The Colossal Societal Angst of the 50 Foot Woman

Dani Bethea
4 min readApr 13, 2020

When women embrace their “monstrous” qualities.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

The giant in fairytales, pop culture, science fiction, and horror is one that’s typically shrouded in mystery. They are towering behemoths that oftentimes appear as gargantuan humans, but the how and why of their size oftentimes remains elusive. Two films within this genre are fascinating outliers because they explore an oft-overlooked person in society: the (giant) woman. Exploring the deeper themes of Colossal (2016) and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) reveal a larger social stigma about monstrous women through the lens of gigantism. The creature genre was still considered a strong financial success in the 1950s and its reliance on monsters of mammoth sizes is still a highlight of the decade, with interesting puppetry and film technology in Them (1954) and Tarantula (1955). Massive bombardments of radiation were usually the catalyst for giant creatures or people films, which was greatly influenced by the lingering paranoia of the atomic bomb and the grim unknowns of nuclear testing. Where men had radiation afflicted soldier stories in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and its sequel War of the Colossal Beast (1958) to look up to, women had an alien abduction-experimentation story in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman to squint up at.

Giant stories of the 1950s in the United States were similar in aesthetics but radically different in tone and societal messaging to the Kaiju stories of Japan. One nation was grappling with hundreds of thousands of people being killed by atomic energy and the other was trying to return to some sense of normalcy after having committed the heinous assault. Thus, the cinematic stories of the United States lack the depth and nuance of reverential masterpieces like Gojira (1954), and sadly once the decade had closed the crucial time for commentary and reeducation about the impact of World War II had shifted to new horror film territories grappling with racism and sexism. Before the decade ended Attack of the 50 Foot Woman debuted in American theaters to mixed reviews but succeeded in having one of the most iconic movie posters of all time.

The story by all accounts is very humdrum and the acting is situated in varying degrees of decent to cringe, but the experiences of its female character are frighteningly familiar for…

Dani Bethea

Horror Sommelier & Pop Culture Pontificator. Prev EIC: We Are Horror. Mental Health and Horror Doc. Published: Studies In the Fantastic + Women of Jenji Kohan.