Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Girl Power of Mothra



My beautiful friend Raven will soon give birth to a baby girl named Indigo. In celebration of this genesis, I wanted to give Indy an icon, to tell her that there is no limit to what she can be. Naturally, my first thought was Wonder Woman. However, the Amazon princess is controversial as a feminist symbol. I found another character: Mothra! When I re-watched Mothra vs. Godzilla (AKA Godzilla vs. The Thing, directed by Ishiro Honda, 1964) with my friend Lesley, she gave a perspective on the mighty insect which I had not realized in my youth. Mothra symbolizes girl power, in a variety of forms—from the sonorous and elegant magic of her miniature twin princess allies, to the overt strength, courage, and perseverance of the great moth herself. Mothra also has characteristics of a mother goddess diety, with her transformations—from egg to caterpillar to moth (who sometimes produces a new egg and continues the cycle.) While most of the Kaiju are lone wolves, Mothra keeps up a social network by way of her telepathic connection to the Shobijin (the miniature twin princesses from Infant Island.)  In Mothra vs. Godzilla, the Shobijin summon Mothra to rescue humanity from a rampaging Godzilla. To protect both the world and her own mysterious egg, Mothra has Godzilla on the ropes for most of the fight, generating hurricane winds from her wingbeats and raining poison powder from her wings and body. The tables turn when the Godzilla catches Mothra with his nuclear breath. Though the mother insect goes down in flames, her egg hatches just in time, and the twin caterpillars are born warriors, who evade Godzilla's deadliest weapons and encase the nuclear dinosaur in a silken prison. In subsequent film appearances, Mothra remains a brave and formidable combatant who goes mandible-to-fang with the toughest monsters in the Toho universe, such as King Ghidorah and Godzilla... and sometimes emerges triumphant! Described as "a monster of principle and peace" in the Official Godzilla Compendium[1], Mothra is the most consistently heroic of the Kaiju. In the varied films, she defends Infant Island, Japan, and the Earth. (In contrast, Godzilla's role fluctuates between villain and hero, hence he and Mothra are sometimes allies instead of opponents.) Mothra may be the second most popular Kaiju after Godzilla, with the second highest number of film appearances, and a long history of drawing crowds to films in which she appears. Lesley is not alone in her admiration of the great moth. A poll in the 1990s found Mothra to be the most popular Kaiju among women[2]. This prompted Toho to make another movie featuring confrontation between Mothra and the Big G, Godzilla vs. Mothra (AKA Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth, directed by Takao Okawara, 1992.) Okawara described Mothra as "a very feminine monster"[2] and portrayed her as a defender of Earth's environment from an extractive corporation. Mothra has longheld connections to Mother Earth and the ancient past, celebrated in the song that the Shobijin (who are renamed the Cosmos in the 1992 film), sing to summon their goddess defender. Luckily for me, Mothra is not human at all. Thus I can draw her without having to worry about body type!

Footnotes
1. Lees, J. D. and Marc Cesani (1998). The Official Godzilla Compendium. pp. 137. ISBN 0-679-88822-5 
2. Kalat, David (2010). A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. pp. 184–90. ISBN 978-0-7864-47-49-7

Mothra is trademarked to Toho Studios.

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