mile-long couch while a 600-foot-tall Mecha-Freud takes notes
- The next time some construction workers start jackhammering at 8 in the morning right in front of their window, they need to just get all PLO-style on them. The whole neighborhood should just throw hella rocks at them, sabotage the equipment, and take a stand against the insanity.
- FUCK koji.
Further resources ? NYT reporter terrance rafferty has a wonderful article on godzilla-as-metaphor here.