Godzilla, King of Anxiety

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the 35th film in a series starting back in 1954, easily the longest in world cinema history. This fact has attracted scholarly attention, and what scholars have found is that Godzilla has doubled in size since 1954. And size matters, a lot. This rate of increase far exceeds that of ceratosaurids during the Jurassic, which was exceptional. Making a rough calculation they estimate a selective pressure 30 times greater than that of typical natural systems.

Godzilla Timeline, Noger Chen

What agent of natural selection could act so swiftly and at such high intensity? Human anxiety!

Godzilla is evolving in response to a spike in humanity’s collective anxiety. Whether reacting to geopolitical instability, a perceived threat from terrorists, or simply fear of “the other,” many democracies are electing nationalist leaders, strengthening borders, and bolstering their military presence around the world.

Making matters worse, a 2003 Pentagon report that forecasted the effects of climate change on water and food security predicted raised tensions and international conflict because of forced migrations. The idea that climate change is now the “mother of all security problems” has scarcely dissipated since. Today, the U.S. Department of Defense views climate change as both an “accelerant of instability” and a “threat multiplier”. If U.S. military spending is used as a proxy for humanity’s collective anxieties, it is perhaps unsurprising to see that there is a positive and robust correlation between the growth of Godzilla and that of the American military [coefficient of determination (r2) = 0.74].

Dominy, Nathaniel J., et al. ‘Godzilla’s Extraordinary Growth over Time Mirrors an Increase in Anthropocene Angst’. Books, Et Al., 28 May 2019, https://blogs.sciencemag.org/books/2019/05/28/godzilla-king-of-the-monsters/.

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Image: Noger Chen, Godzilla 62th Anniversary

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