Auto-ethnography is essentially focussing on the researcher and “his/her position and involvement in the field” (Ellis et al, 2011). Considering my first viewing of this film – and frankly any Japanese film – I felt withdrawn as so many said they had seen it. I had never been involvement in this ‘field’. I was struggling to find any commonalities between American cinema and Japanese cinema. On the day, I found a few blatantly obvious things.
After coming home and madly searching through Google and re-reading Ellis, I found that there were a lot of obvious but subliminal messages that Gojira was trying to tell us. Namely, nuclear weapons and World War II.
An epiphany! At last! Common to other auto ethnographers, I hear, made me begin to witness the film in a different light. It was not just a film with a scary monster destroying the city; the monster was meant to be the embodiment of America, portraying the fear, chaos and horrific destruction that they caused after dropping the Atomic bombs in Japan, in 1945.
I felt rather stupid that I had not noticed this considering I am fascinated by 20th Century history. I mean, how did I miss the closing line from, Yamane, “if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again”.
Or even the scene in the hospital where a Geiger counter was waved over a small child who had no hope of survival portrays, “a poignant moment witnessed by so many in history…as well as infuriating the audience with the highly emotive scene” (Kalat 1997, p.20)
One of the assumptions that I brought to the experience of watching Gojira was that there would be nothing that I understood because it was a completely foreign film and culture. But then there was a love triangle and a disapproving father and suddenly, something was clear to me. Nearly every Disney film has a disapproving father and whilst there are hints of betrothal in these films, there has never been a death for someone’s love to be accepted – to my knowledge. In Gojira, they made the ultimate sacrifice for Emiko’s love and happiness.
Despite all the initial confusion, there came acceptance that Gojira is an interesting film and has the subliminal message of the dangers of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, through more research, I found that I had a deeper connection with the film and what it was trying to say. It was something so poignantly beautiful.
But this, to me, is truly what autoethnographical research is about. It is stripping it back to the simplest of commonalities and in turn generating a more emotive response from the audience. Once the context and – I suppose – the motive for making this film was evident to me, I began to feel ashamed that I took it at face value; a confusing and sad film about a monster and a city. What it is, is a sad, honest and evocative story of human mistakes.