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We’ve Created a Monster} ?> Thankfully, most of us don’t literally mean it when we shout, “Oh, no! I’ve created a monster!” In the Toho movie franchises, however, when the Japanese say it, they mean it. The world of Kaiju, the “strange beasts” of Japanese cinema, include attacks on the world and are often the result of humanity making a very poor choice or unfortunate mistake. Godzilla: King of the Monsters introduces us to a highbred dinosaur born from the radiation of atomic weapons testing. Godzilla ravages Japan, bringing further devastation to the nation after the horror of what spawned him in the first place.
The writers and producers of the Godzilla films knew firsthand the destruction of nuclear weapons. They had seen two of their cities leveled, their people burned and poisoned by the radiation, their land scarred and torn, and their country defeated and shamed by this unnatural power. When they started making Godzilla movies, their nation was still feeling the effects of the war. Godzilla is a physical representation of their experiences. Depending on the movie, Godzilla has been portrayed as a good guy saving the world from other monsters or aliens, or as a bad guy wreaking havoc on unsuspecting citizens. Regardless of his current relationship with humanity, his presence is a reminder of the nightmare, the monster, that we create when we assault and abuse the earth.
In the newly released anime movie, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, Godzilla is such a threat to humanity that they have to leave the planet and look for a safe place to live. Even as they make their escape, he blows many of them out of the sky with his atomic ray. They come back after 20,000 years on Earth, and it seems that Godzilla had a baby that grew a lot bigger and evolved even further. He destroys most of the landing party and their equipment, and they make a break for space again. Earth appears to still be uninhabitable—and it was humanity’s hubris that turned their home into an unlivable war zone. The priest, Metphies, says, “He is the punishing iron hammer for the arrogant. For the species who pronounces themselves as lords of creation, a divine avenger will pay them a visit.”
Christians believe that God has set them over creation—one might even describe the role as “lords,” as Metphies does. In Genesis’s creation story, God tells humanity to “have dominion” over creation. But, the dominion that God intends isn’t one of arrogance—it’s of loving service, care and stewardship. My Catholic faith tells me that failure to care for creation is a sin. To deny or pretend that humanity has had a negative impact on the environment; that I might have a negative impact, is harmful. Assuming I have the right to use the planet any way I want to is arrogant. Not only does it damage nature, but it is a source of injustice against the poor, robbing them of resources that their survival depends on.
Humankind’s Godzilla-sized carbon footprint should be enough to shake some sense into us. But, for now, many seem to be content to watch the poor get repeatedly pounded by the punishing hammer of thirst, hunger, war, and natural disasters of increasing devastation. I know that I can be somewhat reactive instead of proactive—waiting until the trouble hits home before I act. If I’m wasteful, careless, overly consumptive, or silent about the injustice I see, I’m a monster to those who don’t have what they need. I believe that the citizens of Earth aren’t going to need a kaiju to ravage the Earth to make us understand the legacy we’re creating. Soon enough, it will hit home. A divine avenger of humanity’s own making will, no doubt, convict us of our crime against creation. I just hope we do something about it before we have to vacate the planet.
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