Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kingdom of Monsters: Godzilla, Lady Gaga, and the Giant Armadillo of Texas

Americans have short attention spans and bad memories, so it's hardly surprising that when Godzilla reawakened in Japan last year -- after lying dormant for a nearly a decade -- most acted as though they'd never seen a giant monster before. It also stands to reason that the first nonfiction book to cover the subsequent events, Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters by American author Eric Powell, would neglect to place the sudden return of a half-dozen kaiju into its proper historical context.

Historically speaking, this never ends well.

Nevertheless, Powell does an excellent job of recounting humanity's response to this crisis, from opportunistic Republicans' typical attempts to place all of the blame on President Obama, to the underestimation of the monsters' might by military forces the world over, to the personal tolls taken on families caught in the inexorable paths of these great beasts.

Yet the book's tight focus on the events of 2011, separated from the rich history of these monsters that have plagued mankind since the first appearance of Godzilla in 1954, weakens the narrative's overall perspective and impact. This article will attempt to fill in the gaps by exploring some of the details that were left out of Kingdom of Monsters' final draft.

1. Anguirus


It should have been no surprise when Anguirus, the second monster to burst back onto the scene in 2011, emerged from the ground in Mexico and headed for the Texas border. This 60,000-ton, fully-grown adult kaiju had been in Texas before, back in the late '70s and early '80s, when he was still a mere twelve-ton pup. The Texans didn't know his name back then, but simply referred to this scourge of the Lone Star Brewing Company as the Giant Armadillo.

Old photo and newspaper clipping from the kaiju files.

The monster was never caught on camera back then, but its targeting of Lone Star beer trucks and establishments selling Lone Star became so infamous that the beverage company eventually incorporated it into their advertising:

After thirty years of hibernation south of the border Anguirus woke up thirsty, and lost no time returning to what he remembered as the land of free beer.

Anguirus intercepts a Lone Star beer truck.

Once he'd drained every drop of Lone Star beer from all the convenience stores, diners, and delivery vehicles near the border of Mexico, Anguirus plowed through San Antonio before heading out to Los Angeles for a drunken brawl with Godzilla.

Because that's just how he rolls.

2. Lady Gaga


Kingdom of Monsters depicts "Mother Monster" Lady Gaga following up a live performance on MTV with an impassioned defense of the destructive kaiju and promoting her charity that advocates for giant monster rights. But it fails to mention that the event she was performing at was the 2011 MTV Video Music Aid Japan, which benefited the Japanese Red Cross, or that her "Pray for Japan" bracelets raised money for all the Japanese "Little Monsters" displaced by Godzilla's attack on the country.

Lady Gaga makes a gesture of monster solidarity.

Nor does the book take into account the human race's "shoot first, ask questions later" history of dealing with giant monsters, such as the 1976 incident with King Kong in New York City.

A typical poster for Lady Gaga's charity MEALS.

Miki Saegusa, a spokesperson for MEALS, is quick to point out our dismal record of dealing with these unique beings, and that any one-of-a-kind creature is by definition the ultimate endangered species. That is what Lady Gaga was trying to explain, she insists, when the pop star was talking about Anguirus' victims on MTV.

"Look, it's horrible what's happening to those people, but that's nature," Lady Gaga can be heard saying in the clip that is replayed endlessly on Fox News. "For the greater good, Texas should be destroyed." Though the entertainer has been widely criticized for her stance, most people polled admit that they wouldn't have batted an eye if she'd said the same thing about Arizona instead.

Human behavior has even been known to drive some monsters to suicide. Riddled with despair, Rodan chose to plunge into an active volcano rather than have to deal with humanity's shit.

And who could blame him, really?

"We should be putting our efforts into saving the kaiju, not destroying them," continues Miki Saegusa. "It's unfair to lump them all into one homogenous group and assume that every one of them is out to destroy everything in its path. Peaceful coexistence with giant monsters is within the realm of possibility."

And that's not even taking into account "Friend to All Children" Gamera,
 or "Saves Orphans from Burning Buildings" Mighty Joe Young.

In her interview on 60 Minutes, Lady Gaga explained that her biggest pet peeve is the hypocrisy surrounding the issue of giant monsters. "Everyone's always looking for a way to destroy Godzilla once and for all," she told Anderson Cooper. "Until alien invaders or a monster from space shows up, and then they're all, 'Godzilla, save us!' Hypocrites."

3. Godzilla, King of the Monsters

MEALS would like to see all of the government's effort and funding, currently dedicated to developing weapons of mass destruction capable of destroying the kaiju, redirected to a rehabilitation program.

Godzilla exhibiting bad behavior.

They believe that the monsters' enormous size alienates them from most life on Earth, leaving them without any direction, meaning, or purpose in their lives. All they know is violence and destruction, and they take out their frustrations by lashing out at our cities and each other.

"It's not their fault that they're born this way," Gaga told 60 Minutes. "We just need to divert their aggression and limitless energy to more social activities, like sports."

Even the most terrible and feared of the bunch, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, has shown that he isn't beyond rehabilitation.

"Back in the 1990s, when President Clinton was supporting federal programs like Midnight Basketball, the government teamed with Nike to channel Godzilla's unbridled power and competitive nature into shooting hoops," explains MEALS board member Carl Majors. "A magically-enlarged Charles Barkley was able to preempt one of Godzilla's attacks by challenging him to a pick-up game. They were then able to keep him occupied in the Grand Canyon for an extended period of time, practicing layups on a specially-designed goal."

Godzilla and Barkley in happier times.

Majors insists the Godzilla Basketball program was a great success, and that something similar could be implemented now if the government weren't focused solely on military options. Involving kaiju in sports activities not only saves their lives, but the lives of civilians who otherwise become collateral damage when the military gets involved. He cites such examples as the gas attacks against Anguirus and Rodan that backfired in Los Angeles and Germany, respectively, and of course the MechaGodzilla debacle.

Majors says that MEALS approves of synergy between the government and business when it's a corporation like Nike developing sports goggles and athletic shoes for kaiju, but when you get the military-industrial complex involved, it's a recipe for disaster. Such was the case when President Obama approved the construction of MechaGodzilla in Detroit.

President Obama unveils Operation Two Birds One Stone, designed to kill Godzilla and get the US economy back on track in one fell swoop. "After it destroys Godzilla, we're going to program it with all the terrorists' names from the drone kill list."

"As you know, that plan proved disastrous when MechaGodzilla malfunctioned in his first confrontation with Godzilla and proceeded to destroy Atlanta, Georgia."

Thereby winning a decisive victory for Pepsi in the Cola Wars.

Other monster advocates aren't so diplomatic, describing kaiju as the antibodies nature has produced to wipe out humanity, which they consider to be a cancer with a malignant impact on the Earth. Others are less harsh, claiming the giant beasts are merely nature's way of thinning out the human herd a bit in the face of overpopulation. They even say that ultimately the giant monster attacks will have a positive effect on the human race, helping to eliminate some of our worst excesses. As evidence they cite the disproportionate number of reality television stars killed by monsters so far, such as the entire cast of Jersey Shore.

Of course the loss of one of the world's great grunge bands undermines that theory.

Ultimately the book raises more questions than it answers, such as "Where did the monsters come from?" and "Where did they all go?" But for now we have plenty to ponder as we work to rebuild what is left of civilization.

At least until the monsters return again.

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