Why Do So Many Queer People Love Godzilla?

In June 2020, stop-motion animator Cressa Maeve Aine delivered a short film entitled Coming Out. Utilizing action figures of Godzilla, Baragon, and Godzilla Jr., this short concerned Godzilla Jr. coming out as a trans girl to her father. Coming Out was a remarkable creative venture, in part, because the piece was devoid of dialogue save for roars and other noises emitted by the gigantic beasts.. This deeply moving short wrung superb pathos out of depicting Godzilla Jr. embracing herself and Godzilla being a nice supportive cis dad. Aine delivered a terrific piece of filmmaking full of tender heart, impressive animation, and great sight gags. (Godzilla with his little reading glasses!)

The short became popular enough to get shared by the official Toho Godzilla Twitter account! This piece of social media activity was done for Pride Month, but it also signified how sizable of a queer fanbase Godzilla has cultivated. After all, it’s hard to imagine the official social media pages for Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, or other big media properties sharing art viewing a canon character as trans without causing a bigoted uproar. Meanwhile, the majority of online Godzilla fans welcomed Coming Out with open arms. Though canonically Godzilla screams out “SKREEONK”, for many fans, he also bellows out “GAY RIGHTS!”

Why has the world of Godzilla amassed such a devoted queer following? That certainly wasn’t on the mind of original Godzilla writer/director Ishirō Honda back in 1954. This inaugural Godzilla installment had the titular lizard function as a stand-in for the horrors of nuclear warfare. In the wake of America’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the populace of Japan was more aware than ever of the devastation nuclear weapons could bring and that terrifying threats could emerge from anywhere in the blink of an eye. Godzilla initially captured these horrors. However, like many iconic fictional characters, Godzilla could not be contained to one interpretation for long. The character’s increasing fanbase and pop culture presence eventually led to this mighty lizard becoming as synonymous with an LGBTQIA+ fanbase as he was with an allegory for nuclear-based horrors.

Godzilla having special resonance with queer viewers is further rooted in the LGBTQIA+ communities larger connection to movie monsters. Creatures deemed monstrous simply for how they were born have often been seen as allegorically queer. This is especially true of gay filmmaker James Whale’s version of Frankenstein’s monster from the 1930s. This lumbering beast’s search for companionship and constant torment at the hands of “normal” society is often heartbreaking to watch. It’s also a phenomenon that many have interpreted as reflective of queer people being chased by mobs of unaccepting souls.

Big monsters functioning as allegorically queer isn’t exclusive to Whale’s incarnation of Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a concept that makes these characters, including Godzilla, feel very special and personally relatable to queer viewers. Even better, these monster movies grapple with feelings of isolation and societal demonization more entertainingly than many explicitly queer narratives crafted by cishet filmmakers. Sure, you could watch a gay kid be sad and then get murdered to motivate a cishet protagonist. Or you could watch Godzilla channel queerness before duking it out with a smog monster or a three-headed dragon from space.

It isn’t just Godzilla’s societal isolation that makes him resonate with the queer community. The increasingly absurd mythos of this saga has made it catnip for camp-fixated gays. Just look at those twin fairies that follow Mothra around in Godzilla outings like Destroy All Monsters! Don’t forget that Godzilla has also dropkicked foes and even celebrated victory in battle with a happy dance. These outlandish moments and characters have become GIFs that some use as fodder for mockery. For queer viewers, though, this is just the kind of unabashedly silly material that’s irresistible.

Existing as queer in certain spaces can often be an exhausting process. Speaking from experience, just riding on the train as a queer trans lady can be a source of anxiety. Am I presenting too queer? Is my outfit going to draw the wrong kind of compliments? I’m not at fault for getting harassed. Nobody’s outfit or appearance is justification for that behavior. However, I can’t stop my mind from racing with fear in public over potential catastrophes.

Watching deeply absurd and confident movies like the wackiest Godzilla installments is a safe zone for engaging in maximalist absurdity. All these monsters, including Godzilla, revel in being ridiculous, it’s great to live vicariously through their confidence. Wearing vivid makeup or strolling around a grocery store in a colorful dress might inspire bigoted comments from spectators. No such potential external horrors intrude on Godzilla’s most ludicrous experiences. Immersing oneself in the ridiculousness of Godzilla lore allows queer viewers to fully escape into the kind of stylized silliness that society often demonizes.

Nobody in the Godzilla movies points and laughs at this lizard for doing a victory dance — not true for real-world commentators. Something else drawing queer interest in Godzilla movies is the mockery surrounding these kaiju titles. Godzilla has always been a famous monster, but for many decades, classic Japanese movies starring the character were routinely ridiculed. Mainstream features would only reference vintage Godzilla movies to make fun of the “rubber suits” or bad dubbing in American translations of these features.

