The box office of the past several years has sucked in the cash with vampire and zombie flicks, reigniting our culture’s imagination with sexy blood-slurpers and disgusting brain-munchers. So what do vampires and zombies have to do with a giant lizard crashing into the local Imax? More than you might think.
Zombie movies like World War Z, the adorable Warm Bodies and the upcoming Life After Beth all portray mindless creatures who are terribly dangerous to humanity.
Similarly, vampires have become commonplace in the American psyche due to movies like the Twilight series, Vampire Academy, the Underworld franchise and even Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Now, Hollywood’s decided to reinvent an old monster, a hundred times more powerful than any nosferatu or undead, soulless corpse.
The question is, do we really need another movie monster?
Godzilla first stomped onto movie screens 60 years ago in the Japanese film Gojira and was quickly altered for American audiences, becoming a huge hit. Anyone can tell that Gojira — or Godzilla, as we know him — was a metaphor for the nuclear age that devastated two Japanese cities in World War II. The reptile was larger than the tallest skyscrapers, breathed fire and destroyed anything and everything in its path.
So what metaphor is the 2014 Godzilla meant to deliver to the modern zeitgeist? Many would say this monster represents nature unbalanced by human activity, wreaking havoc on planet Earth. Don’t get this movie confused with some leftist agenda flick about the evils of fossil fuels, however. Here, the monster is acting on behalf of the ransacked planet, fighting for its return to stability and sustainability. Godzilla is the bear poked by humans and boy, is he angry. His message is so loud and powerful, he communicates by breathing electric-blue fire.
In the film, the character Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), works as the voice of reason. He says, “The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control. And not the other way around.” This message is a far cry from the Cold War-era Godzilla that was focused on the hazards of life (and death) in the atomic age.
But there’s a reason this leaping lizard is harping on the fate of our planet and it may have to do with the recovering economy.
During World War II, the whole world was on edge, trying to defeat the Nazis who had their own monster complex. Americans dealt with the stress by stealing away to the cinema and watching musicals. These movies were like collective therapy for our citizens, and it worked. After the war was won, American minds could wander back to realism in movies that led to an optimistic view of America’s future.
Fast-forward past the end of the Cold War, past Sept. 11, past hurricane Katrina and press pause at the 2008 financial crisis. America was thrown into recession and the young generation had extremely limited job prospects. So what did the youth of America do? They went to the movies and watched numerous incarnations of zombies and vampires, and even some werewolves.
Zombies are commonly thought to gain popularity when governments and society in general are unstable, as if a brainless entity is in charge, threatening humanity’s survival.
Vampires are seen as a way to deal with sexual repression, which becomes clear when you think about a vampire’s bite: there’s desire, penetration and bodily fluids are exchanged, yet the victim had no control over the physical act.
So while the jobless millennials, who were again living with their parents, focused on societal breakdown and physical urges, vampires and zombies proliferated. Now, as the economy is starting to come back, jobs are resurfacing and the minimum wage is being debated in Washington, we can expect more serious concerns to be addressed in Hollywood.
But don’t expect vamps and zombs to disappear immediately. The workflow of Hollywood has about another two years before it makes the course correction. But rest assured, you can look forward to more monsters and more natural disasters making their way to theaters. And why not? They sure do look awesome in 3-D.