Views of Steve Ryfle and Susan Sontag on the Influencearticle Sci-Fi Movies Have on Society in Their Respective Articles: Godzilla’s Footprint and Susan Sontag’s Imagination of Disaster

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Between Steve Ryfle’s article “Godzilla’s Footprint” and Susan Sontag’s 1965 article “Imagination of Disaster”, clear differences can be understood. Both heavily focus on science fiction films, but Ryfle discusses the Japanese’ viewpoint while Sontag addresses the American point of view.

Using Susan Napier’s article, “Panic Sites”, to back him up, Ryfle heavily emphasizes the impact of Godzilla in pop culture and film. Sontag, however, argues that science fiction films are nothing special, using the same article by Napier, disagreeing with Ryfle, generally passing off these films as just pure entertainment. Napier however only partially agrees with Sontag on certain themes that are relevant to Sontag’s argument and also enhances the evidence of what real intensive factors portray to be when the discussion of the 1983 anime adaptation movie Barefoot Gen occurs which is about the effect of the atomic bomb on a boy’s life and the lives of Japan. While Sontag’s argument fits most American science fiction films in general, Ryfle’s article proves to be contrarian.

In his article, “Godzilla’s Footprint,” he talks about the 1954 Japanese movie, Godzilla, directed by Ishiro Honda. To Honda, this kaiju classic was significant because it was a metaphor for the atomic bombings that devastated Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It was made to make audiences comprehend and empathize what the Japanese people went through at a time when no one realized how catastrophic the bombings were.

Susan Napier points out that the ideological shift in both representations of disaster and the attitudes inscribed toward said disaster derive from either the negative portrayal of disaster or the virtual celebration of disaster (Napier 330). Napier supports Ryfle by stating in her article, “Panic Sites,” that “Godzilla has moral certainties” (Napier 331). As for Honda, he was inspired to make Godzilla after flying over the Pacific Ocean, where he remembered the American bombing on Japan. He even saw Hiroshima disintegrate into dust; very little was left of the once bustling city. To audiences in Japan, Godzilla was not an entertaining kaiju movie that was only about glorified destruction, instead it was received as a film with intense visuals that reminded them about the tragic incidents that happened to have a kaiju in it.

Sontag talks about the American’s penchant of disaster and their outlook on science fiction movies, where the American audience actually adored the destruction porn. Napier supports Sontag by stating that “western science is on the whole less nihilistic than Japanese counterpart” (Napier 330). Many American genre films are often grouped as a part of the postmodern genre movement with a standalone narrative structure that is usually written with a fast pace, with intense violent scenes. Instead of focusing on a balance with mise-en-scene and character development, American films tend to concentrate on creating eye-catching imagery, thereby almost lacking a message (Napier 340). Thus, the conclusion can be made that the perspectives in which a seemingly harmless movie is viewed is crucial to the way that same film can be interpreted.

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In Steve Ryfle’s article “Godzilla’s Footprint,” the original 1954 Godzilla film was exhibited as a serious, epic, post WWII tragedy with a weighty warning about the misuse and thoughtlessness of nuclear weapons. He also stated that Godzilla has similar atomic scenes, illustrated by one scene from the movie where a mother holds her two children, trying to comfort them that they will be with their father soon as the kaiju nears them. Although Japanese critics at the time thought it was too soon to have a discussion about the incident, Toho and Honda still made a moving metaphor about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki because they never fully healed from the trauma. Many Japanese viewers actually tearfully left theatres due to the vivid scenes resembling so closely to the events that happened nine years before. One such occurrence involved the Lucky Dragon incident, where a fishing ship ventured way too close to an H-bomb test site, where the crew suffered radiation poisoning.

When Godzilla was received successfully, detractors accused the filmmakers of exploiting a national tragedy. Napier somewhat agrees with Ryfle in her “Panic Sites” article by stating that “the notion of disaster is of course not the only theme in Japanese science fiction” (Napier 330). She also said that, “The film offered its immediate post war Japanese audience an experience that was both cathartic and compensatory, allowing them to rewrite or at least to re-imagine their wartime experience” (Napier 330). They do agree on that certain science fiction movies can have both stunning visuals as well as have a message.

