Beyond Godzilla: Reflections of National Identity in Japanese Horror Films

Caitlin Ladd Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Elise Edwards Butler University
Godzilla is Japan’s most well-known horror film and for good reason: it offers insight into the effects of World War II and the creation of the atomic bomb on city life, social development, and the environment. However, there is another theme surrounding the globally recognized battle against a giant monster that often goes unnoticed: nationalism. In the modern period, Japanese national identity was shaped by state-guided ideology that emphasized the importance of community and connections to fellow citizens. Such ideas have appeared in many forms of popular culture and media including manga, anime, novels, and films; and, national identity is clearly referenced in most Japanese horror films, including many beyond the extensive Godzilla series. Japanese horror films have also evolved in response to shifting discourses of national identity in the country. In the late 19th century, the Meiji government used public schools, the military, and other new national institutions to promote a Japanese identity structured around nation-as-family that demanded the sublimation individual interests for the betterment of the group/nation. With the bursting of the economic bubble in the early 1990s, neo-liberal values of individualism and self-responsibility have become central to government policies and in popular media. Japanese horror films from the post-World War II era to the present have portrayed individualism in itself as horror and manipulate themes of nostalgia and the haunting desire to return to traditions that existed throughout much of the 20th century as Japan struggles to reconcile fractured discourses of national identity from the past to the present.
Anthropology
Oral Presentation

When & Where

10:30 AM
Jordan Hall 242