The Cultural History of Godzilla – Pt 49


「ゴジラの精神史」The Cultural History of Godzilla 1954 by Shuntaro Ono (2014)
「ゴジラの精神史」The Cultural History of Godzilla 1954 by Shuntaro Ono (2014)

P 128

A monkey metaphor


Because of its adoption by King Kong, the gorilla has become the unrealistic representation of a wild ape. Moreover, after the famous “Monkey Trial” in the theory of evolution, monkeys have become a symbol of things that have not evolved below humans, or things that have degenerated. That’s why I set that metaphor against humans. A good example is the 1916 United States Army recruitment poster.


It bears the slogan “Destroy This Mad Brute” and encourages registration. German soldiers and their boss, Emperor Wilhelm II, are likened to monkeys entering America.

P 129


He holds a club and holds a bare-breasted woman in one hand. There is no doubt that this will lead to “King Kong” as it is. On her club is the German-centered “culture” (culture), and the German word “military” is written on her pickelhaube, a military cap that can be said to be a symbol of the German army. The monkeys, which are a relic of the old world, are invading across the sea. It talks about America’s position as the leader of the “Western Hemisphere” centered on the Americas.


This poster shows the thinking behind King Kong. It becomes a “monkey” when you regard it as a barbaric enemy inferior to yourself. Many argue that King Kong portrays black men in a racist way. Due to the contrast of the black-and-white movie, it seems that it will end up in a racial conflict between whites and blacks, but in the first place, King Kong’s birthplace is the Indian Ocean, and the natives are not so-called African blacks. Moreover, the ship also has a Chinese cook named Charlie. They come from Asia.


At the turning point of the 20th century, there was an argument called the “Yellow Peril” to warn of Asia, and it was also called the “yellow monkey.” The one who advocated this “Yellow Peril Theory” was none other than Wilhelm II, who was turned into a monkey in the previous poster. In other words, people who make barbaric arguments are the people behind the old world = monkeys.



1916 US Army poster. There is an image of a German soldier trampling the Statue of Liberty and setting foot on the mainland of America.

P 130


Since Japan fought against Germany in World War I, it was able to control Qingdao and the South Sea Islands in China, which had been German territory. This also marked the beginning of a complex cultural relationship with the South Sea Islands. It is there that Shigeru Kayama, the original author of “Godzilla,” was able to have a southern illusion.


Japan, despised by Wilhelm II, has reacted sharply to King Kong. In conjunction with the release in Japan, Torajiro Saito’s Japanese “King Kong” (1933) was made, and Kumagai Soya’s “King Kong Appears in Edo” (1938). In both cases, film has disappeared, but it is also a characteristic of Japanese culture to immediately imitate and imitate foreign things. However, he tried to season it and make it different. The former is a comedy about a man who tries to make a profit from the popularity of King Kong through spectacles, while the latter inserts King Kong into a historical drama. Here, Fuminori Ohashi dressed as an ape and later dressed as Yukio in Ishiro Honda’s “Half Human” (1955) based on Shigeru Kayama’s original work, which is the same as “Godzilla.” Before and after the war, he used his height of nearly two meters to play a powerful ape.


The interest in ape-things has continued since then. In particular, “Planet of the Apes” (1968), the definitive version of an ape-themed film that is still being made a sequel to today, had a great impact. Among them, the image of intelligent chimpanzees and savage gorillas has become established. In 1971, a television special effects series on the theme of pollution called “Space Ape Man Gori” began. Along the way, at the request of the sponsor, the title is changed to “Spectreman” after the name of the hero of justice. Gori, a scientist who came from 40,000 light-years away, and his subordinate Ra, who escaped from their home planet E because they developed a murder weapon, were villains plotting to conquer the earth. Both names, of course, come from gorillas.

P 131


In 1974, Tsuburaya Productions made the sci-fi drama Planet of the Apes (Sci-Fi Drama Army of the Monkeys), which became popular after it was aired on television. Here, the gorilla is a pacifist, and the chimpanzee is warlike. However, it was a box office failure, unable to escape from the image of King Kong = ferocious gorilla. Even so, the attitude of trying to digest foreign material and create new things has not changed from the time of “Godzilla,” no, the time of “King Kong.”