10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Godzilla
Everyone, it seems, has their own idea of who Godzilla is. Since the ’50s, every generation has seen its own incarnation. Depending on when you grew up, you might remember “The King of Monsters” as a city-stomping cautionary allegory for atomic energy, or maybe he’s a heroic super-monster … and concerned father. If you’re younger than that, perhaps the only association you make comes in the form of 1998’s terrible TriStar Pictures “GINO” (“Godzilla in Name Only”) and the dumb (yet inexplicably less off-putting) cartoon it begat. Even if you’re familiar with every decade of the franchise, there are so many trivial details — so many self-inflicted contradictions in Godzilla canon — so many oft-repeated fallacies about Japan’s number one import, that becoming a Godzilla academic remains one of the great pop-nerd challenges. Or … you could always just memorize a list of little-known fact to impress friends at parties.
Godzilla’s sexuality is in question.
When mentioned in mixed company, Godzilla is most often referred to in masculine pronouns. But un-translated Japanese Godzilla dialogue usually hedges its bets with “it.” So, where did Minilla — a.k.a. ‘Son of Godzilla’ — come from? Godzilla doesn’t appear to be hauling any noticeable genitalia around. Complicating matters further, Tri-Star’s GINO lays eggs. (“He reproduces assexually,” said the lazily written script drooling for an opportunity to rip off ‘Jurassic Park’ as explicitly as possible.) If we follow the lead of what we expect is creator’s intent, it’s likely we’re to perceive him as an alpha-male monster, anatomy be damned.
Godzilla died at least three times.
Right out of the gate in his 1954 debut Big G is disintegrated … at the molecular level even! It’s not an easy condition to bounce back from. In ‘Godzilla vs. Destoroyah’ (1995) his nuclear heart has a literal meltdown. In the brutally titled ‘Godzilla, Mothra and Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack’ (2001) a missile planted inside the monster’s chest explodes, causing yet another complete disintegration, but the franchise trap door is held open by a final shot of Godzilla’s (disembodied!) heart beginning to beat. In 1998, Ferris Bueller and a handful of military aircraft and missiles easily take down the absolutely useless GINO after luring him into position with a mountain of dead fish.
Godzilla fought the Fantastic Four.
Godzilla fought an impressive handful of Marvel heroes in fact. For three years in the late ’70s, Godzilla kinda had his own thing going at Marvel. Between 1977-79 ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ eked out a 24-issue run. During his tenure with the comic label, he was portrayed in his purer ’50s-style persona — a giant, out-of-control wild animal lacking reason and motivation. In the Marvel universe he went head-to-head with Thor, Iron Man and the aforementioned Four. Spider-Man even makes a funny cameo in the last panels of the last issue of Godzilla’s run. Spidey sarcastically laments missing the big battle and the chance to help out his colleagues.
In 1985 America considered Godzilla a “Japanese person.”
What? You heard me. A 1985 New York Times/CBS News poll of 1,500 Americans revealed the monster’s amazing pop culture reach while simultaneously serving as a sad testament to the state of the average American’s understanding of foreign affairs. When asked to name a famous Japanese person, America’s top three answers were: Japanese emperor, Hirohito; Hong Kong martial-arts star Bruce Lee … and Godzilla, who is obviously neither real nor a person. (Quite honestly, aren’t you a little surprised so many people could actually name Hirohito?)
Godzilla is a questionable father.
First, no one is positive Godzilla is a father at all. Sure, the movie was titled ‘Son of … ‘ and characters proclaim the ridiculous-looking (even by Godzilla standards) thing is his son, but based on what we know they know, it’s a pretty irresponsible leap of faith. We don’t know where doughy, wimpy, donkey-braying little Minilla came from, but its pretty obvious the kid needs some paternal guidance. But what kind of father does he end up getting? In Minilla’s screen debut Godzilla stands back for awhile to watch his son get his ass handed to him, before finally stepping in to help. We also see Godzilla threaten to backhand the irritating little runt multiple times. He even steps on little Minilla’s tail when he doesn’t meet Godzilla’s paternal expectations. But then like a regretful alcoholic parent … playful pony rides on his tail! Sounds like Daddy needs to get back on his meds.
Godzilla does not breath fire.
It’s a common misconception, but the only time those blasts coming from Godzilla’s mouth are yellow and orange are in American cartoons and comic books, and on movie posters for state-side releases. He’s less a flame thrower than a nuclear blowtorch. He’ll fry you, all right, but not even dental records will be enough to identify you after the bright blue and white beams leave you a black stain where you once stood.
Godzilla can talk.
In ‘Godzilla vs. Gigan’ (1972), Big G and Anguirus have a casual exchange that’s related in cartoony word balloons. In the U.S. dubbed version, the foreign text is supplemented with English dialogue. Both monsters are actually given human voices that sound a little like a little kid attempting to burp his way through the alphabet.
Godzilla’s lawyers will destroy you.
The Toho Co. Ltd., sole holder of Godzilla’s exclusive rights, practices legal badassery rivaled only by Disney and Lucasfilm. Think you’re gonna use a vaguely similar variation of the reptilian, city-stomping, outrageously litigious property to sell your product? Think again. Toho lays claim to everything, from all upright giant reptiles to the psuedo-suffix “zilla.” Godzilla’s team of Tokyo and L.A.’s most aggressive lawyers have even brought down a brand of Cabernet (Cabzilla). For some reason, many media and commercial outlets mistake Godzilla for “King of the Public Domain Monsters,” but quickly learn from their mistake. Other entities that have gone toe-to-Toho with Godzilla include Pee-wee Herman, Subway and Pharoahe Monch, whose rap hit ‘Simon Says’ sampled Godzilla theme music without permission. Sometimes the suits seem like a ridiculous stretch (Toho filed a suit against Sears for Bagzilla — their “monstrously strong” garbage bags), but not always.
Godzilla can dance.
It’s not exactly the proudest moment in the franchise, but evidently Godzilla was so jazzed about chasing off King Ghidora in 1965’s ‘Invasion of Astro-Monster’ that he caught a case of happy feet, breaking into a victory jig as if he just can’t help himself. Other talents include rock volleyball (he has a quick round with the lobster-like Ebirah in 1966’s ‘Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster’) and this impressive, physics-defying move.
Godzilla never beat King Kong.
One of the most circulated fallacies in monster-movie history springs from the climax of 1962’s ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla.’ For years we wrongly believed that Kong only wins the final battle in the American version. It was widely held that the Japanese release ended with Godzilla the victor. Believe it or not, things don’t go down like that. Despite many differences between the two versions, King Kong always wins. The last few punches and atomic-breath blasts land the two behemoths in the ocean, but only Kong reemerges and stomps out to sea like a like a cowboy (in a laughable gorilla suit) riding off into the sunset. The throw-down’s human spectators speculate it’s possible Godzilla somehow survived, but no evidence is offered. Despite this cinematic truth, it’s hard to imagine how a big gorilla could possibly compete with a giant lizard capable of burping up deadly atomic rays … you know … in real life. Adding insult to injury, Godzilla gets second billing.