This negative perception of Godzilla can even be found from director Roland Emmerich, the man behind the first American Godzilla remake. “I was never a big Godzilla fan,” Emmerich said to Los Angeles Daily News in May 1998, “They were just the weekend matinees you saw as a kid, like Hercules films and the really bad Italian westerns. You’d go with all your friends and just laugh.” He would also note that his disinterest in Godzilla’s wackier elements (including his atomic breath) informed the design of the beast. Emmerich’s self-consciousness about Godzilla being “silly” was no aberration. He spoke for generations of American moviegoers who saw these movies as disposable.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” as the saying goes. In this case, monster movies deemed preposterous by mainstream moviegoers became something special to queer moviegoers. The Godzilla franchise was a media saga that wasn’t even a mainstream nerdy property like Star Wars or Star Trek. It felt a little more underground, like it belonged only to the queer viewers who’d watched Godzilla vs. Biollante endlessly. Godzilla was often seen as “too ridiculous” for people. Queer people can relate to that perception! Unsurprisingly, societal misfits latched onto a string of movies considered (for most of their history) weird kitsch.

It didn’t hurt that there was an abstract quality to Godzilla and his fellow beasties. This facet of the creatures allowed queer viewers to interpret whatever they wanted onto them. Being gigantic monsters, there’s never any concrete dialogue emerging from their mouths. Godzilla and his comrades are depicted as being “too big” for humans to comprehend (save for rare titles like All Monsters Attack that feature humans bonding with critters like Minilla). What queer person can’t relate to that sense of not being understood by others? Godzilla’s mindset is never fully processed by the human beings who despise him. Similarly, LGBTQIA+ folks often find themselves frustrated in trying to get cishet people to understand their experiences.

This level of ambiguity heightens how terrifying Godzilla is. It can also be an invitation for queer viewers to project whatever they want onto these creatures. Why can’t Godzilla and Ghidorah’s various matches be allegories for different types of queer men duking it out? Who’s to say Mothra isn’t championing lesbian rights whenever she soars into the sky? Why can’t Baragon be an angsty bottom lashing out to cope with sexual frustration? These monsters never drop casually homophobic one-liners that overtly remind viewers they’re watching cishet creations made for cishet audiences. The abstract qualities of the Godzilla monsters invite viewer interpretations. This element has allowed viewers to place endless queer explanations behind the personalities and actions of these iconic creatures.

When you don’t have a lot of explicit artistic representations of yourself, you get creative with what art resonates personally. Many queer viewers struggle to find their experiences reflected in mainstream media. LGBTQIA+ bodies are often utilized as either corpses or vessels to teach straight people a lesson. Even queer aesthetics are often eschewed in mainstream movies in favor of muted color palettes and gritty realism. Just look at many installments of the MonsterVerse (home to the new Godzilla title Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire), which tone down the “weirdness” of these kaiju characters to make them more “palatable” to mainstream moviegoers.

With so much cultural and societal suppression of art that could be viewed as “queer”, it’s no wonder, then, that these watchers would find solace in classic Godzilla movies. Gamera may be “friend to all children.” However, artistic triumphs like Coming Out show that Godzilla is friend to all queers!

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is now in theatres.

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Lisa Laman

Lisa Laman is a life-long movie fan, writer, and Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic located both on the autism spectrum and in Texas. Given that her first word was "Disney", Lisa Laman was "doomed" from the start to be a film geek! In addition to writing feature columns and reviews for Collider, her byline has been seen in outlets like Polygon, The Mary Sue, Fangoria, The Spool, and ScarleTeen. She has also presented original essays related to the world of cinema at multiple academic conferences, been a featured guest on a BBC podcast, and interviewed artists ranging from Anna Kerrigan to Mark Wahlberg. When she isn’t writing, Lisa loves karaoke, chips & queso, and rambling about Carly Rae Jepsen with friends.

Lisa has written 8 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this queer history of Godzilla! As a film prof who has taught Honda’s original, I want to add that the cultural resonances of queerness can be found in the tragic original before the character’s Americanization. Besides remediation of the atomic disaster, the first Godzilla was an empathetic character who symbolized the victims of the attack and its survivors – not only the cause. They are a wonderfully fluid figure in the film. Godzilla was regarded as a natural creature that predates humans and was once an important ritual figure, and their anger and destruction is explicitly tied to American aggression. Godzilla’s death resembled the “kill your gays” trope. Beyond that, the film concludes with the suggestion that they will return – survive the annihilation again and again – and they do – in the waves of movies you mention, Godzilla is never gone for good. Beyond a facile return of the repressed, Godzilla is the hero of all those suffering PTSD, imperialist aggression, othering, frustration at those messing with your sleep schedule. The campy and gender-swapping appearances are echoes of that first monster who rose up to destroy a society that didn’t understand them and wanted to kill them and that was undergoing tremendous social change in the construction of the family. Americans thought Godzilla was ridiculous, but in that first movie Godzilla was a total queer hero who would refuse to die by American ridicule and indeed would thrive off of it. Godzilla’s destructive orality is also such a great riff on Fey Wray’s scream in King Kong and a counterpart to Emiko’s cry in the same film – reminding us all how sensual and affective the mouth is when one is at the limit of expression.

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