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Why Godzilla Always Wins

Representatives of the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing recently gave a delightful mock interview on whether the military could take down Godzilla. Both agreed (with tongue in cheek) that they probably could, though they’d be in for a fight.

But could they? As Michael A. Dexter points out, science wouldn’t be able to explain the survival and behavior of a real-life Godzilla—its very existence would be a brute fact that would contradict everything we currently know about physics and biology. So it’s futile to try to calculate whether its hide could survive missile attacks, whether it could be vulnerable to chemical weapons, and so on; our best calculations would become useless as soon as it took two steps out of the ocean without falling over, and that’s kind of the point.

In other words, there are dramatic reasons why any military attack on Godzilla would be doomed to failure. Without spoiling too much of the ending to the 1998 Godzilla, I think it’s safe to say that one of the things it got very, very wrong about the idea of Godzilla is that the objective is to just beat the monster into submission in an ordinary head-on fight, as this would—in a stereotypically American way—prove human technology superior to nature and undermine the basic principle behind the series, which is that human beings do not control the universe and should deal with their environment with caution and humility. (Dr. Serizawa, the hero of the original 1954 film, defeated Godzilla only by using a new kind of WMD—and then killing himself so nobody else would ever be able to use it.)

The 2014 remake seems to be much more in the spirit of the original film, judging especially by this clip:

We can’t fight Godzilla because Godzilla represents the fear that our level of power already dwarfs our ability to use it wisely—which means that anything we could use to fight Godzilla in direct combat would already be part of the danger he represents. As James Weldon Johnson wrote in 1927: “Young man, young man, / your arm’s too short to box with God.”

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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