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Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Science Fiction

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Many differences can be seen between Steve Ryfle’s article “Godzilla’s Footprint” and Susan Sontag’s well known 1965 article “Imagination of Disaster” as Ryfle talks about the Japanese’s imagination perspective while Sontag talks about the American imagination perspective of there view points on science fiction films. Furthermore, Ryfle takes an intensive approach toward Godzilla has he provides evidence that advances his argument with the help of Susan Napier’s article “Panic Sites” where she demonstrated key points toward Japanese science fiction films and relate to Ryfle’s point of view. Whereas the famous Feminist write of the 1950’s and 60’s, Sontag disagrees with Ryfle on his idea and leans toward the more extensive way of thinking has she portrays to argue that science fiction films are nothing but extensive dramatics and to support her argument Susan Napier in her “Panic Sites” article partially agrees with Sontag with certain points that are relevant to Sontag’s argument as well has Sontag enhances the evidence of what real intensive factors portray to be when the discussion of the movie Grave of the Fireflies occurs which is a 1988 Japanese animated anti war tragedy of two orphans who struggle to survive.

Although Sontag’s argument is correct for most science fiction films, especially American films, Ryfle’s article provides evidence contradictory to Sontag’s argument. In Ryfle’s article “Godzilla’s Footprint,” he talks about the Japanese movie “Godzilla,” directed by Ishirō Honda. To Honda, this movie had a serious meaning because it was about the atomic bombings that demolished Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It was made to make the audience understand what the Japanese people went through at a time when no one knew what type of damage resulted from the bombings. Susan Napier suggests that the ideological change in terms of both presentations of disaster and the attitudes inscribed toward disaster derive from either the negative portrayal of disaster or the virtual celebration of disaster (Napier 330). Naiper supports Ryfle by stating in her article, “Panic Sites,” that “Godzilla has moral certainties” (Napier 331). As for Honda, he was inspired to make the movie “Godzilla” after flying over the Pacific Ocean— where he remembered the American bombing on Japan. Furthermore, he saw Hiroshima transformed into ashes: little left of the once bustling city.

For Japanese viewers, they did not find Godzilla to be a monster movie that was only about destruction, but more of a movie that had intensive factors that reminded them about the tragic incidents that traumatized them. Susan Sontag, however, would disagree with Ryfle because she talks about the American imagination of disaster and the American perspectives of science fiction movies, whereas for American viewers thought it was extensive and enjoyed the destruction imagery. Napier supports Sontag by stating that “western science is on the whole less nihilistic than Japanese counterpart” (Napier 330). American films can be classified as a part of the postmodern genre with a fast-paced episodic narrative structure, often organized around intense violence scene. Fascinated with arresting imagery rather than character development, American films almost lack a moral core (Napier 340). Thus the conclusion can be made that the perspectives in which the movie is viewed is crucial to the way the movie is interpreted. In Steve Ryfle’s article “Godzilla’s Footprint,” Ryfle demonstrates the original 1954 Godzilla’s as known as Gojira debut on November 3, 1984 as a serious, yet epic, post war tragedy with a grave warning about the foolishness of nuclear testing.

He also states that Godzilla has intensive factors, illustrated by a scene from the movie where a mother holds her two children, telling them that they will soon be close to their father as Godzilla nears them. Although the Japanese critics thought it was to soon to talk about the incident, they nevertheless made a movie about the incident because they were still not over the tragic trauma of the incident. Many Japanese viewers went and watched the movie, leaving the theatre in tears due to the scenes relating so vividly to the events that occurred. One such occurrence included the lucky dragon incident, which involved a tuna trawler that trekked dangerously close to an H-bomb test site, resulting in radiation poisoning to the crew members. Along with this imagery, a still illustration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in ashes after being hit by Godzilla symbolizes the attack of atomic bombs by the Americans. This visual resembles how both cities looked after they had been attacked by the atomic bombs. After the successful release of the film, Japanese critics accused the directors of cashing in on national hysteria, and thus were not pleased.

