October 18, 2004

Finally, an academic conference for the rest of us

The 50th anniversary of Godzilla:

The interdisciplinary, international conference In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage marks the fiftieth birthday of the King of the Monsters, commemorating the release of the original film Gojira in Tokyo on November 3, 1954. The conference speakers will consider the Godzilla films and how they were shaped by (and in turn shaped) postwar Japanese culture, as well as the globalization of Japanese popular culture in the wake of the Godzilla phenomenon. Fifteen scholars from a wide range of disciplines - Anthropology, Culture Studies, Film Studies, History, Literature, and Theater - were selected to participate in the symposium through an international call for papers in the fall of 2002. Invited plenary presentations will be made by Ted Bestor (Harvard University), Yoshikuni Igarashi (Vanderbilt University), and Susan Napier (University of Texas, Austin). A variety of related public programming - film screenings, exhibitions in libraries and museums, presentations, and other events - will supplement the formal symposium sessions and engage the community in the event.

International audiences have had extensive exposure to Japanese popular culture exports since the 1950s, from the first black-and-white Godzilla films, through the Speed Racer cartoons, manga (comic books) and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, and up to the more recent worldwide fascination with anime, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! But despite this long history, serious attention to Japanese popular culture and its global reach has been belated, with significant scholarly investigations only beginning within the past decade. Although the Godzilla films were the first Japanese popular culture product to gain mass appeal in the United States after World War II, and although the Godzilla film series is now the longest running franchise in world cinema history, scholars of Japanese studies and film have generally dismissed Godzilla as trivial, "cheesy" fare for children and a hardcore fan subculture. Yet as Godzilla has become a global pop culture icon - inspiring rap lyrics, novels and plays, countless jokes on The Simpsons, and cinematic remakes from North Korea to Hollywood - the broader cultural and social significance of this Japanese movie monster cannot be denied. Join us in exploring Japan's most famous movie star and his fifty-year impact on global pop culture.

Posted by Steve at October 18, 2004 10:17 PM | TrackBack
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