What Godzilla Means

Godzilla may appear as simply a giant monster attacking cities. Though there’s a deeper meaning behind the existence of the monster.

Tomoyuki Tanaka, director Ishiro Honda, special effects designer Eiji Tsuburaya and composer Akira Ifukube created Godzilla. The idea for Godzilla came from Tanaka. While he was on a plane from Indonesia to Japan, he peered out of the plane window and down at the water below, thinking what lies beneath the surface. Incorporated this with the horror of the atomic bomb Japan witnessed a mere nine years ago, Tanaka thought of creating a monster around this idea. In an interview in 1985, Tanaka said, “In those days, Japan had a real horror of radiation, and that horror is what made Godzilla so huge. From the beginning, he has symbolized nature’s revenge on mankind.”

In the original 1954 film, “Gojira”, the Japanese employ hydrogen bomb tests in the South Pacific sea. This inadvertently causes the mutation of a prehistoric creature. It grows to 50 meters in height and begins advancing towards civilization. There’s a subplot involving a man named Dr. Daisuke Serizawa. Who focused on the research of oxygen and discovers a deadly form of oxygen, which the later films called, “micro-oxygen”. He finds that when a living animal is within close proximity of micro-oxygen, completely dissolves and disintegrates it, Serizawa horrified by this, keeps it a secret from the rest of the world. He continues his research in the hopes that it could aid the world. As Godzilla rampages and wreaks havoc on Japan, he’s hesitant to use his invention, known as “the Oxygen Destroyer” against the monster. As he fears that if the Japanese government gained access to his device, they would use it as a weapon. After witnessing the effects of Godzilla’s attacks, Serizawa agrees to use the device but destroys his notes first. He then plants the oxygen destroyer in Tokyo Bay, where Godzilla moves to next. Serizawa unleashes his weapon and destroys the monster, and he cuts his oxygen line, taking the secrets of the oxygen destroyer to his grave. The film ends with the rest of the characters lamenting that if nuclear testing continues, there could be the chance of another monster like Godzilla rising again.

Godzilla’s role in the film on the surface appears to just attack cities and cause destruction. Though that’s not entirely true. Godzilla was once an ancient dinosaur, but because of the effects of the hydrogen bomb, mutated into a monster. The reason he wanders around the surrounding cities is that he isn’t the world that he once roamed. The world changed, and he’s lost and confused. Godzilla really began attacking when the Japanese military attacked him, so his destructive rampage appears as more out of survival instinct and self-defense rather than actively destroying the cities he wandered through.

The deeper meaning behind Godzilla is the fact that he became what he is because of an event not in his control. The effects of the bomb tests forcibly changed his DNA and warped him into a form he’s unfamiliar with. Becoming what he is wasn’t a choice. Director Ishiro Honda says, “Monsters are tragic beings; they are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, they are not evil by choice. That is their tragedy.”