Supposing you were in New York and a 350-foot tall, radioactive monster was destroying everything around you. What would you do? Would you be beyond terrified? Would you be frozen in fear as the tsunami of horror engulfed you? Would your first instinct be to save yourself and your family? Or would you just stand there, thinking: “Hmm, that big boy could really do with losing bit of weight.”
I haven’t seen the new Godzilla film, because it doesn’t open in the UK until tonight, but some fans have already had a look at the hero and many of them are not impressed.
For several weeks now, starting in Japan and then moving inexorably across the rest of the globe, the message boards have been lighting up with scathing comments about Godzilla’s figure. “Whichever way you look at it, he’s an American fatty,” said one disappointed aficionado; “He’s gone Supersize Me,” said another. Some declared that the “calorie monster” had eaten too many cheeseburgers and was now irredeemably “out of shape”. Thousands more hurtful, personal attacks followed and despite a few, feeble suggestions that he could be described as “pudgy and cute”, the overall consensus is that the big lizard needs to be well and truly fat-shamed.
Psychiatrists believe that fat-shaming – the public expression of distaste or discrimination against those who are deemed by the perpetrators to be overweight – is even more damaging to the victim than racism or sexism. I very much hope that Godzilla won’t let it affect his self-esteem, but I’m left wondering what sort of world we’re living in, when even a 40-storey-high reptile can’t get away with carrying a little extra poundage.
Even sadder is the fact that there is no scientific evidence to show that fat-shaming works. Certainly no more evidence than there is to show that it’s possible to create a city-crushing behemoth out of a Komodo dragon and a nuclear explosion. So, the chances of Godzilla getting some liposuction, or checking into a health spa, are probably a lot slimmer than him.
Godzilla is in good company, though. If he’s upset, at least he can take comfort from the fact that being sniped at about their weight hasn’t stopped fellow stars like Leonardo di Caprio (“The Great Fatsby”), Russell Crowe and Gerard Butler from succeeding handsomely in their profession (sorry, but I don’t have nearly enough room to list the hapless female celebrities whose every measurement has been carefully inspected and ruthlessly denounced by all kinds of media). However, it must be depressing to realise that you can be the mightiest being on Earth, you can be covered in scales, shoot out ultra-high-temperature “atomic breath”, have a 30-foot-long spiky tail and still, all that some people will find to say about you is that you’re looking a little bit lardy.
Think about it, if you dare: A giant, fictional lizard is considered too fat to be the star of a film. A giant, fictional lizard is being urged to diet, in order to be acceptable to his fan base. “Every time I watch any Godzilla trailer I always think he should just go and hit the gym for a bit. He just looks too fat,” moaned one fan, for whom, presumably, only the leanest, meanest monsters will do.
If Godzilla is considered to be packing too many pounds, what hope is there for the rest of us? In our appearance-obsessed society, is there anybody at all who can escape being judged for their physical shape?
Nobody is safe from scrutiny. Nobody can expect to avoid criticism; not me, not you, not Oscar-winning actors, not even imaginary monsters. Nothing less than perfection is expected of us and we’re in trouble if we’re found wanting. If we allow ourselves to be seen without benefit of Photoshop, we should expect the worst. Perhaps that’s why Godzilla felt the need to tear up New York – he was trying to trash the offices of Vogue.
I feel particularly sorry for Godzilla, because his dimensions were created by CGI. He could have exercised non-stop for a month, but he would still have appeared on screen like Marlon Brando’s big-boned brother. However, we’re all in such thrall to fantasy and illusion these days, we may have lost track of the bigger picture. In a film about a mythical, prehistoric, sky-scraper-tall, nuclear-generated sea reptile, the aspect that some audience members struggle with the most is that he’s looking slightly too chunky to be believable. Criticising monsters for their physical imperfections is a very modern, First World activity. I don’t recall King Kong ever being picked on for not waxing enough. As for the Stay-Puft Man, who lumbered through the streets of New York in Ghostbusters, he was entirely made of marshmallow, and his cholesterol levels must have been through the roof, but nobody sneered at his BMI. Even Godzilla’s previous incarnations (one of which weighed in at 60,000 tons) never came in for this kind of nitpicking.
I like to think of Godzilla as a “real” monster in a world of increasingly skinny monsters.
While other giant, mutant creatures are striving for size zero, Godzilla is happy in his own skin and I hope he will inspire “real” monsters everywhere to stop starving themselves and embrace their curves.
In time, perhaps this will lead to the emergence of a new, more self-confident, unashamedly large-and-proud breed of mega-monster, who will become the template for all future scary creatures. Then this kind of negativity will stop and we will learn to accept and appreciate monsters in all their myriad shapes and sizes, without judging them solely on the magnitude of their muffin-tops.
So, lay off the lizard, everybody, and respect his right to be himself. And Godzilla, if you ever feel like the haters are getting you down, remember that it takes a big boy to destroy a big city. No monster ever laid waste to New York on a diet of sushi.