Cheesy vs Sombre meanings of Godzilla

Godzilla vs King Kong - a cheesy moment

I’ve been hunting around for some of the chief ambiguities or contradictions in the Godzilla experience.

Recently a key ambiguity of Godzilla’s meaning is the ambiguity of defining the entire Godzilla movie franchise as good or bad, often described as a difference between the Japanese original and the Western dub. A number of authors writing in the west like Allison and Tsutsui argue that in the west it is often reduced to being part of the so bad it’s good B-grade movie experience associated largely with a children’s audience. They go on to point out that the dismissal of Godzilla as cheesy trash culture over looks many of the values its serious fan community and Japanese audience see in it. From the originals adult story line tackling issues of the danger of nuclear proliferation and continued during the series relanch from 1984 on. As Tsutsui points out the economics of Godzilla also demands it earns some respect – it is one of the longest runing film series, the merchandise and licesing of Godzilla goods generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year. And the term -zilla is firmly part of the English language (Tsutsui).
The ambiguity around how we value Godzilla as a film franchise is part of the overall ambigity that my Godzilla space research looks at – those points where the Godzilla fan-performance becomes something more than recognising or performing cheesy camp wrestling with poor production value. And instead becomes a deeper reflection – such as the dwelling on the atomic bomb, the tragedy of the Lucky Dragon boat incident. Making a visit to the location where the Lucky Dragon boat is stored, or to Hiroshima or Nagasaki may draw out these moments. I’m certainly interested to reflect on this if I get a chance to visit these locations.


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