Big Boys and Mighty Metaphors: The Symbolic Power of the Kaiju

Big boys. Big ideas.
Godzilla Vs Biollante

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the big monster movies known as “Kaiju” films.

Sometimes it’s enough to watch big lads go absolutely ham on a big city. However, when the mood is right, it can be fun (enlightening, even) to remember that enormous monsters are compelling and age-old vessels of meaning.

The question of what Big Monsters mean and why we tell stories about them is a twisted and compelling one. While it’s easy to shrug off massive monsters as nothing more than pulpy horror movie shlock, there’s often far more going on than meets the eye.

The video essay below is certainly one of the longer videos we’ve promoted in this column. But if any of this strikes a chord with you, I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a proper watch. The video offers a historical deep-dive that is shockingly thorough given the metaphorical size of the subject matter: from folk tales of humanoid giants that provided explanations for natural features to symbolically rich hyper objects that allowed audiences to contend with overwhelming realities like regime changes and war.

So don’t mock Mothra or jeer at Godzilla. After all, horror is the genre best suited for wrangling unwieldily metaphor into flesh … however big the size.

Watch “Kaiju | Monster Men”

Who made this?

The above video essay on the history, themes, and overall gist of kaiju movies is by Sophie from Mars, a.k.a. Sophia McAllister, a creator based in the United Kingdom. Their content covers everything from video games to movies to politics (and how the latter are immeshed in the former). You can follow them on Twitter here. And you can subscribe to them on YouTube here.

More videos like this

  • For more of Sophie From Mars’ work, here’s their video on representations of abortion in popular media.
  • And here’s another entry from their “Monster Men” series on everyone’s favorite bloodsuckers (vampires).
  • For more kaiju kontent (sorry), here’s Accented Cinema with a deep dive into the Mothra trilogy and how it learned from its mistakes over time.
  • Speaking of Accented Cinema, here’s their look at Pulgasari, North Korea’s answer to Godzilla.
  • And here’s an oldie but a goodie from kaptainkristian on the transformation of Japan’s most iconic character and arguably the most famous kaiju, Godzilla.
Meg Shields: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.