Infectious. This word has both a positive and a negative connotation. It can be used as follows: There was no cure for the infectious disease that caused blisters to break out on victims’ faces, oozing effluvial purple puss until the features were unrecognizable. Infectious can complement someone’s character: He possessed an infectious confidence that seemed to cry out that it was his destiny to become leader of the free world, or, The woman’s infectious laughter attracted the admiration of all the party guests, capturing them in a mirthful haze, as if possessing the power to hypnotize. Infectious can praise as well as repulse. I suppose that’s why infectious is a good word to describe my laughter. Some people love my laugh. Some laugh with me. Others recoil.
Recently, at a movie theater, my friend and I were instructed by the usher to please keep our laughter down. A man seated behind my friend and me had marched down the steps to complain midway through the movie. I watched him in the dark theater, his silhouette appearing in the bottom right corner of the screen, flailing his arms in frustration, not knowing that our unrestrained laughter was the source of his irritation. After the usher relayed the man’s complaint, I tried my best not to laugh. I wanted to be a considerate moviegoer. I suppressed my guffaws and giggles, like a dam holding back water. This was especially hard because the film was “Godzilla: Resurgence.” I knew that eventually the dam would collapse and that, just like Godzilla, my laugh would return, stronger than ever.
I had never seen a Godzilla movie before, nor any monster movie, for that matter. Before the movie started, my friend Naomi, a history buff, schooled me about the history of Godzilla. According to her, Godzilla was a metaphor for the atomic bomb. Apparently, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese people could relate to a monster destroying their civilization. This perspective fascinated me. I love deeper meanings and the thought of Godzilla embodying American military aggression assured me that I was going to gain some valuable insight into the Japanese psyche.
What I received was aching cheek muscles from laughing so hard and confusion as to how Japanese people can remain so calm amid a monster attack. It dawned on me early on that the title was misleading. If Godzilla had indeed resurged, then people would have known the drill. But no, they were perplexed, apparently never having seen the zillion Godzilla movies that came before.
After an eruption of blood and water in an otherwise peaceful bay, Godzilla was born. First, he wreaked havoc like a mischievous child yanking on a tablecloth at a wedding. The Japanese would have been smart to eradicate him during his toddler phase. But they didn’t, and not because he was just too darn cute. They were concerned about civilian casualties. A man with an old woman on his back scurried past and the army couldn’t bring themselves to fire at Godzilla because then those two people would be caught in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, Godzilla went on to kill thousands, knocking over buildings like a shopping cart bulldozing into a canned food display.
Godzilla slithered and lurched toward Tokyo. Its gills spurted blood with each metamorphosis, each stage more menacing and difficult to defeat than the last. Sometimes, he appeared to be not moving at all, like a toy in a miniature model village, which I’m sure it was. Japanese people responded to Godzilla’s presence, not by screaming and reciting doomsday prophecies, as Americans would have, but with stoicism that must be rooted in the teachings of Buddhism. Either that, or large doses of Valium.
Naomi and I tried to control our laughter, but it was no use. When the credits rolled, we both let out exhausted sighs from laughing so hard. Some people smiled at us as they left the theater and I apologized to them anyway. One man shot us an icy stare, and something told me he wished he could shoot atomic heat beams at us, like Godzilla. At thirty-five years old, I should probably be more mature and considerate of others, but I think people need to lighten up. Laughter prolongs life. We should try to laugh more and I know I am a snob, but if people view Godzilla: Resurgence as a serious film that deserves awed silence, then they need to elevate their taste. Even Akira Kurosawa, a brilliant Japanese filmmaker, incorporated humor into his films. After seeing Godzilla: Resurgence, I was reminded of how important it is to laugh, even if some may consider my laugh infectious in the sickly sense of the word.