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Arts & Entertainment

Godzilla Film Screening and Lecture

Looking at antinuclear messages behind the original Godzilla

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Calling all film and East Asian studies buffs. The 1954 Japanese classic Godzilla will be shown on Thursday, April 21, followed by a lecture by Gregory Pflugfelder, a Columbia University associate professor of East Asian language and studies. The film will be shown with subtitles.

The original Japanese film inspired dozens of other Godzilla films, including a 1998 American version starring Matthew Broderick. But the original is notable because of its strong antinuclear message (the monster was the direct result of American nuclear weapons testing).

Pflugfelder is currently working on a book about Godzilla and the different ways it was perceived and received around the world when it was released. He has collected Godzilla memorabilia from all over the world that illustrate the different ways various countries interpreted the film. Plfugfelder will discuss how Godzilla’s antinuke message was altered when it was originally distributed in the United States.

Event organizer Hiromi Miyagi-Lusthaus, a College of Arts & Sciences lecturer in modern languages and comparative literature, was surprised by how few of her Japanese language students had seen the original Godzilla. It has had an enormous influence on pop culture in Japan, she says, but many Americans know nothing about the serious message behind the film. Miyagi-Lusthaus hopes Thursday’s screening and lecture will change that. It’s “not simply a kitschy monster movie. It has a fuller meaning,” she says.

Although the film screening was planned before the current Japanese nuclear crisis, Godzilla’s antinuclear message has taken on an urgent relevance. Pflugfelder was in Japan during the earthquake, and plans to draw on his personal experience in his discussion of the film’s themes of destruction.

“It’s a way to think about urban devastation and what it means to pick up your life when it has been destroyed overnight,” says the other event organizer, Keith Vincent, a CAS assistant professor of modern languages and comparative literature. “It’s good to think about it in terms of the moment and in a historical context.”

Godzilla in Japan and the World is Thursday, April 21, at 6 p.m. at the Photonics Center, Room 906, 8 St. Mary’s St. Gregory Pflugfelder of Columbia University will speak after the screening. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available here.

Allison Thomasseau can be reached at althoma@bu.edu.

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