In “The Imagination of Disaster,” Sontag’s main argument breaks down the formula of science fiction movies, conveys a thematic shift in popular culture via film in post WWII America. She classifies the classic old Hollywood sci-fi films into four stages, demonstrating the model scenarios as formulaic. In these kinds of films, the hero is in love, or in a love triangle, and one of the protagonists gives up his/her life to defeat the villain, and everyone lives happily ever after. In “Panic Sites,” Napier gave an example of Ryfle’s “Godzilla’s Footprint,” where “the humane Japanese scientist whose suicide helps destroy Godzilla, that ultimately saves the day” (Napier 331).

This may portray that science fiction movies are intensive; however the strong representation of mass destruction in graphic ways don’t really use a similarly intensive cast in the same way. This is established when Sontag demonstrates that the American imagination of disaster is a metaphor of being caught off-guard. In this way, the conclusion then can be made that science fiction movies should not be treated as gravely as they make themselves to be. Additionally, the central differences between written fiction and film are that the books are supported by science, while science fiction films aren’t all about science, but generally are all about disaster. Films represent destruction using CGI and intense sound design which make the widescreen devastation such a visceral cinematic experience. This supports the idea that films are used solely to entertain the audience and provide “sensuous elaboration” (Sontag 41).

To add on that, Sontag states that from a psychological point of view, according to science fiction films made in the U.S. have no moral compass. In the fantastical realm of cinema, science fiction, as a film genre, offers a service to deal with this: a distraction from the real world. This “normalize[s] what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it” (Sontag 52). In support of Sontag’s argument, Barefoot Gen, released in 1983, illustrates, in almost extreme detail, the powerful capabilities of science fiction. It is about a young boy, Gen, who survives the Hiroshima bombing. The first installment is visceral and quite gruesomely graphic during the climax, where the viewer watches several people dying from being caught in the blast and then later from radiation poisoning; a near annihilation of Gen’s entire world. In Nakazawa Keiji’s eyes, the author of the original manga, it could be construed that the real monsters are the US army, as opposed to the willful blindness of Japanese imperialistic nationalism.

A conclusion can be made that science fiction and monster movies are not mutually exclusive, boiling down to their CGI effects, which will affect the audience whether they’re looking through a Japanese or American lens either way. Although Sontag’s argument may be correct for sci-fi films made in America, there is no denying that Ryfle is contrarian to Sontag’s case.

When it comes to the “imagination of disaster”, whether from the American or Japanese standpoint, there is a difference between style and substance. Which references to Ryfle’s main argument where he provides evidence that Napier provided as well as Godzilla has; he proves that there can be both in the movie. Sontag would probably agree by suggesting that all science fiction films are all about spectacle bolstered by Napier’s article and an animated Japanese movie where a child struggles to get by with what’s left of his family and city. Science fiction films can be meaningful but some would beg to disagree as each side could just be looking from a different point of view and can only see devastation.

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Views of Steve Ryfle and Susan Sontag on the Influencearticle Sci-Fi Movies Have on Society in Their Respective Articles: Godzilla’s Footprint and Susan Sontag’s Imagination of Disaster. (2021, January 12). WritingBros. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/views-of-steve-ryfle-and-susan-sontag-on-the-influencearticle-sci-fi-movies-have-on-society-in-their-respective-articles-godzillas-footprint-and-susan-sontags-imagination-of-disaste/
“Views of Steve Ryfle and Susan Sontag on the Influencearticle Sci-Fi Movies Have on Society in Their Respective Articles: Godzilla’s Footprint and Susan Sontag’s Imagination of Disaster.” WritingBros, 12 Jan. 2021, writingbros.com/essay-examples/views-of-steve-ryfle-and-susan-sontag-on-the-influencearticle-sci-fi-movies-have-on-society-in-their-respective-articles-godzillas-footprint-and-susan-sontags-imagination-of-disaste/
Views of Steve Ryfle and Susan Sontag on the Influencearticle Sci-Fi Movies Have on Society in Their Respective Articles: Godzilla’s Footprint and Susan Sontag’s Imagination of Disaster. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/views-of-steve-ryfle-and-susan-sontag-on-the-influencearticle-sci-fi-movies-have-on-society-in-their-respective-articles-godzillas-footprint-and-susan-sontags-imagination-of-disaste/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Views of Steve Ryfle and Susan Sontag on the Influencearticle Sci-Fi Movies Have on Society in Their Respective Articles: Godzilla’s Footprint and Susan Sontag’s Imagination of Disaster [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Jan 12 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/views-of-steve-ryfle-and-susan-sontag-on-the-influencearticle-sci-fi-movies-have-on-society-in-their-respective-articles-godzillas-footprint-and-susan-sontags-imagination-of-disaste/
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