Godzilla has been around for 60 years now, and the iconic movie monster’s gender has sparked debate among diehard fans for much of that time. Some American moviegoers may be surprised to hear this, since, in the English-language versions of Godzilla movies, human characters often use male pronouns to refer to the monster. They do this several times in director Gareth Edwards’ latest take on the giant lizard—and the gender-inflected title “King of the Monsters,” which first appeared in the 1956 American version of the Ishirō Honda original, is also used.
But the monster’s history is complicated. Consider baby Minilla, first introduced as a hatchling in 1967’s Son of Godzilla. The existence of Minilla has convinced some fans that the creature is female. And the critically maligned 1998 Godzilla, directed by Roland Emmerich, further complicated things, by making its monster pregnant. In the DVD commentary for that famous flop, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos reportedly says that he and his crew “sculpted female genitalia” onto the CG model—but in a behind-the-scenes video, Tatopoulos frequently refers to the creature as a “he,” as the human characters in the movie do. Dr. Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), for his part, concludes that the beast reproduces asexually.
Whatever we wish to conclude about any of this, Toho, the Japanese studio that owns the franchise, retroactively designated the 1998 monster “Zilla,” to distinguish it from the original monster, because that iteration of the beast was considered so disappointing.
Is the default assumption of maleness made by the human characters in many of these films simple sexism? Perhaps. But truthfully, we don’t really know whether Godzilla is male or female—even the legendary Haruo Nakajima, who donned the beast’s suit for more than two decades starting with the original film, said he had no idea as to Godzilla’s gender. Happily, none of this has stopped fans from attempting to answer the question, with occasionally bizarre theories to support their takes.
“If Godzilla is a mother, then where is the father?” asks one fan. “Perhaps Godzilla is hermaphroditic,” he adds, reaching a conclusion shared by many Godzilla fans. There’s also debate about whether or not Godzilla actually produced a biological son: “Everyone just sort of assumes it because [Minilla] follows a destructive beast around and blows smoke,” says Jason F.C. Clarke. “I guess that makes Alec Baldwin’s publicist one of Godzilla’s kids, too.”
Not surprisingly, these debates often reveal more about fans’ ideas concerning gender than they do about Godzilla’s biological status. (E.g.: “It’s big, horny, and can shoot fire from its mouth. It’s a woman.”) And of course there are also those who would rather not think about it at all: “the thought of sexual relations of such beasts,” one writes, “never ceases to scare the hell out of me.”