Cross-Cultural Efforts and ‘Not Getting It’

Few discussions of business start with the words "So, I was watching Godzilla: Final Wars" but this is going to be one of them.

So, I was watching "Godzilla: Final Wars", which was a giant festival of Kaiju-on-film (plus a lot else) done before the Godzilla movies took a hiatus.  In it, among many, many other famous monsters, was a parody of the American Godzilla.  Let us say this "Zilla" was not well treated in the movie, and it made me think about how the American Godzilla film frankly didn't get what Godzilla is about – and what that means for adaption of foreign material and ideas.

The American Godzilla treated the monster as having no personality – it was essentially a natural disaster.  The Godzilla films (and most Kaiju films, really) have creatures with personality.  Yes they're highly destructive, but they're highly destructive characters. The American film didn't get that.

Adapting foreign films, shows, and ideas to American media – or indeed adapting media from one culture to another – has one large risk well-illustrated by this film.

The risk of Not Getting It.

There's a challenge to adapting things from foreign culture that goes beyond the barriers of language or translations or given archetypes that are cross-cultural versus culture-specific.  It's the simple risk of not "getting" what makes that show, book, comic, anime, or what have you work for the audience.  Not understanding what makes the media works means that you're going to fail in bringing it to another audience.

Not getting "It" means you really don't get the "soul" of what makes people interested in that specific properly.  Thus all your translations and adaptions may have elements of the source media, the surface elements as it were, but not the actual ideas, concepts, or personalities that people truly connected to.  Lacking this connection, people just aren't going to be interested.

I expect this issue is going to be one we'll see more and more of in an increasingly globalized culture.  We'll see more adaptions between different cultures' media – and more cases of people Not Getting It.

But if you "Get It" then you may just have an edge . . .

– Steven Savage