To support Ryfle’s argument, Susan Napier partially agrees with what Ryfle has to say in her article, “Panic Sites,” by stating that “the notion of disaster is of course not the only theme in Japanese science fiction” (Napier 330)—meaning that the aesthetic concentration of disaster is not always praising the special effects but moreover looking at the effects of disaster. Furthermore, she states, “The film offered its immediate post war Japanese audience an experience that was both cathartic and compensatory, allowing them to rewrite or at least to re-imagine their wartime experience” (Napier 330). They both conclude that certain science fiction movies have intensive dramatics as well as something important to say. In Susan Sontag’s article, “The Imagination of Disaster,” she establishes her argument by simply examining the genre of science fiction film, which when used in this film, convey a shift in popular movie themes in post war America. She divides the black and white fiction films into four phases, basically suggesting the model scenarios having an obvious plot.

In such films, the hero is in love, or in a love triangle, and one of the protagonists gives up his/her life to defeat the villain, resulting in everyone living happily ever after. In Susan Napier’s “Panic Sites,” she supports her opinion by giving an example of Ryfle’s “Godzilla’s Footprint,” where “the humane Japanese scientist whose suicide helps destroy Godzilla, that ultimately saves the day” (Napier 331). This may portray that science fiction movies are intensive; however the strong representation of mass destruction in graphic ways devoid intensive actors. This is established when Sontag demonstrates that the American imagination of disaster is an emblem of inadequate response. In this way, the conclusion then can be made that science fiction movies are not serious. Moreover, the fundamental differences between written works and movies are that the novels are strongly supported by science, whereas science fiction films are not about science, but rather about disaster.

Films represent destruction in a graphic way that use visual images and intense sound effects which make the wide screen destruction a visceral experience; movies are merely a façade of special effects with no intensive dramatics. This suggests that the movies are used solely to entertain the audience and provide “sensuous elaboration” (Sontag 41). Furthermore, Sontag states the psychological perspectives according to science fiction films from America have no moral responsibility. Within the sphere of cinematic fantasy, the science fiction film provides space to come to terms with this trauma: an opening for fantasy to raise us from the monotony of life or distract us from other terrors. It can “normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it” (Sontag 52). In support of Sontag’s argument, the movie “Grave of the Fireflies” (directed by Isao Takahata), which is a 1988 Japanese animated anti war tragedy, illustrates in detail the intense abilities of science fiction. It is about a young boy, Seita, and his younger sister, Setsuko, who struggle to survive in Japan during World War II. In the first fifteen minutes of the movie, a feeling of intensity can be sensed in the film, whereas in some science fiction movies this aspect is lacking.

In the movie there are several scenes where it has intensive factors such as Seita in rags, dying from starvation, as well as the flashback where the two orphan’s are running from the hundreds of bombs falling down on them—seeing everything around them burn into ashes. The conclusion can be made that science fiction movies of monsters are not comparable to movies involving intensive imagery that result in an fervent scenario, having an effect on the audience despite looking at it in an American or Japanese imagination of disaster. Although Sontag’s argument may be correct for American science fiction films there is evidence that Ryfle is an exception to Sontag’s argument.

From the different perspectives of viewpoints toward the American imagination of disaster to the Japanese imagination of disaster found in science fiction as the two types of imaginations portrays a contrast between extensive dramatic and intensive dramatics. Which then leads to Ryfle’s argument where he provides evidence by Susan Napier article as well as the movie Godzilla has he proves that there is intensive dramatics in the movie. Whereas Sontag would disagree and she provides evidence by suggesting that all science fiction films portray extensive destruction with the help of Susan Napier’s article as well as a animated Japanese movie where two children fight to survive as bombs are flying over there head. Science Fiction movies may be serious however some may disagree as they may be looking at in a different perspective and can only see destruction.

Work Cited

Grave of the Fireflies. [Hotaru no haka]. Dir. Isao Takahata. Prod. Shinchosha, Bandai Visual.1988. Film Napier, Susan J. Panic Sites: The Japanese Imagination of Disaster from Godzilla to Akira Journal of Japanese
Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 1993): 327-351 Ryfle, Steve. “Godzilla’s Footprint.” Virginia Quarterly Review 81.1 (2005): 44-63. Humanities International Complete. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. Sontag Susan, “Imagination of Disaster” Hibakushal Cinema. Ed. Mike Broderick. New York; Kegan Paul International, 1996. Print. (38-53)

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