Godzilla and Climate Change: Can the Film Help Wake World to Impending Threats?
Godzilla might be just a fantasy fiction film but it is helping the world understand climate change
65 years ago, when Godzilla first opened across cinema screens, the reptilian anti-hero has been seen by the critics as a symbol of the fears tucked away in the deepest recesses of movie-goers’ minds. When the lizard returned in Godzilla: King of the Monsters this weekend, reviewers were construing the hit for insights into the world’s paralysis in the face of climate change. “It would be a mistake to dismiss Godzilla: King of the Monsters as mindless pap or escapist fantasy,” say anthropologist Nathaniel J. Dominy and biologist Ryan Calsbeek.
Both scientists, from Dartmouth, wrote in the journal Science.
“What began as a pointed anti-nuclear fable has since evolved into a broader allegory for human folly and our reckless disregard for the natural environment.”
The dinosaur-like creature earned its reputation as forerunner in the collective anxiety soon after it was created by Japanese director Ishiro Honda in his 19544 film Gojira – a nickname derived from Japanese words for gorilla and whale.
The first movie, the 50 metre tall radioactive Godzilla lays waste to Tokyo after being awakened by underwater nuclear tests. The movie was released a decade after atom bombs ripped apart Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Needless to say, the movie was a tact reflection of wartime trauma faced by Japan.
In the lastest movie, a former British army colonel, played by Charles Dance, believes modern civilization is on track to wipe out all life on the planet. He and his paramilitary team are on a mission to release mutant ‘Titans’ from their resting places to try to tip the scales back into Earth’s favour.
Now, Godzilla is the unlikely eco-warrior fighting to defeat the Titans - led by the three-headed King Ghidorah — and save humanity from itself.
“Dougherty’s film recalls America’s present-day anxieties over increasingly intense weather patterns tearing across the country from coast to coast,” culture writer Andy Crump observed in a review in The Week.
Post-apocalyptic climate situations have been a staple of the cli-fi genre for decades now. But Godzilla returns against a unique febrile backdrop.
The movie may not deliver cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the movie could still help wake up society to the crisis that may otherwise seem too overwhelming to anticipate.
“We need to engage with the reality of climate change in order to deal with it,” said Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist who lectures at the University of Bath in southwest England. “The monster gives us a metaphor, a narrative through which we can do that,” she added. Hickman is also a member of the Climate Psychology Alliance.
Author of a book of the psychology of climate emergency, Zhiwa Woodbury says sees King of the Monsters as Hollywood’s most profound ‘cli-fi’ contribution to date.
“Godzilla is spot-on in asking us to face our inner demons,” Woodbury wrote on his EcoPsychology NOW! blog. “Only then can we hope to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of the petrochemical age, and regenerate our world on a path of climate recovery.”