Open Apology to Japan
Sometimes I have huge regrets about my youth. Some of what was formed in my formative years has proved to be...well...difficult. I'm not blaming anyone, especially not my parents. Sure, I suppose they could have been a little more, oh, I dunno, judicious about my television viewing. But, I mean, it was just a lunkhead moose and a flying squirrel, how were they to know most of what I knew about Russia and the Cold War I learned from Boris and Natasha? So much so that until I was 10 or 11 I kind of didn't understand all the hullabaloo over Russia, I mean, how could we be afraid of bumbling, inept people who talked funny and carried around big black balls with a sparkler on the end labeled in big white letters, "BOMB?"
In the '80s, when MTV arrived and brought with it music videos themed around Cold War apocalypse I didn't understand why so much fear-based imagery was used. "We're talking about people who go around trying to catch moose and squirrel with a giant sparking black ball clearly labeled 'BOMB' for crying out loud."
I watched an '80s music video rewind thing a few weeks ago (don't ask). It made me remember why I hated the '80s. I forgot how many music videos tried to be über political by portraying war, evil dictators, something sorrowful related to East Germany or grim post apocalyptic life. Were we really that scared in the '80s? I remember, now, why the Pixies were such a big stinking deal to me. There was a lot of really, really, really bad music but the same could be said for any decade. There's just a lot of really, really, really bad music out there. But what made it worse in the '80s was the self-important, way over-the-top apocalyptic videos. Apparently every band producing music in the '80s was heavily influenced by one of two movies: Mad Max (Road Warrior) or Das Boot. I happen to like both of those movies but not so much so that I want every band producing a music video to allude to or blatantly copy themes and imagery from them.
But I digress and that's my point: Sometimes I regret my youth.
Sure, I can't be faulted for the content of what was shown on television. And as I said, my parents are not to blame. Considering "the times" I was not allowed to watch much television. Compared to other kids I knew, my parents were very strict about what and how much television I watched.
Unfortunately, now, though, I realize the relatively small amount of '80s MTV is the least of my concerns.
As the horrific news and images emerge from Japan I read and watch in horror and sorrow.
And I realize, with much embarrassing, shameful regret, I watched way, way, way too many Godzilla movies as a kid.
Because as the tragedy unfolds in Japan, and I read and watch in overwhelming horror and sorrow, there's a synapse in my brain that fires this formula: Japan + Natural Disaster ÷ Nuclear or Atomic Accident = Fire Breathing Monster in Tokyo Bay.
So along with the overwhelming sadness, shock, horror, compassion and ineptitude, I feel equally ashamed.
I'm sorry, Japan. But really, at its core it speaks to a level of love and respect. Those Godzilla movies gave me a lot more than after school and Saturday afternoon entertainment. They provided limitless bonding with my much older brother, who is responsible for introducing me to the franchise at a very early age. In fact, I can't remember life without Godzilla movies. My brother used to babysit me and I am certain even as a toddler he passed the time stuck watching me parked in front of the television watching Godzilla movies.
Godzilla also gave me an in with the older kids in the school yard. There was this one boy, a huge bullying brute of a kid, who was the menace of recess. He was so mean and so much bigger than the other kids that he was called Godzilla. He wasn't in my class and didn't live near me so I never knew his real name. He just went by Godzilla. Godzilla (the child bully) used to torture younger, smaller kids, especially the dorky ones, by chasing them to the tether ball pole and forcing the weaker, smaller kid to play tether ball with him. A rite of passage at my school was getting a broken nose or black eye by "playing" tether ball with Godzilla. Godzilla victimized boys and girls equally. One thing you can say about Godzilla (the child bully) is that he didn't discriminate.
Of course, eventually, it was my turn to be Godzilla's victim. I put up a good chase, I used The Monkey Bar diversion followed by a Reverse Slide Run-up, but even my wily tactics couldn't save me from tether ball with Godzilla. So, as he stood there, chained ball hoisted in one of his be-mittened paws (yes, Godzilla wore mittens), ready to slam the chained ball at my face, I looked up at him and said, "Did you watch Godzilla versus Mothra yesterday?"
I'd like to say I was so intellectually and emotionally superior to Godzilla (the child bully) that this was a cunning show of strategic wit and manipulation. But it wasn't. I was such a stupid dork that I honestly assumed that if Godzilla (the child bully) watched Godzilla movies he surely watched Mothra the day before, and he would surely have an opinion on Mothra.
And oh yes, indeed, he did. He started talking about the "surprise" ending with the two larvae, and his grip on the tether ball loosened.
Realizing I might be able to get him talking long enough to evade death by tether ball, summoning all my courage and confidence, I brought up Oodako. And that launched what would become known in our lunchroom as The Gamera Debate.
Godzilla and I stood there, my face to his belly, him holding the chained tether ball in his be-mittened paw, me in my purple snow boots, with the tether ball pole between us. We spent the remaining recess debating Godzilla v. Gamera, volleying movie knowledge punches at each other.
I was so into the discussion that I didn't realize a crowd of kids had formed. Undoubtedly they initially came to watch the daily tether ball beating. There was a core group of kids who turned out daily to watch another of Godzilla's victims fall. But the group was larger that day. Word of something unusual happening at the tether ball spread lightening fast from the monkey bars to the swings to the roundabout. Fairly quickly the "will he slam the tether ball in her face or not" speculation gave way to "whose side are you on? Godzilla (the Japanese monster and the child bully) or Gamera (the Japanese monster and me)." Yes. Sides were being taken. And then the recess bell rang and the crowd dispersed.
I successfully evaded a tether ball beating from Godzilla. I have two claims to school yard fame, but that is by far the most heralded. I always thought it deserved a plaque. "This tether ball court is the site where a dorky little girl escaped injury inflicted by the great child bully 'Godzilla.'"
The lessons are endless. Know your enemy. Find common ground. Know your Godzilla trivia.
It would be cute and nice to say Godzilla and I became friends. We did not. It would be even nicer to say Godzilla never bullied or attacked another kid again. He did. Routinely. And when other kids tried my approach "Talk about Godzilla movies!" he was not swayed. That tactic worked once. And only once. I was lucky. I was the first to stumble across his weak spot. After that he didn't succumb to such an easy ruse.
But. He had enough respect for me that he didn't bully me ever again, which is really the best I could possibly want.
So, see? I have warm, fuzzy, good feelings about the Godzilla (and other Japanese monster) movie franchise. I've never really bragged about my Japanese monster past, but I've never been ashamed of it, either.
But now...now I regret it.
So. I'm sorry, Japan.
I don't mean to manifest images of Mothra, Rodan, Oodaka, Godzilla and Gamera every time they show an image of the smoking reactor with the ocean in the background. I really don't mean to do it. And I feel horrible, just really awful that for a flicker of a second my brain superimposes those monsters into the images shown on television. It's not at all funny and I am appalled that I am capable of such a shameful thing. I'm doing everything I can to deprogram my brain and I am hopeful repeated readings of The Pearl Diver will override the monsters in my brain.
Labels: Apology to Japan, Godzilla