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Egg (Imaginal Discs)

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There’s a scene in Godzilla Vs Mothra (1992) where Mothra,

dying,

demolishes the Diet and spins a cocoon,

smothering the corruption of neoliberal politics in her gossamer chrysalis.

The caterpillar’s last cry –

mournful arcs of silk at sunset

her promise (perhaps her threat) of a coming reincarnation.

 

During metamorphosis, Lepidoptera

completely dissolve.

While dormant, the larval creature digests itself and becomes

what entomologists call “tissue cell soup”,

a primordial snot

which eventually coalesces into the structure of the new

creature.

 

So she’s in there, churning,

insect slush body,

first grub, then goo, then goddess.

Gestation:

the body is what

the body would be if it was not

the body.

 

There’s Christian iconography in most of the Mothra movies

that complements and amplifies their unambiguous environmentalism

and anticapitalism.

In Mothra (1961), for instance, the villain Clark Nelson

is a greasy capitalist plundering the natural world,

(Carl Denham rewritten as malicious twit,

the whimsically charming adventurer revealed as

viciously arrogant slaver, expropriator, colonizer)

and his defeat is enacted underneath a church, the sun’s rays framing the cross

with a magnificent halo.

 

So there’s this gorgeous connection, in Mothra movies, between justice, holiness,

and transformation.

Maybe that’s why I love Ando in Godzilla Vs Mothra 92:

because, even though he’s a bit of a dope,

a labrador salaryman, he is brave enough

to recognize his wrongdoing and change

for the better in the face of injustice.

 

(Obviously, that’s what’s good about fantasy films: like parables or ballads,

they embarrass you into sincerity – like, of course it’s fucking corny,

of course that’s Kenpachiro Satsuma in a suit,

but what are you achieving by pretending

it doesn’t touch you?)

 

When Mothra hatches from her Diet cocoon,

ethereal rupture, glitter fog,

amniotic gunge become new flesh,

the resurrection of the physical body is a spectacle,

a triumph.

Even the soldiers are awestruck

by the holy monstrosity,

the colossal moth rising, shrieking, from the ruins of its pupa.

 

The soup isn’t formless

undifferentiated slop.

Rudiments persist as “imaginal discs”, clusters of

old flesh –

head, thorax, limbs and genitalia –

surviving the storm of potential.

Developmental biologists call it “cell fate”:

having lain dormant, the new body reaches

out from the grub’s physical subconscious

and becomes what it would be if it

were existent.

 

Mothra doesn’t think: Mothra is.

Its justice is automatic, a reflex or instinct.

When its priestesses are in danger, it knows what to do:

Protect furiously.

But unlike Godzilla, which is indestructible –

its every resurrection a cataclysm

(at least in the Heisei versus films of 1984-1995, which characterize Godzilla as a

terrifying, unpredictable enemy) –

Mothra’s indestructibility and the inevitability of its rampages

are the indestructibility of hope,

the inevitability of goodness.

 

We know that moths remember being caterpillars. Well, maybe not exactly, but

there was a study where they showed that mature Lepidoptera

were averse to the smell of a chemical

(ethyl acetate, an industrial solvent often found in nail polish remover

and used for decaffeination)

because prior to metamorphosis any exposure to this smell

had been accompanied by an electric shock.

So torture shows that memory survives

insect transubstantiation.

 

(Saying that the moth body remembers its grub body

like steam remembers ice, like scar remembers wound

may be inaccurate, strictly speaking, but then,

I’m no entomologist.)

 

The body is a cloak –

shifting, malleable, opaque –

a mystery whose presence

obscures.

The word ‘body’ is the cloak

that, draped, hugging contours,

gives the mystery shape.

 

Does Mothra’s larva know the pattern

that will decorate her wings?

Is her beauty in there from the beginning

buried, encoded, an imaginal disc

that, like the memory of torture, cannot disappear?

Back to Godzilla: A Critical Demonology

Back to Devastation Songs

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