Study Guide

Godzilla Technology and Modernization

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Technology and Modernization

OGATA'S BOSS: Thank you. Thank you for your efforts. What could have caused this?

COAST GUARD OFFICER: We don't know. It was like when the Myojin-sho volcano erupted. We received an SOS, then suddenly the connection went dead.

SECOND OFFICER: The Bingo-maru is approaching the area. They're sure to find something.

Notice the connection between technology and nature in this quote. We need our technology for the modern world to run smoothly, but in the face of large-scale natural disasters, our tech fails us. In this case, it's radios and modern ships, but later in the film, it'll be weapons. And, of course, there's always the horror of weekend internet lag.

YAMANE: Why such a creature would appear in our territorial waters is the next question. It was probably hidden away in a deep-sea cave, providing for its own survival and perhaps for others like it. However, repeated underwater H-bomb tests have completely destroyed its natural habitat. To put it simply, hydrogen-bomb testing has driven it from its sanctuary.

Godzilla's an allegory for nuclear weapons. The destruction it brings to Tokyo is a stand-in for the destruction wrought by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The creature also warns about the potential destruction of nuclear proliferation for the sake of deterrence.

We designed nuclear weapons to keep us safe, by way of an unspoken threat. But could the dangers may outweigh the benefits? For example, we can't guarantee they won't go off by accident, be set off by some radical ideologue, or awaken prehistoric monstrosities from the depths that would have otherwise been totally chill.

DEFENSE FORCE OFFICER: First, we'll erect a barbed-wire barrier all along the coast, 100 feet high and 165 feet deep. We'll send 50,000 volts through it to electrocute Godzilla. Of course, we'll have to evacuate not only outside the perimeter, but also everyone living within 1,600 feet of the inside of the barrier. The Defense Forces and Coast Guard will carry out their respective duties outlined in this security plan without delay.

Quick. Our technology has caused a serious problem. What should we do? Use more technology to solve it. Brilliant.

Godzilla has Japan on the ropes with its attacks, so the Defense Force leans on technology for a solution to the problem. In this case, they're repurposing one technology (electric fencing) as a weapon of war.

This actually has precedent. Barbed wire was repurposed from use in farming to war, quickly becoming one of the deadliest defensive weapons in World War I.

SERIZAWA: Exactly. If used as a weapon, it could lead humanity to extinction, just like the H-bomb. But I'm determined to find a use for the Oxygen Destroyer that will benefit society. Until then, I won't reveal its existence. That's why I told the reporter nothing. Should anyone try to force me to use it before then, I'm willing to give up my life and destroy my work rather than let that happen.

In many ways, Serizawa's discovery parallels that of using nuclear fission as a weapon.

In the 1930s, Enrico Fermi hit uranium with neutrons in an attempt to turn the uranium into a new, artificial particle. What he actually discovered was nuclear fission—although it would take several more scientists and experiments to figure that out (Source).

By the time people realized the destructive potential for this process, the cat had already been blown out of the bag/ While nuclear fission can be used for beneficial purposes, like clean energy, we'll have to live with its destructive potential, too.

SERIZAWA: Ogata, you two win. But this will be the first and last time I ever allow the Oxygen Destroyer to be used.
[Serizawa burns his notes. Emiko begins to cry.]

SERIZAWA: It's all right, Emiko. This is the only way to make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

Serizawa's no fool. Rather than ignore the history of nuclear armament, he chooses to learn from it and destroys his notes to prevent other scientists from following his footsteps.

Of course, his technology relies on natural processes that any other scientist could stumble upon and duplicate, so really he's just postponing the inevitable. Wow that's…that's super depressing to think about.

REPORTER: What emotion! What joy! Victory at last! I saw Godzilla's lifeless corpse sink into the sea with my own eyes! This victory belongs to young Dr. Serizawa, scientist of the century!

Science and technology got us into the predicament with Godzilla, but it was science and technology that got us out of it. So…yay?

Kinda. Serizawa's sacrifice provides a hopeful coda in Godzilla, suggesting that people may learn to take responsibility for the technologies they invent and truly use them to benefit society. It's a pretty big maybe, but may still be a maybe…maybe.

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