16 October 2008 ~ 0 Comments

King Kong VS Godzilla

Typically, when I put together a lesson for JRHS students, I begin it with a listening exercise, followed by a matching exercise and then finish it up with an opportunity for them to practice the English I’ve just taught them. Of course, the emphasis is primarily on Grammar, but there’s a bit of propaganda incorporated into their lesson, too.

The textbook used by the school is filled with little biased cultural references. Very subtle stuff. I almost feel paranoid even detecting it. Though it tries to paint a colorful, multicultural world outside of Japan, it still reinforces the idea of “They are different and we Japanese are better / special!” I guess that’s ok. What the fuck, it’s not my job to tell them what’s wrong with their cultural misrepresentations. Or is it?

Like today, I was co-teaching a lesson on comparatives and superlatives with Yuki-Sensei. She’s this sweet girl, not far removed from the University where I presumed she studied as hard as she could to become a top notch English teacher. Her grammatical knowledge is solid, probably better than mine but from a lack of exposure to native speakers her spoken English leaves much to be desired. She’s about as kind and gentle as people get in Japan which is saying a great deal. She has a tote bag with Peanuts characters on it. She loves herself some Snoopy.

So, to illustrate the grammatical functions of er vs est and more vs most she writes on the board “Godzilla is stronger than King Kong,” followed by “Godzilla is the strongest of all.” It’s the example used in the textbook. At first I just want to dispute her on her Hollywood trivia misinterpretation. If I remember correctly, and correct me if I’m wrong, Godzilla had his ass handed to him by King Kong. But, I remained silent. The power dynamic in the classroom demanded that I do so. She is the teacher, after all, and I am just the native speaker there to support her. So I took a deep breath and sucked another load down for the team. Then she has me read the sentences aloud so that the kids could hear how a native speaker enunciates the words “King” and “Kong” versus the Japlish version which sounds more like “Keengu koonggu”. The kids are aghast at the difference. Then, Godzilla, which is a Japanese word in the first place (no matter America’s adoption of her as a hero and symbol of nuclear fears) and thus is pronounced incorrectly in the West, I draw laughter. The Japanese pronunciation, and in this case the correct pronunciation despite America’s confiscation is more like gojeera (there’s no zil or la sound in Japanese) so I’m the butt of a few jokes, fanning the flames of my simmering anger.

Then, she comes with the more/most example, which happens to be more of the goddamn same: “Godzilla is more powerful than King Kong” and “Godzilla is the most powerful of all.”

And, I realized, suddenly, why I resented this comparison and superlative: When I was a child, I related with King Kong on many levels, several of which I wasn’t even conscious of until that very moment. On the surface, my offense came from the fact that King Kong was a hero of sorts. I mean, he was a victim that fought back and was killed for it. Kidnapped from his native land in the jungles of some crazy island where the natives reminded me of every Tarzan episode I’d watched when I was a kid. An island where he was worshiped and nurtured and feared and respected…where he was in many ways a King, a master of his fate, living in harmony with the inhabitants of this island. Then, some white men came and discovered him, And since he’d only been exposed to that African pussy the natives had been sacrificing to him periodically, when he got his first whiff of some Caucasian pussy, he went crazy and had to have it. So, they used a white woman to ensnare and entrap him, chained him up in the hull of their ship and brought him back to the new word to exploit and make themselves rich.

The story sounds familiar because it is. I didn’t make the connection when I was a kid. I can’t imagine why, it’s so blatant, unless it’s a recurring theme, a theme so redundant, especially in Europeanized societies, and that to associate it with one particular crime against humanity is to minimize and limit its scope.

But, I don’t think so. The King Kong story is a metaphor for the European slave trade, no question. Replace millions of Africans with a giant ape, throw in a damsel in distress, a little interspecies erotica, some stop-action special effects, and you have a Hollywood blockbuster.

“King Kong won,” I blurted out, uncontrollably, shocking the students and the Japanese teacher. The students didn’t understand me, but Yuki-sensei did.

“He did?” she asked, letting my strong emotional response roll off of her but probably recording it in her memory for future use.

“Didn’t he?”  I asked, because she looked perplexed.

“I don’t think so,” she said.

“Anyway…it’s not important,” I said when I realized that the students were eying this interchange with a great deal of interest. And she let it drop.

Later I checked on the Internet, intent on showing her documentation to support my position and justify my outburst, as if that were at all possible.

Guess what I found out? (The following was clipped from Wikipedia)

Dual ending myth

For many years a popular myth has persisted that in the Japanese version of this film, Godzilla emerges as the winner. It isn’t known where this myth of the dual endings actually originated, but it’s been reported as far back as Famous Monsters of Filmland in the early 1960s. Decades later in the 1980s, the myth was still going strong. The Genus III edition of the popular board game Trivial Pursuit had a question that asked Who wins in the Japanese version of King Kong vs Godzilla, and states that the correct answer is Godzilla. As well, through the years, this myth has been misreported by various members of the media[15], and has been misreported by reputable news organizations.[6]

But as more Westerners were able to view the original version of the film especially after its availability on home video during the late 1980s, the myth became dispelled. Both versions of the film end the same way. Kong and Godzilla crash into the ocean, and Kong is the only monster to emerge and swims home. The only differences between the two endings of the film are extremely minor and trivial ones.

  • In the Japanese version as Kong and Godzilla are fighting underwater, a very small Earthquake occurs. In the American version, producer John Beck tacked on stock footage of a violent Earthquake from the film The Mysterians to make the climatic Earthquake seem far more violent and over the top destructive.
  • The dialogue is slightly different. In the Japanese version onlookers are speculating that Godzilla might be dead as they watch Kong swim home, and speculate that it’s possible he survived. In the American version, onlookers simply say “Godzilla has disappeared without a trace”, and newly shot scenes of reporter Eric Carter has him watching Kong swim home on a viewscreen and wishing him luck on his long journey home.
  • As the screen fades to black and Owari (The End) appears on screen, you hear the roars of Godzilla followed by Kong’s. This was akin to the monsters “taking a bow” or saying “Goodbye” to the audience, as at this point the film is over. In the American version you only hear Kong’s roar on the soundtrack.

Ain’t that something? Don’t you just love the Internet? Well, after reading that I decided not to present my evidence and instead went to Yuki Sensei and apologized for my irrational outburst. She accepted but I’m sure she’s going to walk very lightly around me for a while. I think I scared her.

But, hell, King Kong was my hero. I wasn’t about to stand there and listen to him be disparaged.

Loco

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