“Giant ants or Godzilla are a visual symbol of radiation,” he says. “The actual monsters produced by atomic radiation are a spectacular way of visualizing radioactivity since you can’t actually see it. Having Godzilla come from the ocean or giant ants running around Los Angeles from the desert is a way to represent the effects of an invisible force.” [Editor's note: Mr. Latham's quote was slightly revised to better reflect his intended statement.]
Radioactivity was not always seen as a negative power. In the early days of radium research, it was considered beneficial. Early uses included such popular items as “radium suppositories,” points out Mr. Latham.
“After the war,” notes Latham, “the fears about nuclear fallout became palpable.”
Pop culture treatment of nuclear fallout fears have gone through several stages since World War II, says Kathy Newman, associate professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In the 1950s and early ‘60s, she points out, the depictions were largely fantastical, horror- and B-movie subjects, with whole cities being destroyed and populations dying terrible deaths.