Kentucky Kaiju, Trump, Govenor Bevin, and Other Monsters

I recently interviewed Justin Stewart, Tressa Bowling, and Shawn Pryor, the folks behind the recent Kentucky Kaiju art book, for Lex Rocks

Despite my inherent nerdieness, I don’t find myself thinking about Kaiju a lot. But, leading up to the interview, I found myself mulling the topic over quite a bit.

Kaiju, if you don’t know, are Godzilla style monsters. Giant lizards, moths, robots, etc.

Kaiju are mythical. I don’t mean that in the sense that they don’t exist (but I don’t think they do), but rather in the Joseph Campbell sense of the word. They represent ideas larger than themselves.

Kaiju, in Japan, represent the dangers of the nuclear age.

That may be why they never caught on in America to the extent they did in Japan. In America, nuclear technology was seen as a boon. Fictionally, it gave us The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Hulk. Heroes who owed their powers to different forms of radiation.

In Japan, though, thanks to the attack on Hiroshima, nuclear power had a much darker meaning. So, instead of heroes, Japan created monsters, bent on destruction.

All of this got me thinking, or asking, what would Kentucky Kaiju be representative of. If we don’t share Japan’s history with nuclear technology, what factors would inform the creation of giant monsters in the bluegrass?

I guess the question is, “What existential fears is Kentucky facing?” Some would say the government policies of President Trump or Governor Bevin. Some might say the growing opioid problem. Or the loss of coal jobs contrasted with the devastation of coal extraction.

Creating monster to represent those fears would be no small task. But it may be worth the effort. Put a face, no matter how monstrous, on harder to grasp problems is a practice much older than Japanese monster movies.

Stories and myths have been with us as long as we had tongues or cave walls to tell them with. Those stories have serve to help us wrap our brains around problems or concepts that are hard for us to understand otherwise.

That’s why artist are so important. Frivolous as art may seem when the world feels like it’s going to hell, the artists are the ones that make problems bite size, understandable.

So hats off to Justin, Tressa, and Shawn for making new monsters. And hats off to the artists who create work that help us better understand the real monsters in our world. It’s important work.

Watch the interview here: Lex Rocks Episode 2.5 — Kentucky Kaiju